Magic front office cleans house; Is Howard next?

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Magic front office cleans house; Is Howard next?

From Comcast SportsNet
ORLANDO, Fla. (AP) -- For months the Orlando Magic have been trudging through the aftermath of a preseason trade request by Dwight Howard that sapped the life out of the franchise as internal team issues quickly affected the product on the floor. Now after easily one of the most tumultuous seasons in their history, they made the first in what promises to be a huge offseason shake-up The Magic fired coach Stan Van Gundy on Monday and agreed to part ways with general manager Otis Smith, severing ties with two of the architects of one of the most successful runs in franchise history. Smith and Van Gundy's relationship with Howard was the centerpiece of drama the team faced all season and following their second straight first-round playoff exit, CEO Alex Martins said the shift was warranted. "It's time for a new leadership and a new approach," Martins said at a news conference to discuss the moves. "We simply came to the decision that we were not on the right track," Martins wouldn't go into many specifics about what he is looking for in replacements, saying only that he and ownership want to fill the general manager post by June's NBA draft. He said he would sit down with ownership on Tuesday to begin ironing out the details of both searches. Phone and text messages left with Van Gundy and Smith by The Associated Press were not immediately returned. Orlando went 37-29 in the regular season but was eliminated in five games by Indiana after a rash of late-season injuries that included back surgery for Howard. Orlando went 5-12 without him. Martins said those consecutive first-round playoff exits were "simply not good enough." In early April, Van Gundy claimed top-ranking team officials had told him that Howard had asked management to fire Van Gundy as a condition of the center signing a long-term contract beyond 2013. Howard denied it. Martins addressed that dispute directly, saying "At no time during that time did Dwight ask me to have Stan fired." With a relationship with Smith dating back to the Magic's inaugural season when Smith was a player and a five-year relationship with Van Gundy, Martins also called Monday "the most difficult day of my career." Both Smith and Van Gundy are under contract through next season and both of their contracts will be honored. The current assistant coaching staff has also been offered the opportunity to stay on for now. Van Gundy coached the Magic for five seasons. He finished with a 259-135 record, going 31-28 in the playoffs. Smith departs after six years. He was the architect of Magic teams that made it to the playoffs in each of those seasons, winning the Eastern Conference championship in 2009. But he also made several questionable moves, including trades for Vince Carter and Gilbert Arenas that failed to work out long-term. The day after the Magic's season ended with the loss to the Pacers, Smith said that he would need a few days to even decide whether he wanted to return to that position following the tough year, setting it as a "50-50" chance. Van Gundy said at the time he wanted to return and was hoping that the ultimate decision would be about performance solely. "When you're talking a professional relationship, what matters -- at least to me -- is the results," Van Gundy said. "I don't care if it's a business relationship where two people at work are driving a business to make money, or if it's a sports relationship, where the object is to win games." But both also have acknowledged that this lockout-shortened season was trying for everyone involved. "This season, and we've been digesting it all year, has been the longest, shortest season that we've had," Smith said. "But it's something that you have to go through. Most sports franchises at some time go through a little bit of uncertainty and this is our time." Martins said that ideally the Magic's next coach will have a championship pedigree, though acknowledged that the search wouldn't exclude assistants or others who have experience. He said the same was true for the general manager position. Martins was effusive in his praise as Van Gundy as a "great strategic coach," but acknowledged that one of the factors they want to see in a new coach is someone who is great at building relationships with players. "Strategically we may not be able to find anyone better," he said. Howard often commented about Van Gundy's grumpy demeanor on the floor, saying it was at times counterproductive for the team. This past summer Smith met with Van Gundy and he left that meeting pledging to make improvements. It included him meeting with a Stanford University psychology professor for advice on how to be a better leader. And it seemed to work, with Van Gundy incurring just one technical during the shortened regular-season, a low during his Magic tenure. But it wasn't enough to save his job. Now the attention shifts to Howard, who remains in Los Angeles recovering from his surgery. Martins said team officials continue to be in dialogue with the all-star, but hasn't yet gotten an answer on whether he would like to stay beyond next season when his contract expires. After a season spent in limbo before Howard finally opted into the final year of his deal, Martins has said the team won't repeat the same ordeal. That at least leaves open the possibility the Magic could trade him at some point should Howard not agree to sign long-term. "I think the decision is on Dwight now," Martins said. "Dwight needs to decide where his future lies."

