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Howard, Gasol, Hill all sidelined for Lakers

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Howard, Gasol, Hill all sidelined for Lakers

EL SEGUNDO, Calif. (AP) Dwight Howard, Pau Gasol and Jordan Hill all will miss the Los Angeles Lakers' upcoming road trip with injuries, leaving the struggling club without its top three big men indefinitely.

Howard has a torn labrum in his right shoulder, and Gasol has a concussion after taking an elbow in the face late in Sunday night's loss to Denver. Hill, a key backup to both starting big men, has a right hip injury.

The three injuries are the latest blows for the Lakers (15-18), who still haven't meshed despite a star-studded roster, a bulging payroll and an early-season coaching change. Los Angeles has lost three straight and four of five since beating the Knicks on Christmas, falling to 11th place in the Western Conference.

``The NBA is unforgiving, and nobody is feeling sorry for us,'' Los Angeles coach Mike D'Antoni said. ``There's 29 other teams that are happy, and we've got to do the best we can do. It's kind of weird coming to work thinking you have three centers, and all three of them are hurt on the same day.''

The Lakers' biggest concern is Howard, who hurt his shoulder in last Friday's loss to the Clippers and aggravated it in Sunday's loss to the Nuggets while grabbing a career high-tying 26 rebounds. The six-time All-Star center said he won't need surgery, but he'll sit out for at least a week before his injury is re-evaluated.

``It depends on how fast I heal up,'' said Howard, who had a bulky wrap on his shoulder Monday at the Lakers' training complex. ``I was in pain (Sunday night), and the biggest thing right now is I have to make sure I'm 100 percent. I don't want to play with my shoulder weak. I'd have a chance for more injuries. I've got to let it heal up.''

After canceling practice Monday, the Lakers announced Gasol and Howard are both out indefinitely. Hill will be examined by team doctors later Monday before getting a prognosis.

When the Lakers open a stretch of four games in six days starting Tuesday in Houston, rookie Robert Sacre is likely to be their starting center. The final pick in last June's draft has been playing for the Lakers' affiliate in the D-League.

D'Antoni will be forced to improvise with his three best post players sidelined from an already top-heavy roster. The coach said 6-foot-7 Metta World Peace could play center at times as part of the small lineups he'll be forced to use.

``We'll go small a lot, and we'll just have to spread the floor and get things done,'' D'Antoni said. ``Some guys are going to have to step up and put some superhuman effort into it. We'll have some little guys guarding big guys, and we'll have to be quick. We'll have to take advantage of other situations.''

He won't have much choice: The 7-foot Sacre and 6-foot-9 Antawn Jamison are his only players taller than World Peace, unless the Lakers sign a temporary big man. Los Angeles cleared a roster spot by waiving rookie Darius Johnson-Odom on Monday, three days before his contract would have been guaranteed for the season.

Although their wealth of problems can hardly be attributed to injuries, the Lakers haven't been fully healthy for any significant stretch of the season. After Howard missed their first five preseason games while recovering from offseason back surgery, new point guard Steve Nash got a small fracture in his leg in their second game of the season, keeping the two-time NBA MVP out for seven weeks.

Add in the difficulties of learning a new offense with no training camp for an older roster struggling to keep up with faster teams, and the preseason title contenders realize why they're looking up at the likes of Golden State, Minnesota and the Pacific Division-leading Clippers in the standings.

``It's almost like - what's that game where you pop one of those things in the head and another one pops up?'' D'Antoni said. ``Whac-a-Mole? That's what we seem to be doing right now.''

Gasol got a concussion and an injured nose when Denver's JaVale McGee accidentally clobbered him under the basket with 1:05 to play. The four-time All-Star 7-footer has been struggling both with plantar fasciitis and the difficulty of adapting his game to D'Antoni's offense, averaging just 12.2 points and 8.4 rebounds in a trying season.

Hill had been struggling with a sprained right ankle and a herniated disc in his back even before injuring his hip Sunday. He has been a consistent contributor off the bench in his second season in Los Angeles, averaging 6.7 points and 5.7 rebounds.

``No one is going to feel sorry for us,'' said Nash, who is five assists shy of 10,000 for his career. ``We've got to take the challenge, embrace it, and no matter how many lumps we take, you can't feel sorry for yourself. You've got to keep battling, and if you keep battling, you give yourself a chance for good things to happen.''

