Cubs

Dwight Howard breaks record held by Wilt Chamberlain

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Dwight Howard breaks record held by Wilt Chamberlain

From Comcast SportsNet
OAKLAND, Calif. (AP) -- With Dwight Howard getting fouled in record-setting fashion, Orlando Magic coach Stan Van Gundy finally just sat back in his chair and stopped barking out orders. He walked into the huddle during a timeout early in the first half Thursday night, and his assistants started bombarding him with the usual play-calling suggestions. Van Gundy could only laugh. "I'm looking at them like, We're not going to run a play. He's going to foul him,'" Van Gundy said. "What are we going to bother with diagraming a play? Make the free throw, play some defense." That about summed up this historic night. Howard broke Wilt Chamberlain's nearly 50-year-old NBA record for most free throw attempts in a game, making 21 of 39 in the Orlando Magic's 117-109 victory over the Golden State Warriors. The Warriors hacked Howard intentionally throughout, sending the notoriously poor shooter to the line early and often. Chamberlain, who Howard idolized growing up and used to have a photo clipping of the center in his Orlando locker, shot 34 for the Philadelphia Warriors against St. Louis on Feb. 22, 1962. Howard finished with 45 points and 23 rebounds, and Hedo Turkoglu scored 20 points to propel the Magic to their third straight victory. It also marked the first time a player had at least 40 points and 20 rebounds since Shaquille O'Neal -- another poor free throw shooter -- had 48 points and 20 rebounds against the Celtics on March 1, 2003, according to STATS LLC. "I just tried to be aggressive and get to the line. I didn't care if I missed 30," Howard said. "I was still going to go up there and shoot the next one with confidence." Monta Ellis had 30 points and 11 assists, and David Lee added 26 points and 12 rebounds for the short-handed Warriors, playing without injured starters Stephen Curry and Dorell Wright and backup center Kwame Brown. All that combined to take the Hack-a-Howard routine to a whole new level. Howard had never shot more than 24 free throws in a game -- which he had four times previously -- and fouled so early. Certainly, nothing compared to the Warriors' ways. Howard eclipsed his old mark with 2:09 remaining in the third quarter, getting hacked and held intentionally at the end of each quarter with mixed results. If nothing else, Golden State rookie coach Mark Jackson's strategy slowed down the pace and refused to let the Magic's potent shooters find their rhythm. Howard tied Chamberlain's record when Andris Biedrins fouled him -- and fouled out -- with 7:17 remaining in the fourth quarter, making 1 of 2 to give the Magic a 93-92 lead. Howard has shot just below 60 percent at the line for his career and entered the game at just 42 percent this season. "It's amazing that he made 21," Magic guard J.J. Redick joked. Golden State almost managed an upset behind the tactic. Klay Thompson put the Warriors ahead 107-106 on a 3-pointer with a little less than 3 minutes remaining, only to see Howard respond on the other end quickly. Howard floated a hook shot and then made a free throw to put the Magic back in front by two. After Ellis made a runner to even the score, Howard grabbed an offensive rebound on the next possession and finished strong at the rim while getting fouled by Lee -- who also fouled out on the play. Howard made the free throw to complete a three-point conversion. Von Wafer finally sealed Orlando's victory with a 3-point with 36.9 seconds to play that stretched the Magic's lead to six, blowing a kiss to the crowd afterward. Jackson could only shake his head. "I can understand people thinking, Why?' But don't get caught up in the free throws," Jackson said. "Think about when we didn't foul him. It was dunks, hooks, at the rim. He's a great player. And he's a bad free throw shooter. Giving ourselves the best chance possible, we tried to mess up their rhythm, take their 3-point shooters out of it, which we did. They made plays." The undersized Warriors sent double-teams and traps at Howard and frustrated the All-Star center with fouls from the start. Jeremy Tyler intentionally fouled Howard with 8.1 seconds remaining in the first quarter, a tactic some teams utilize late in games with the center's well-documented struggles at the stripe, but rarely seen so early. Howard made 1 of 2. After scoring the first nine points of the game, Golden State relied on the cushion for most of the first half. Nate Robinson's running layup pushed the Warriors ahead 44-3, relying on a surprisingly strong defensive effort. And fouls. "A suggestion from one of my assistants was that we do it to Biedrins when he was in the game," Van Gundy said, breaking into his usual sarcastic remarks. "We weren't in the penalty. That could have been fun. We could've just walked up and down for a few minutes and see who makes the first free throw. But we could've just saved everybody and said, Let's let them shoot it at the same basket.'" That might've only prolonged the game, which was 2 hours, 39 minutes. Three more times in the second quarter, Jackson called for his players to intentional hack Howard as soon as he crossed half court. Howard was 5 of 6 from the line during that stretch. Orlando closed the half with a flurry of free throws and layups, part of an 18-9 run that sliced Golden State's lead to only four at the break. Howard shot 9 for 18 from the line in the first half. "We took a chance and said that we want Dwight to beat us," Lee said. "And he beat us." NOTES: Magic G Jason Richardson left with 8:46 remaining in the third quarter with a sprained left knee, the team said. He is day to day. ... Magic F Quentin Richardson sat out with a sprained left ankle. He remained hopeful to return Monday when the Magic play at the New York Knicks. ... Warriors owners Joe Lacob and Peter Guber watched the game from courtside seats.