Orioles fall to Mookie Betts' three homers and Red Sox

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Orioles fall to Mookie Betts' three homers and Red Sox

BALTIMORE—The Orioles have lost seven of nine, and it didn’t help that Mookie Betts had the best night of his career on Tuesday night.

The Boston Red Sox right fielder slugged three home runs, driving in five runs as Boston beat the Orioles 6-2 before 17,664 at Oriole Park. 

Boston (32-20) has won the first two games of the four-game series and leads the Orioles (28-22) by three in the AL East. 

It was the first three home run night of Betts’ career, and the first time an opponent had hit three in Baltimore since Ryan Zimmerman did it on May 29, 2013. 

Betts, who now has 12 home runs this season, hit two off Kevin Gausman and the third off Dylan Bundy. 

Gausman (0-3) allowed home runs to the first two Boston batters, Betts and Dustin Pedroia. 

It was the first time an Orioles pitcher had allowed two home runs to start a game since June 14, 2006 when Rodrigo Lopez did it in Toronto, and it hadn’t been done at home in 20 years. 

Betts hit a three-run home run in the second inning, and Gausman was abruptly behind 5-0. 

“It's frustrating definitely. You just try to take it pitch by pitch after that. The biggest thing is just trying to stay in there as long as you can and give your team a chance to win. Just take it pitch by pitch, 
try to get groundballs and quick outs,” Gausman said. 

Eduardo Rodriguez, who the Orioles traded for Andrew Miller in July 2014, started his first game of 2016. 

Rodriguez (1-0), who had been out with a knee injury, gave up a run on a single to Joey Rickard in the third and a two-out double by Nolan Reimold. 

Manny Machado nearly drove in Reimold, but his long fly ball to deep center was caught by Boston center fielder Chris Young, whose leap robbed Machado of at least a double—and maybe more. 

Paul Janish led off the fifth with a double to right and scored on Adam Jones’ single to cut Boston’s lead to 5-2. 

Gausman threw 113 pitches, the most he’s thrown in his career, and managed to make it through six innings. He didn’t allow a hit in his final 3 1/3 innings. 

Bundy came on to start the seventh, and with one out, Betts hit his third home run.

The Red Sox had some help. Janish was robbed of a hit to end the seventh when Betts dove in to snatch the ball. 

“I’m thinking to myself, ‘Mookie is having a pretty good night. I can do without him adding to it with that catch, right?’ He’s one of the better young players in the game obviously. At this juncture in time, I could use the hit,” Janish said. 

Janish says there’s no easy explanation for the Orioles’ rough patch.

“It’s one of those where I don’t think there’s anything in particular to pinpoint. As quickly as the game goes the other way, it can go our way, too, and that’s we’re waiting for, and we look forward to that happening sooner or later,” Janish said. 

Chris Davis, who hasn’t hit a home run since May 20, thought he hit a two-run shot in the eighth that would have cut the deficit from four runs to two. 

First base umpire Doug Eddings called the ball foul. First base coach Wayne Kirby immediately signaled it was a home run, but after a review, the call stood.

“Chris hits a home run and we can’t get a camera angle that will show it. We finally got one that showed it was fair,” manager Buck Showalter said. 

“So those are some of those things that you present for yourself that matter a lot when you get into some deficits early. You’ve got to stay away from that kind of, I don’t want to say that ‘here we go again’ mentality, but certainly that something where you follow a pattern for a few games early in the game and it challenges you.”

The Orioles need to win Wednesday and Thursday to salvage a split. 

“It's pretty obvious that we're struggling right now, but hopefully we can turn around and even this series up. They're the best team in baseball right now, so you have to be on your game. If you're not, it's tough against this team, against this lineup, against their bullpen. Their starters are pitching well too right now, so it kind of seems like everything's clicking for them right now,” Gausman said. 

