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Marcum and Mets finalize one-year deal

Marcum and Mets finalize one-year deal

NEW YORK (AP) Shaun Marcum was excited to sign with the New York Mets because they offered him an opportunity to pitch every five days. As for replacing R.A. Dickey, that will take a team effort.

``I think if all five starters go out there and do their job, stay healthy, get to the goal of 200-plus innings then I think just that will fill R.A's shoes in itself,'' Marcum said during a conference call Wednesday.

Despite the possible pressure of being seen as Dickey's replacement, Marcum felt comfortable coming to New York thanks to a couple of familiar faces.

Mets special assistant J.P. Ricciardi - then the general manager of the Toronto Blue Jays - drafted Marcum in the third round of the 2003 draft out of Missouri State, and the right-hander says his old boss played a key role in this signing.

Marcum's one-year contract became official Wednesday. He will earn $4 million in salary and can earn $2.25 million in performance bonuses and $1.75 million in roster bonuses.

He would get $250,000 for each for 120, 140, 160 and 170 innings pitched, $375,000 apiece for 180 and 190 and $500,000 for 200.

He also can make $375,000 each for 90 and 120 days on the active roster or on the DL for an injury other than to his right arm, and $500,000 apiece for 150 and 170.

The 31-year-old Marcum also knows the Mets new catcher, John Buck, well. They were teammates for what Marcum called his best season in the majors, 2010 in Toronto. Buck came from the Blue Jays to New York in the trade for Dickey, a swap that included four catchers.

``Having him behind the plate, that comfort level, getting to spring training I don't have to try to go over my game plan with three or four different catchers,'' Marcum said. ``John already knows how I pitch.''

Marcum went 13-8 with a 3.64 ERA in 31 starts in 2010, a year after he had elbow-reconstruction surgery. He missed two months last season with Milwaukee because of more elbow trouble but says he is now fully healthy.

``We did MRIs, all that stuff, did another one this winter. The main thing was it wasn't the flexor tendon, the ligament or anything like that. Everybody was happy, I'm happy,'' Marcum said. ``Now it's just about going out and pitching and doing whatever I can to help the Mets.''

Marcum joins a Mets' rotation that includes left-handers Johan Santana and Jonathon Niese, and righties Matt Harvey, a rookie, and Dillon Gee, none of whom reached 200 innings last season. The signing does allow New York to keep right-hander Zack Wheeler - rated the No. 8 prospect by MLB.com - in the minors at least a little longer.

In order to reach his goal of pitching 200 innings for the second time in his seven-year career, Marcum has been throwing more during the offseason than in the past.

``The philosophy I was brought up in was kind of `Save your bullets, don't throw too much,''' he said of his professional career. ``I kind of went back to my old high school, college days when my arm was feeling great. I was throwing as much as I possibly could. Throwing every single day. Throwing more distance. Long-tossing out to 280, 300 feet. And I've just been building up that arm strength. And I've had no problems since I started my program.''

In 21 starts for Milwaukee last year, he was 7-4 with a 3.71 ERA. Overall, he is 57-36 with a 3.76 ERA.

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AP Sports Writer Ronald Blum contributed to this report.

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So the Wizards have gotten back in the playoff race and here's why

So the Wizards have gotten back in the playoff race and here's why

During the Wizards' recent 10-game surge, in which they have won seven games and vaulted back into the playoff race, there have been many reasons for their near-overnight transformation. The most dramatic change between now and the previous 36 games of this season, however, may be on the defensive end.

The Wizards, for much of this season, have been dreadful on defense. They are 23rd in the league in defensive rating (111.1) and have allowed the second-most points per game (115.8) of any team. The latter has them on pace to allow more points than any Wizards or Bullets team has since 1970.

But lately, they have flipped the narrative. In their last 10 games going back to Dec. 29, the Wizards are fourth in the NBA in defensive rating (106.4). 

