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."

First impressions: Yankees power their way past Price, Red Sox

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First impressions: Yankees power their way past Price, Red Sox

NEW YORK -- First impressions from the Red Sox' 6-4 loss to the Yankees.

 

* As the postseason gets closer, David Price needs to do a better job of keeping the ball in the ballpark.

Price gave up three homers Tuesday night -- a two-run shoot to rookie sensation Gary Sanchez in the first; a solo shot to Didi Gregorius in the sixth; and another two-run belt in the seventh to Tyler Austin.

That's six homers in the last three outings and 29 for the season. It's also the sixth time this season that he's given up multiple homers in the same start, with the three on Tuesday representing a season-high.

Prior to this year, Price had never allowed more than 25 homers in a season. Last season, splitting time between the cavernous Comerica Park in Detroit and the hitter-friendly Rogers Centre, he yielded just 17.

Worse, twice Tuesday the homers came at inauspicious times. In the sixth, the Sox had just closed to within one at 3-2; in the seventh, the Sox had worked t tie the game at 4-4.

 

* For all of the offensive brilliance shown by Mookie Betts, it's easy to forget how good he's been in right field.

Anyone who plays in the same outfield with Jackie Bradley Jr. runs the risk of having his defensive play overshadowed and that's likely the case with Betts.

He's played a Gold Glove-caliber right field, showing good range and instincts -- especially for someone who never played the outfield professionally until about 2 1/2 years ago.

And while Bradley has the stronger arm, Betts has 14 assists, including one Tuesday night.

That took place on a ball in which Betts was initially fooled. With one on, Chase Headley lined a ball to right that Betts seemed to lose in the lights. He went to his knees, fighting the lights, and managed to reach back to make the catch, sprawling. He then had the presence of mind to set himself and fire a throw to first, doubling up Starlin Castro for a mind-blowing double play.

 

* Expanded rosters make a mockery of the game.

In the eighth inning, Joe Girardi and John Farrell combined to burn through six players for one plate appearance.

Righty Blake Parker was set to face Aaron Hill, but Farrell had lefty Travis Shaw announced. Girardi then countered by bringing in lefty Richard Bleier to face Shaw.

Of course, Farrell countered by having righty Chris Young hit for Shaw. Young reached on a fielder's choice, and because Young can't play third, Farrell had insert Deven Marrero at third in the bottom of the inning.

Four position players and two pitchers in one spot. That couldn't be done in any other month during the season.

So why is it allowed in September?