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.
Here are four takeaways from the Blackhawks' 5-3 loss to the Colorado Avalanche at the United Center on Friday:
1. Blackhawks fight back three times, but fall short
The Blackhawks trailed four different times, and didn't hold a lead at any point in the game. They responded to Colorado's first three goals, going back-and-forth with their division foe. But they couldn't answer the fourth time as the Avalanche scored with 5:22 left and sealed the deal with an empty-netter in the final seconds.
The Blackhawks were encouraged with the way they played, but were disappointed with the outcome because they thought they deserved better against a team they needed two points from. And they did.
"It is what it is," Jonathan Toews said. "The points are important whether it’s the end of the regular season or near the end of the regular season or even playoffs. We wanted two points. Winning’s all that matters, so I think you do what you have to do to stay in games and find ways to win. We’re right there with them. They played a good game, but I think it was probably one of our best efforts collectively in the last little bit. So a lot of good things, and I think if we have that energy, we’re gonna get better results in the next few games here.”
2. Special teams plays big factor
The Blackhawks and Avalanche each committed four minor penalties. For 12:49 of the 60 minutes, there was some sort of man advantage. And it proved to be a huge part of the game.
The Blackhawks killed off the first three penalties and allowed only four shots on goal during those six minutes, but the Avalanche converted on their fourth opportunity (the lone shot on goal on that power play).
Meanwhile, the Blackhawks went 2-for-4 on with the man advantage, and nearly added a third goal in the final minute of the game but fell short. It was one the more well-rounded special teams performances by the Blackhawks this season.
"We had to rely on our power play a couple times, so it was nice that we came through there," said Patrick Kane, who extended his point streak to 20 games and goal streak to five, and also tied a franchise record with 13 shots on goal. "But that’s the thing I like about this group and our team. No matter what the score, no matter how we start or what’s happening in the middle of the game anything like that, we’re always in the game, there’s always a chance to turn the thing around. I like that about our group."
3. A complete effort but no reward
The Blackhawks have had some rocky starts as of late. Friday was not one of them. And it continued throughout the entire game
At even strength, the Blackhawks led in shot attempts (56-40), shots on goal (31-25), scoring chances (29-20) and high-danger chances (12-11), according to naturalstattrick.com. They were ahead in all four categories, except the one that mattered the most and that's the final score.
That's the hard part to swallow. The Blackhawks elevated their game in a playoff-type atmosphere and turned in one of their most complete efforts in a while, but it was one of those nights where the result doesn't reflect it. And it's unfortunate because it was a big four-point swing in Colorado's direction.
"Of course we would have liked to win," coach Jeremy Colliton said. "It's important points, it was an important game, head-to-head against a team we're battling with. We were really good I thought. It's one of our better efforts of the year and certainly recently. Sometimes the results don't go your way, but the challenge is to reproduce [at] that level and I think if we do, we'll get our fair share of points."
4. Standings impact
For a brief moment on Wednesday, the Blackhawks saw their name above the playoff line. It made for an exciting build-up to Friday's game against Colorado, which later took over that second spot from Chicago.
But after Friday's regulation loss, the Blackhawks fell two points behind the Avalanche, who have a game in hand, and three points behind the Minnesota Wild, who have won back-to-back games. Even the Arizona Coyotes are above the Blackhawks because of points percentage, tied at 61 points but hold a game in hand.
That's why this game was so important. But good news for the Blackhawks? They have two more meetings against the Avalanche this season, and one more against the Coyotes. But more importantly, they have to get right back to work for a divisional showdown against the Dallas Stars on Sunday afternoon.
"It’s only gonna get tougher and tougher as we go along here," Toews said. "We’ve got some tough road games coming up, so obviously we want to take it one game at a time. There’s nowhere to run or hide now. I think every team’s gonna be at their best and it’s a fun time of year to be right in the mix and be playing this type of hockey. I think the guys raised their play tonight, and we know there’s always room for improvement.”Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the Blackhawks easily on your device.
The biggest question regarding Cody Parkey wasn’t if he’d be released, but when. According to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, the “when” will be at the beginning of the new league year on March 13.
The #Bears have decided to release K Cody Parkey at the start of the league year, sources say. A fresh start is welcomed by both parties, and the Pro Bowler will likely find work quickly. He’s still due $3.5M guaranteed on his 2019 contract.— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) February 22, 2019
Parkey will still be paid the $3.5 million in remaining guaranteed money on his contract. The Bears guaranteed Parkey $9 million in his four-year, $15 million deal signed last year, and will not net any cap savings by releasing Parkey. The Bears can use a June 1 designation on Parkey to release him on March 13 without costing them any cap space (without using that collectively bargained designation, the Bears would owe an additional $1.125 million against their 2019 cap). They’ll still have to shoulder Parkey’s dead cap figure of a little over $4 million, per Spotrac.
The move will bring to end an ignominious, brief tenure in Chicago, in which Parkey missed 10 kicks during the regular season before his infamous double-doink that dealt the Bears a loss in their first playoff game in eight years. Murmurs began surfacing regarding Parkey’s reliability when he missed a long game-winning field goal in overtime against the Miami Dolphins (a game the Bears lost), then hit a fever pitch when he bizarrely hit the uprights four times against the Detroit Lions at Soldier Field in November.
A media circus quickly followed Parkey after that four-doink game, with helicopters from two news stations flying over Soldier Field while he practiced on a Wednesday night. Parkey did hit 10 of 12 field goals and 12 of 13 extra points after that brutal game against the Lions, but there was no coming back from the missed 43-yard field goal that knocked the Bears out of the playoffs.
Parkey, too, didn’t help his cause by going on “TODAY” the Friday after that double-doink miss, with coach Matt Nagy sounding and looking annoyed with his kicker for that appearance.
“We always talk as a team, we win as a team, we lose as a team,” Nagy said. “You know, I just -- I didn't necessarily think that that much too much of a ‘we’ thing.”
The Bears signed former Tulsa kicker Redford Jones to a reserve/future contract in January after bringing in several kickers for a tryout at Halas Hall. Cutting Parkey paves the way for the Bears to continue adding kickers in free agency, the draft and/or the undrafted free agent pool.
Robbie Gould, who’s only missed three of 85 field goal attempts since being cut by the Bears before the 2016 season, is likely to have the franchise tag placed on him by the San Francisco 49ers, according to NBC Sports Bay Area’s Matt Maiocco.