NBA trade deadline circus begins

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NBA trade deadline circus begins

The first domino before the NBA's annual circus of a trade deadline fell--and it wasn't Dwight Howard. Golden State and Milwaukee executed a trade Tuesday, with the Warriors shipping scorer Monta Ellis and big men Ekpe Udoh and Kwame Brown to the Bucks, in exchange for sidelined center Andrew Bogut and veteran swingman Stephen Jackson.

Ellis was a perennial deadline-deal suspect, but with the likes of Pau Gasol, Josh Smith and of course, Howard--in fact, Ellis was rumored as a potential addition to the Magic as a sidekick to Howard, while the Warriors were supposedly putting in a big to acquire the All-Star center themselves--reportedly on the trading block, the All-Star snub had been flying under the radar a bit. Now in Milwaukee, Ellis joins a Bucks team in desperate need of offensive firepower, as well as a legitimate playoff contender.

Milwaukee is currently in the East's eighth spot, ahead of the free-falling Knicks. All-Star Carmelo Anthony, after expressing his frustration with New York's current state, reportedly told sources close to him that he's open to being traded, just one year after a drawn-out saga that brought him to the Big Apple--and with the high-powered backcourt of Ellis and point guard Brandon Jennings, along with the recent strong play of emerging force Ersan Ilyasova and fellow big man Drew Gooden in the frontcourt, it's not a stretch to say the Scott Skiles-coached Bucks are a potentially dangerous team and makes the Central Division that much more competitive. It doesn't hurt that the two players they traded away, Bogut and Jackson, were sidelined, due to either injuries, personality clashes with Skiles or a combination of both.

For Golden State, the size-challenged Warriors finally have a defensive anchor in the middle, assuming Bogut can get healthy again, and the backcourt logjam is cleared up, as point guard Stephen Curry is the clear-cut primary ballhandler and scorer, with rookie Klay Thompson next to him on the wing. Jackson, ironically, teamed up with Ellis the last time the Warriors were in the postseason, on the "We Believe" Warriors team that historically upset the top-seeded Mavericks in the first round back in 2007.

While many observers believed this year's trade deadline would be a quiet one, league scuttlebutt has several more impactful deals on the table. Following his team's win over Miami in overtime Tuesday, Howard gave the Magic a tentative vote of confidence, but with him never indicating that he intends to stay in Orlando for the long term, it is thought that he could still be on the move.

One place he's unlikely to end up is Chicago, though multiple reports have the Bulls interested in Gasol, although the Lakers are reportedly unwilling to take back more salary and for the two teams to complete a deal, Carlos Boozer would probably have to be included. As a result, a third team would need to be willing to help facilitate a trade, as the Lakers reportedly desire a star-quality player, in addition to a starting-caliber point guard, if they were to lose Gasol.

It would seem far-fetched that the Bulls, sporting the league's best record, would be willing to break up their chemistry in the middle of the season, but with a chance to potentially upgrade at a position where they would hold an advantage over the Heat--their opponent Wednesday night and whether head coach Tom Thibodeau wants to admit it or not, their measuring stick--it can't be ruled out. It's the trade deadline, after all, so until 3 P.M. Eastern time Thursday, expect the unexpected.

Finally getting a little luck, Kevan Smith comes up huge in White Sox comeback win

Finally getting a little luck, Kevan Smith comes up huge in White Sox comeback win

Hit ‘em where they ain’t, right?

Kevan Smith hasn’t had an overabundance of luck following that old baseball maxim in his short time up with the White Sox this season. But Monday, Smith came up with one of the game’s biggest hits, tattooing a ball into the right-field corner for a game-tying double in the seventh inning of the White Sox 5-4 comeback win over the visiting Boston Red Sox.

Hitting the ball hard hasn’t been a problem for Smith, but he’s run into some bad luck, hitting balls hard but right at fielders. Move some of those batted balls a little bit in one direction or the other, and Smith’s numbers could be very, very good.

On balls hit with an exit velocity of 95 mph or greater, hitters across the league are hitting .539 (7,068-for-13,108), according to BaseballSavant.com. Entering Monday’s game, Smith was just 4-for-12 on such batted balls, making him significantly unluckier than the average hitter. That seventh-inning double had an exit velocity of 93 mph, coming close to the kind of hard contact Smith’s been making this season.

He’ll take coming through in the clutch Monday, though, contributing big time to the White Sox fourth win in their last five games.

Finally, Smith was able to hit it where they ain’t — or, if for nothing else but grammar's sake — where they weren’t.

“For once, right?” Smith said with a smile after the game. “Been working hard on my swing. It’s frustrating, obviously, whenever you hit it right at people, but that’s the way the game goes and that’s why you’ve got to realize it’s a ‘failing’ sport. You’ve got to get used to failing. But it fell for me today and in a big spot. So it felt good.”

[WHITE SOX TICKETS: Get your seats right here]

Smith’s numbers have been impressive of late. Including his 1-for-2 game Monday, he’s hitting .350 with three doubles in his last six games.

It’s nice for him to finally see some results from what’s been a good swing.

“That’s what’s tough because when you’re not getting hits, you think you have to do more, you think you have to get in the cage more. But you’re going to take hard hits all day long,” Smith said. “It’s just staying confident, trusting the work, just going out each day being consistent. And that’s what I’ve been doing, and hopefully they start falling a little more.”

Smith also made an impact on the base paths, coming around to score from second on Melky Cabrera’s infield single a few batters later. An aggressive two-out send from third-base coach Nick Capra set up the run, one that might not have scored if not for the throw bouncing away from Red Sox catcher Christian Vazquez.

Instead, Smith slid in safely for the eventual game-winning run, delivering yet another win for the White Sox, who are feeling much better during a to-this-point 4-1 home stand since returning from a 3-7 road trip at the end of last week.

“I thought the ball got through,” Smith said of the play. “I knew he was playing up the middle a little bit because he was kind of stacked behind me at second. When he hit the ball, I was like I’m either going to hold up at third or he obviously got it. And then when he starts waving me, kind of caught me off guard. I thought it got through, but after I got in (to the dugout) I found out it didn’t. When he says go, I’m going. Fortunately it worked out in our favor.

“Obviously the rough road trip, but we had a lot of good games, we battled hard. And (manager Rick Renteria) got us together a little bit, kind of got us refocused and ready for this home stand. We have a good squad in here. We’re excited. We just have to trust that each of us are going to do our part, just come together and keep having big wins like this and getting this good energy in the clubhouse. Feels good.”

Benches clear as Bryce Harper charges mound in Nationals vs. Giants

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AP

Benches clear as Bryce Harper charges mound in Nationals vs. Giants

Fireworks came early when the Nationals-Giants ballgame turned into a wild boxing match on Monday. 

The gloves came off and benches cleared after San Francisco reliever Hunter Strickland pegged 2015 N.L. MVP Bryce Harper with a fastball in the eighth inning.

To put it mildly, Harper did not take that too kindly as he charged the mound and launched his helmet in the direction of Strickland, missing wide. Punches for both parties, however, connected. Each side got in a nice right hook, leading to a massive scrum near the mound. 

It took about five Giants players and coaches to separate Strickland from the brawl, and even in the dugout he remained emotional. For Harper, it resulted in his ninth career ejection.   

The two competitors do have some history. Three years ago, Harper hit two home runs off of Strickland, admiring both for a long time. 

This is just Game 1 of the series, so the bad blood may be just beginning.