From Comcast SportsNetDwight Howard's season is over. His chances to help Team USA win another Olympic gold are likely done, too.Orlando's All-Star center told ESPN.com he will have season-ending back surgery, and Magic general manager Otis Smith confirmed the plan to the Orlando Sentinel on Thursday night."It's in his best interests to have surgery sooner rather than later," Smith told the newspaper.Friday's operation in Los Angeles to repair a herniated disk also will keep him from playing in the Olympics in London, Howard's agent, Dan Fegan, told ESPN.com."I tried to play through it and it just made my back worse," Howard told ESPN.comHoward has been dealing with back problems since early March, but it wasn't until last week that a doctor discovered the herniated disk."He said I can start rehab right away and be back to full contact in four months," Howard told ESPN.com. "So I'm not really concerned. If anything, I'll come back stronger."Howard has missed the last six games because of the injury. Orlando holds the sixth playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, and coach Stan Van Gundy said last week that he was preparing to play the rest of the season without Howard.Now it looks as if Team USA will have to plan to play without Howard as well.USA Basketball chairman Jerry Colangelo said Thursday night he hadn't been told of Howard's plans and it was too early to speculate on the Olympic team.The final roster of 12 players and six alternates is due June 18 and the U.S. may have to consider increasing its pool of possible candidates with Howard out and fellow big man LaMarcus Aldridge iffy following right hip surgery."I understand exactly who's involved," Colangelo said. "The only thing I don't know is the extent of Dwight Howard's situation, and I really want to find out more about that. But we may have to consider, you know, invitations to a couple (other) players. That's a possibility. We'll talk about it."The Miami Heat may see Orlando in the playoffs. When the news of Howard's surgery hit their locker room Thursday night, Heat stars LeBron James and Dwyane Wade -- both likely Olympic-teamers -- wished Howard well and said it was disappointing not to have him in the mix for the London Games."He's a big part of our team for the Olympics and I hate to lose him because of an injury," James said. "I wish him the best."The surgery is the latest development in the Magic's soap-opera season that has grabbed more attention than the team's record.Howard was the subject of season-long trade rumors until declaring in February his intention to remain in Orlando for one more year. The controversy continued earlier this month when Van Gundy said Howard asked team management to fire him. Howard has since denied that. Another report from an Orlando television station this week said Howard called Magic owner Rich DeVos to say he was refusing to play for Van Gundy again.Before this season, Howard had only missed two games in his career because of injury.Howard is averaging 20.6 points and 14.5 rebounds.The Magic also have been playing without Hedo Turkoglu (facial fracture) since April 5. He's averaging 10.7 points and is shooting 34.9 percent on 3-pointers.With Howard and Turkoglu sidelined, Van Gundy has started Glen Davis at center with Jason Richardson and Ryan Anderson at forward. J.J. Redick and Jameer Nelson start in the backcourt.
Rob Gronkowski is a model citizen in the NFL. In fact, the NFL Players Association is advising rookies to be more like Gronk, according to The Boston Globe.
The New England Patriots tight end has developed a name for himself on and off the football field. With that attention comes branding. And at the NFLPA Rookie Premiere from May 18 to 20, the NFLPA encouraged rookies to develop their own brand -- much like Gronkowski.
“Some people think he’s just this extension of a frat boy, and that it’s sort of accidental,” Ahmad Nassar said, via The Globe. Nassar is the president of NFL Players Inc., the for-profit subsidiary of the NFLPA. “And that’s wrong. It’s not accidental, it’s very purposeful. So the message there is, really good branding is where you don’t even feel it. You think, ‘Oh, that’s just Gronk being Gronk.’ Actually, that’s his brand, but it’s so good and so ingrained and so authentic, you don’t even know it’s a brand or think it.”
Gronkowski's "Summer of Gronk" has indirectly become one of his streams of income. The tight end makes appearances for magazines and sponsors. Because of his earnings from branding and endorsements, he didn't touch his NFL salary during the early years of his career.
Gronk was one of three players who were the topics of discussion during the symposium. Dak Prescott and Odell Beckham were also used as examples of players who have been able to generate additional income from endorsements. Beckham, in particular, has been in the spotlight off the football field. He's appeared on the cover of Madden, and just signed a deal with NIke which is reportedly worth $25 million over five years with upwards of $48 million over eight years. His deal, which is a record for an NFL player, will pay him more than his contract with the Giants.
“A lot of people talk to the players about, ‘You should be careful with your money and you should treat your family this way and you should treat your girlfriend or your wife.’ Which is fine. I think that’s valuable,” Nassar said, via The Globe. “But we don’t often give them a chance to answer the question: How do you see yourself as a brand? Because Gronk, Odell, none of those guys accidentally ended up where they are from a branding and marketing standpoint.”
Here are all the links from around the hockey world, and what I’m reading while wishing everybody a safe and relaxing Memorial Day weekend.
*Apparently Nashville Predators head coach Peter Laviolette has yet to try Nashville’s hot chicken despite his time behind the Preds bench. It’s okay, I have yet to try it either in my handful of visits to Music City.
*Good stuff from PHT writer and FOH (Friend of Haggs) Jason Brough. Apparently it wasn’t so easy to make Wayne Gretzky’s head bleed when it came time for director Doug Liman to cut Swingers together.
*Sidney Crosby cares about the history and the issues of the game, and has been a good ambassador as the face of his NHL generation despite the hate that always comes with such responsibility.
*Puck Daddy examines Crosby’s performance in the playoffs, and the odds of him winning another Conn Smythe Trophy.
*The Penguins have made it to the Stanley Cup Final without Kris Letang for their playoff run, and that’s an amazing accomplishment.
*Erik Karlsson said that he will be tending to his injured foot next week, and expects a full recovery for next season after a brilliant run with his Ottawa Senators.
*Larry Brooks again rails against the Stanley Cup playoff structure and it’s relation to an “absurd regular season.” Say what you will, but the fact the Penguins are there for a second straight season shoots down some of the absurdity stuff in my mind. The best team from the East is where they should be and they did it without Kris Letang to boot.
*Chicago Blackhawks prospect Alex Debrincat is confident his abilities will translate to the NHL despite his size after taking home honors as the best player in junior hockey this season.
*For something completely different: Apparently there’s a hard core comic book geek gripe that “The Flash” is burning through bad guys too quickly. This would make sense if they couldn’t revisit these bad guys at any point, but they absolutely can go back to a big bad like Grodd anytime they want.