Kris Bryant is ready for fatherhood '[I was] put on this earth to be a dad'

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USA TODAY

Kris Bryant is ready for fatherhood '[I was] put on this earth to be a dad'

Suffice to say Kris Bryant is budding with anticipation for becoming a father.

Bryant and his wife, Jessica, are expecting their first child — a baby boy due in April. During Friday night’s Cubs-Padres broadcast, the third baseman shared his excitement for fatherhood with reporter Taylor McGregor

“I think this is really what I’ve been put on this Earth to do, is be a dad,” Bryant said, laughing. “Obviously I play baseball pretty good, but I’m just so excited [for] this new journey with my wife and my family. Honestly, I think this is going to be one of the best years of my life.”

Bryant’s son is due shortly after Opening Day, but the Cubs will play two spring training games in Las Vegas — Bryant’s hometown — on March 7-8. He told McGregor one of Jessica’s last doctor’s appointments is around the same time, so Bryant will get one last visit in before Baby Bryant is born.

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How Dusty Baker inspired former Cub Adam Greenberg after scary head injury

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AP

How Dusty Baker inspired former Cub Adam Greenberg after scary head injury

Adam Greenberg’s baseball career was cut short by a scary head injury 15 years ago. But with the help of Dusty Baker, he found the motivation to transition to his post-baseball life.

Greenberg made his MLB debut with the Cubs on July 9, 2005, and Baker called upon the then 24-year-old to pinch-hit in the ninth inning against the Marlins. On the first pitch Greenberg saw in the big leagues, Marlins reliever Valerio De Los Santos hit him in the back of the head with a 92-mph fastball.

Greenberg was concussed from the incident, suffered from vertigo and vision problems, and battled depression. The Cubs released him in 2006 and he caught on with the Royals and later the Dodgers in 2007 — which is when Baker reappears in the story. From MLB.com’s Brian McTaggart:

A couple of years following the incident, in 2007, Baker got a letter from a fan requesting a baseball card be signed. In the letter, the person told Baker that Greenberg had been released by the Royals and his baseball career was in jeopardy. Baker tracked down Greenberg and left him the voice mail that served as his motivation for a post-baseball life.

“It was so genuine and from the heart,” Greenberg said. “It put me in tears the first time, but it was the motivation and inspiration I needed to get up and keep going. And since then, he’s been somebody that’s been near and dear to me."

It's unfortunate Greenberg couldn’t experience a long big-league career, but Baker inspired him and helped him move forward post-baseball. According to McTaggart, Greenberg started a nutrition company and sold it 10 years later. He also ran for state senate in Connecticut in 2019 and is currently a baseball analyst for the ACC Network.

Greenberg’s career effectively ended moments after it began, but 2005 wasn’t the last time he stepped in a big-league batters’ box. In 2012, fans started an online petition to get him one last at-bat — and his career came full circle. The Marlins signed him to a one-day contract on Oct. 2, 2012, and he pinch-hit that same day against the Mets.

Greenberg struck out on three pitches, but Baker’s voicemail left a mark on his life. Seeing him enjoy success outside of baseball is as heartwarming as it gets.