NOTES: Yovani Gallardo will start the first game of Thursday’s doubleheader at Frederick. Game time is 5 p.m. … Joe Kelly (2-0, 6.30) faces Mike Wright (2-3, 5.05) on Wednesday night.  

 

Crowdfunding account created for purpose of bringing Durant to DC

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Crowdfunding account created for purpose of bringing Durant to DC

Whenever Kevin Durant signs his next contract, whether to stay with Oklahoma City or perhaps join an NBA team in the general area of his childhood, there will be two commas in the yearly salary and the first number will be a two. 

Some fans of the Wizards are hoping to defray the cost should the four-time scoring champion pick Washington by starting a crowd fundraising campaign on the website GoFundMe.com.

Yes, fans are so dedicated to the idea of bringing one of the game's best players to the Wizards they in theory want to help an ownership group wealthy enough to in fact own the team (and lots more) to pay an athlete who has already banked around $90 million in salary alone. Adorable and probably not at all kosher, but admirable, kinda sorta in a (crazy) sports fan way.

RELATED: REPORT: AGENT SPOKE WITH CELTICS ABOUT PLAYERS DURANT WOULD WANT BROUGHT IN

Let's let the fans explain their motives:

We love KD, we've seen him since his days as a high schooler in the DMV at Montrosse Christian. Now, our guy is an NBA superstar, possibly one of the greatest players on the planet. 

He loves DC, he named his shoes after PG County, he loves spending time here in the offseason and listening to GOGO. He wants to Come back to DC but he cant unless we show that we love him!

Imagine having KD, John Wall, Bradley Beal, and a new coach next season! The Wizards are on the way! 

Once we reach our goal we will either donate the 20 million to the Wizards to get the Durantula or we will donate it to Kevin Durant's favorite charity since he loves our community so much!

He needs us! Please donate now and share with a friend!

Clearly they're jacked with the idea of Durant coming home. The charity angle works so that's cool. Anyway, we may not know anything about Durant's plans until sometime after the NBA's fiscal calendar starts anew on July 1. That leaves plenty of time for donations or life ponderng. As an aside, I know a local sports reporter in need of a new living room set if you're open to spending money on random things.

MORE WIZARDS: KEVIN DURANT APPEARS HEADED DOWN SAME PATH AS DIRK NOWITZKI

Report: Agent spoke with Celtics about players Durant would want brought in

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Report: Agent spoke with Celtics about players Durant would want brought in

If the Washington Wizards still plan to pursue hometown hero Kevin Durant, they will have some competition. One team that appears to be in on the Durant sweepstakes appears to be the Boston Celtics. In fact, Boston may already be having preliminary talks with Durant's agent.

Butch Stears of WEEI had this to say on The Dennis & Callahan Morning Show on Monday:

I have this on pretty good authority. The Celtics have sat with his agent and other representatives of Durant. The Celtics do know, I don’t know who it is, but they do know who he would prefer to be brought here in a LeBron-Chris Bosh–Dwyane Wade-like way. Because that’s how it works in the NBA. You need to know who the guy or guys that that guy wants, which would be a factor. Now, I don’t know if Durant’s told them that. But the Celtics know. They know. They’ve been told what group of guys he would want to come here.

Following Oklahoma City's Game 7 loss to Golden State on Tuesday, Durant told reporters that he had not thought about free agency yet. If this report proves true, it would seem that Durant has at least considered Boston as a possible destination. There would be no reason for his agent to declare who Durant would like to play with if the Celtics were not a possibility.

Have the Wizards gotten a similar wish list?

Of course there is a potential problem with all this, namely that Durant is still under contract with Oklahoma City and his agent shouldn't be having this kind of discussion with other teams. If this report is indeed true, Oklahoma City could potentially file a complaint to with the league for tampering which could result in suspensions and fines up to $50,000, per the CBA.

So while the Celtics may have gotten a jump on the compeitions, it coudl potentially cost them.

RELATED: KEVIN DURANT APPEARS HEADED DOWN SAME PATH AS DIRK NOWITZKI