Cubs

Top rebounder out for the year with a blood clot

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Top rebounder out for the year with a blood clot

From Comcast SportsNetCLEVELAND (AP) -- Anderson Varejao's season rapidly spiraled from a probable All-Star appearance to over.The Cavaliers' hustling center, who led the NBA in rebounding before he went down last month with what appeared to be nothing more than a bruised knee, remained hospitalized Monday with a blood clot in his lower right lung, a health scare that will force him to miss the rest of this season.Varejao, who underwent surgery on a torn leg muscle on Jan. 10, has been at The Cleveland Clinic since last Thursday. The Cavs said he will likely remain in the hospital for several more days as he receives treatment. Varejao is expected to make a full recovery, but he will remain on blood thinning medications for at least three months, the team said Monday.The loss of the 6-foot-11 Varejao is a crushing blow to the young Cavs, who are just 10-32."Losing him already was bad enough for us," star point guard Kyrie Irving said. "The news got worse today. We wish him the best. We're all going to be there for him morale-wise, just try to be there for him as best as we can as teammates. That's all we can do right now."Despite Varejao being admitted to the hospital four days ago, the Cavs did not reveal he was still there until shortly before Monday's workout at their training facility.Varejao was having an All-Star-caliber season before he injured his leg on Dec. 18 against Toronto. Team doctors initially diagnosed the injury as a bruise and expected Varejao to make a quick recovery. However, tests revealed an uncommon split in his quadriceps muscle which required an operation. Varejao was expected to be out eight weeks before he developed the blood clot following the surgery.General manager Chris Grant said the team is "fairly confident" the clot was not a reaction from surgery.This is the third straight season Varejao has missed extended time with injuries. The Brazilian sat out 41 games last season with a broken wrist, and he was sidelined for 51 games in 2011 after tearing a tendon in his ankle while running after practice."We're just feeling bad for Andy," Cavs coach Byron Scott said following practice. "I think the world of Andy, especially with the way he plays. My heart just goes out to him. He's had some bad luck in the last three years. I'm sure it's devastating to him. I feel real bad for him."Varejao was averaging 14.4 rebounds and 14.1 points in 25 games before he got hurt. There wasn't a center in the Eastern Conference playing better than the fun-loving 30-year-old, who has developed into much more than a competent reserve -- when he's healthy.If he had been able to keep playing, there's little doubt Varejao, acquired by Cleveland in 2004 in a trade with Orlando, would have been named an All-Star reserve this week.Grant pointed out that Varejao's injuries have been unrelated."They've all really been freak things," he said. "He's frustrated. We're frustrated for him and with him. We would love to have him out there, particularly the type of year he was having. He's really come into his own as a leader on the court, so it's difficult. But at the same time we believe in him as a guy, we know what he can do. He's played in a lot of big games for us, into the Finals. We'll continue to support him."Cleveland, which has one of the league's youngest rosters, just completed a 1-4 road trip. The Cavs will host Boston on Tuesday and play 10 of their next 12 games at home.Varejao's injury has allowed Scott to give extra playing time to second-year forward Tristan Thompson and rookie Tyler Zeller. The Cavs, though, have been plagued by wild inconsistency, especially down the stretch in games they've let slip away."We've made strides in the right direction, but we just have to be more consistent game-to-game," said Irving, who is averaging 23.1 points, 5.7 assists and 3.6 rebounds per game. "I say it all the time, we've proven we can play with the best in the league, we just have to put two halves together. We're still figuring that out."They'll have to do it without Varejao, their never-stopping big man who has managed to stay positive despite his latest medical setback."His spirits are up," said Grant. "He's frustrated. He wants to play; he wants to be with his teammates on the court. But he's such a good guy. Every time you see him he's still got that big smile."

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

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USA TODAY

Why did Kris Bryant get a first-place vote in this year's National League MVP balloting?

Kris Bryant was the 2016 National League MVP. And despite having what could be considered an even better campaign this past season, he finished seventh in voting for the 2017 edition of the award.

The NL MVP was awarded to Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton on Thursday night, a fine choice, though it was nearly impossible to make a poor choice, that's how many fantastic players there were hitting the baseball in the NL this season.

After Stanton, Cinicinnati Reds first baseman Joey Votto finished second, earning the same amount of first-place votes and losing out to Stanton by just one point. Then came Arizona Diamondbacks first baseman Paul Goldschmidt, Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado, Rockies outfielder Charlie Blackmon and Washington Nationals third baseman Anthony Rendon ahead of Bryant.

But there was someone who thought Bryant deserved to repeat as the NL MVP. Yes, Bryant earned a first-place vote — as did everyone else mentioned besides Rendon, for that matter — causing a bit of a social-media stir considering the Cubs third baseman, despite his great season, perhaps wasn't as standout a candidate as some of the other guys who finished higher in the voting.

So the person who cast that first-place vote for Bryant, MLB.com's Mark Bowman, wrote up why he felt Bryant deserved to hoist the Kenesaw Mountain Landis Memorial Baseball Award for the second straight year.

"In the end, I chose Bryant because I believe he made the greatest impact, as his second-half production fueled the successful turnaround the Cubs experienced after the All-Star break," Bowman wrote.

"Though I don't believe the MVP must come from a playoff contender, in an attempt to differentiate the value provided by each of these three players (Bryant, Votto and Stanton), I chose to reward the impact made by Bryant, who produced the NL's fourth-best OPS (.968) after the All-Star break, when the Cubs distanced themselves from a sub-.500 record and produced an NL-best 49 wins."

It's easy for Cubs fans and observers to follow that logic, as the Cubs took off after the All-Star break following a disappointing first half. As good as Bryant was all season long, his second-half numbers, as Bowman pointed out, were especially great. He hit .325 with a .421 on-base percentage and a .548 slugging percentage over his final 69 games of the regular season, hitting 11 home runs, knocking out 21 doubles and driving in 35 runs during that span.

Perhaps the craziest thing about this year's MVP race and Bryant's place in it is that Bryant was just as good if not better than he was in 2016, when he was almost unanimously named the NL MVP. After slashing .292/.385/.554 with 39 homers, 102 RBIs, 35 doubles, 75 walks and 154 strikeouts in 2016, Bryant slashed .295/.409/.537 with 29 homers, 73 RBIs, 38 doubles, 95 walks and 128 strikeouts in 2017.

Of course, the competition was much steeper this time around. But Bryant was given the MVP award in 2016 playing for a 103-win Cubs team that was bursting with offensive firepower, getting great seasons from Anthony Rizzo (who finished third in 2016 NL MVP voting), as well as Dexter Fowler and Ben Zobrist. While the Cubs actually scored more runs this season and undoubtedly turned it on after the All-Star break on a team-wide basis, Bryant was far and away the best hitter on the team in 2017, with many other guys throughout the lineup having notably down years and/or experiencing down stretches throughout the season. Hence, making Bryant more, say it with me, valuable.

So Bowman's argument about Bryant's impact on the Cubs — a team that still scored 822 runs, won 92 games and advanced to the National League Championship Series — is a decently convincing one.

Check out Bowman's full explanation, which dives into some of Bryant's advanced stats.

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet

In the latest edition of HandiKapping presented by Xpressbet, NBC Sports Chicago's David Kaplan makes his picks for the weekend.

Kap made his picks with the help of Eddie Olczyk this week.