With Howard gone, sigh of relief for Wiz

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With Howard gone, sigh of relief for Wiz

All of a sudden the middle has opened up for the Wizards in the Southeast Division as Orlando shipped out all-star center Dwight Howard to the Los Angeles Lakers as part of a four-team trade. This is great news for the Wizards who always struggled defending the 7-foot Howard. Instead of facing Howard and Orlando four times a season, they only have to face him twice now that he's with a western conference team.

Howard has owned the Wizards. Last season, he went for 28 points and 20 rebounds in a Magic win over D.C. in January. Howard followed that up in February with 23 points and 18 rebounds in yet another win against the Wizards. In the 2010-11 season, Orlando never lost to Washington, with Howard leading the way averaging 27 points and 11 rebounds a game. In fact, the last time Orlando with Howard playing lost to the Wizards was in February of 2010 when Brendan Haywood started at center for Washington.

With Howard out of the picture the Magic have to figure out who is going to be the new man in the middle because right now they don't have a true center on the roster, only several power forwards like Justin Harper and Gustavo Ayon. Those are names that don't strike fear into anyone and the Wizards are just fine with that, as centers Nene and power forward Emeka Okafor should have their way with the Magic down in the interior.

The Lakers are once again an NBA title contender but at least the Wizards don't have to see Howard as much as they used to. Things are looking up in D.C.

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Ruth's Chris Sizzling Stats: 5 numbers that define Ravens-Jaguars

Ruth's Chris Sizzling Stats: 5 numbers that define Ravens-Jaguars

Baltimore got its third win of the young season with a victory over Jacksonville on the road Sunday. Here are 5 Sizzling Stats from that game and looking forward, presented by Ruth's Chris. 

1) 64.0 -- Joe Flacco's Passer Rating on Sunday. It was his lowest Passer Rating in a Baltimore victory since Nov. 11, 2013 when the Ravens beat Cincinnati, 20-17, in overtime. Flacco's Passer Rating in that game was 60.0.

2) 4-of-4 -- Justin Tucker's made and attempted field goals on Sunday. He has gone 4-of-4 in six other career games. His career high for makes on a perfect day was set Dec. 16, 2013 when he went 6-of-6 in a win over Detroit. 

MORE RAVENS: HARBAUGH SHUTS DOWN CRITICS

3) 3 -- Through three weeks, the number of Ravens victories this season by one possession or fewer. For comparison, 14 of Baltimore's 16 games last season were decided by that margin. In those 14 games, Baltimore was 5-9. Close games now going their way?

4) 2009 -- The last time the Ravens started the season 3-0. They would go on to finish 9-7 in the regular season and beat New England in the Wild Card round of the playoffs.

5) 0 -- Amont of patience Ravens wide receiver Steve Smith appears to have for Jacksonville rookie cornerback Jalen Ramsey, as demonstrated by his postgame comments.

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X-ray on Nationals' star Bryce Harper's left thumb brings good news

X-ray on Nationals' star Bryce Harper's left thumb brings good news

The Nationals got a dose of good news on a night All-Star catcher Wilson Ramos went down with a potentially serious knee injury, as Bryce Harper's X-ray came back negative, meaning there are no broken bones in his left thumb.

Harper, 23, suffered the injury sliding into third base on Sunday afternoon in Pittsburgh. He had the X-ray on Monday morning and the team is of course pleased to hear the results.

"He could be back within a couple days, a few days. That’s big right there," manager Dusty Baker said. "The swelling’s down, so I think his strength is up, I heard. It’s very positive. We still got time for him to get well.”

Getting Harper back soon would be huge for a Nationals team that just saw Ramos go down and recently saw Daniel Murphy injure his left buttock and Stephen Strasburg strain his right flexor mass.

Murphy's injury is also not expected to be serious. Baker even said on Monday that it's "very likely" he will be ready to go for the playoffs. But that's four of the Nats' five All-Stars now injured to varying degrees with just six games left in the regular season.

At least with Harper, they may have dodged a bullet.

[RELATED: Ramos set for MRI as Nats hope injury isn't serious]

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