The injuries were the most concrete news on yet another ridiculously busy day for the 16-time champions. Lakers great Magic Johnson launched yet another barrage of Twitter criticism of the franchise, while Howard and NBA scoring leader Kobe Bryant both flatly denied a report of friction between them, with Bryant tweeting a photo mocking the idea they had nearly come to blows.

``You feel like at some point, you hit rock-bottom, and the only place you can go is up,'' Bryant said. ``It's just been a tough year for everybody ... but when you go through a lot of adversity, it challenges you, and then it's on you, whether or not you choose to fight, or whether you choose to run away from it. I think we'll choose to fight it.''

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Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

Stanley Cup Final 2018: Who could win the Conn Smythe Trophy?

The Stanley Cup is not the only trophy that will be awarded at the end of the Stanley Cup Final series between the Washington Capitals and Vegas Golden Knights. The Conn Smythe will also be given to the player deemed the most valuable to his team during the playoffs.

Who will that player be?

It's not hard to figure out who the frontrunner is right now. Marc-Andre Fleury hasn't just been the best goalie in the playoffs, he's been the best player with a dominant postseason in which he has posted a .947 save percentage and four shutouts. He has been so dominant, he could win it even if Vegas loses the series.

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

The last player from the losing team to win the Conn Smythe was Jean-Sebastian Giguere from the Mighty Ducks of Anaheim in 2003.

But what about the Caps?

Alex Ovechkin is the leader of Washington and has been absolutely dominant throughout the postseason. He even scored the series-clinching goal in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Final.

Surprisingly, however, Ovechkin does not lead the team in points through the playoffs. Evgeny Kuznetsov holds that edge with 24 points to Ovechkin's 22.

Will their offensive dominance propel them to win the Cup and the Conn Smythe? Will a different player emerge as the hero of the series?

See the top contenders for the Conn Smythe heading into the Stanley Cup Final here.

MORE CAPITALS PLAYOFF NEWS:

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Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

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Associated Press

Need to Know: A closer look at Alex Smith's contract with the Redskins

Here is what you need to know on this Saturday, May 26, 17 days before the Washington Redskins start minicamp.  

Note: I am vacationing in the Outer Banks this week. In this space, I’ll be presenting some of the most popular posts of the last few months. I hope you enjoy these “best of” presentations and I’ll see you folks when I get back. 

Contract makes Alex Smith a Redskins for at least three seasons

This post was originally published on March 19. 

When the Redskins traded for Alex Smith on January 30, news also broke that he had agreed to a four-year extension with Washington in addition to the one year left on his contract with the Chiefs. While we got some top-line numbers on the deal, we have gone since then without any details. 

Until now. 

The details show a deal that has a slightly higher cap hit in 2018 than was on his original Chiefs contract and the numbers rise gradually over the life of the deal, which runs through 2022. 

Smith got a $27 million signing bonus and his salaries for 2018 ($13 million) and 2019 ($15 million) also are fully guaranteed at signing making the total $55 million (information via Over the Cap, which got data from a report by Albert Breer). 

But there I another $16 million that is guaranteed for all practical purposes. On the fifth day of the 2019 league year, his 2020 salary of $16 million becomes fully guaranteed. He almost assuredly will get to the point where that money will become guaranteed since the Redskins are not going to cut him after one year having invested $55 million in him. So the total guarantees come to $71 million. 

His 2021 salary is $19 million and it goes up to $21 million in 2022. There have been reports of some incentives available to Smith but since we have no details we’ll set those aside for now. 

The cap hits on the contract are as follows: 

2018: $18.4 million
2019: $20.0 million
2020: $21.4 million
2021: $24.4 million
2022: $26.4 million

The Redskins can realistically move on from Smith after 2020. There would be net cap savings of $13 million in 2021 and $21 million in 2022. 

The first impression of the deal is that the Redskins did not move on from Kirk Cousins because they didn’t want to guarantee a lot of money to a quarterback. The total practical guarantee of $71 million is second only to Cousins’ $82.5 million. It should be noted that Cousins’ deal runs for three years and Smith’s contract is for five. 

Stay up to date on the Redskins. Rich Tandler covers the team 365 days a year. Like his Facebook page, Facebook.com/TandlerNBCSand follow him on Twitter  @TandlerNBCSand on Instagram @RichTandler