On Monday, they held the Pistons to only 87 points, a season-low for a Washington opponent. That included a 34-point first half for Detroit, the fewest the Wizards have given up in a half this season.

The previous season-low for points scored in one half against the Wizards was set in their last game when the Knicks scored 37 in the second half on Thursday. That means the Wizards gave up only 71 points across four quarters, the equivalent of a full game.

The Knicks and Pistons are 23rd and 25th in scoring this season, respectively, but that remains an impressive stretch for the Wizards' defense. They are locking up opponents and coming away with victories.

"Our defense, overall, has just been better," forward Jeff Green said after the 101-87 win over the Pistons. "We’ve been communicating and not allowing teams to get a lot of offensive rebounds, forcing turnovers and getting out in transition. We’ve been on the same page defensively."

Against the Pistons, the Wizards allowed only two offensive rebounds, tying the fewest they've surrendered this season. It helped the Pistons were missing Andre Drummond, but that remains no small feat for the Wizards, who give up more offensive boards (11.7/g) than any team.

Like Green, head coach Scott Brooks mentioned the rebounds after Monday's win. 

"We give ourselves a chance to win every night if we can win the rebounding game," he said.

Indeed, the Wizards are a perfect 11-0 this season when they win the rebounding margin. In games they either lose the rebounding margin or tie, they are 9-26.

As the Wizards have shown all season, rebounding is a crucial part of defense. Forcing an opponent to miss a shot is only part of the battle. The stop is completed once the defensive rebound is reeled in.

Defense and rebounding have been major problems for the Wizards this season and both deal with effort. Because of that, Brooks and his players have often lamented a lack of want-to in the Wizards' lowest moments.

Recently, the effort has been there. It probably has something to do with the desperation of losing three key players - John Wall, Markieff Morris and Dwight Howard - to injuries. With what's left on their roster, they don't have the luxury of starting slow or losing focus in games. The margin for error is thin.

But the Wizards' improvement on defense can also be credited to a midseason roster makeover done by their front office. They changed the team's defensive DNA with guys like Trevor Ariza, Chasson Randle, and Sam Dekker. In these past 10 games, all three have posted defensive ratings under 105. They have infused the Wizards' rotation with a blue-collar approach to team defense.

Ariza, of course, deserves most of the credit. He has built a 15-year career off hard-nosed perimeter defense. 

This week, Brooks explained how Ariza's discipline has been integral in the Wizards' recent turnaround.

"Trevor definitely helps," Brooks said. "He's not going to get a stop every time, but he's going to give you great effort. He's not going to gamble a lot. He's not going to take the immature chances that might lead to a steal and a dunk in transition, but most likely it's not. He doesn't take those gambles."

Defense and the Wizards have not been synonymous for most of this season. But over the past 10 games, they have played with a new identity and it might be the key to saving their season.

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Rockets will finally trade Carmelo Anthony to Bulls, where they plan to cut him, per reports

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Rockets will finally trade Carmelo Anthony to Bulls, where they plan to cut him, per reports

The Houston Rockets will trade Carmelo Anthony to the Chicago Bulls, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reports.

Anthony, a six-time All-NBA selection and 10-time All-Star, has not played for the Rockets since Nov. 8. Discontent between the two-sides in his first season with the team prevented Anthony from being a piece in a championship contending team. 

However, his tenure on the Bulls will be short lived. K.C. Johnson of the Chicago Tribune reports that Chicago will move on from one of the best scorers from the 2000s. Wojnarowski also later reported that the Bulls will cut Anthony.

Upon him getting cut by the Bulls, Anthony will become a free agent (again) if he clears waivers. Chicago at 11-38 is a team that appears to be tanking for the 2019 NBA Draft and look to be moving assets to prepare for a push this summer.

Before the Rockets refusal to play Anthony, he averaged 13.4 points on 40.5 percent shooting and 32.8 percent from deep in 10 games.

If Anthony is willing to take a pay cut, another playoff team could be looking to bolster their depth.

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