From Comcast SportsNetPITTSBURGH (AP) -- Sidney Crosby's concussion-like symptoms may not be due to a concussion after all. The Pittsburgh Penguins star said Tuesday he's been diagnosed with a soft-tissue injury in his neck that mimics the symptoms of a concussion but is significantly more treatable. "There's a pretty big possibility that I could be causing some of the issues and I hope that's the case," Crosby said. "I hope that it'll improve and that's hopefully the end of it." Crosby and Penguins owner Mario Lemieux met with spinal trauma expert Dr. Alexander Vaccaro in Philadelphia on Monday to review a series of recent tests on the 2009 NHL MVP. Vaccaro determined an MRI and CAT scan indicated no evidence of a fracture in Crosby's neck -- as had been rumored during All-Star weekend -- instead confirming a California doctor's diagnosis that Crosby is dealing with a soft-tissue injury. The news came as a bit of relief to Crosby, who hasn't played since symptoms resurfaced following a loss to Boston on Dec. 5. He missed more than 10 months last year after taking head shots in consecutive games in January, 2011. He returned on Nov. 21 and scored 12 points in eight games before going back on the injured list. The tests could not determine when exactly the neck occurred. "It's hard to pinpoint when this could have happened, whether this was an existing injury or it happened in one of the games in which he came back," general manager Ray Shero said. Frustrated by his slow progress, Crosby traveled to Los Angeles last week to visit noted spine specialist Dr. Robert S. Bray, who examined Crosby and treated him with an injection to alleviate swelling in the neck. Bray will oversee Crosby's progression with therapists while Crosby will continue to work closely with the Pittsburgh medical staff. He declined speculation of a rift between his camp and team physicians. "There's not a lot of answers with this stuff," Crosby said. "They've been more than encouraging when going out and seeking other opinions." The team called the injury "treatable," adding Crosby will return when he's symptom-free. Crosby skated with fellow injured teammates Jordan Staal and Simon Despres on Tuesday morning, though coach Dan Bylsma has stressed Crosby is nowhere close to being cleared for contact. Crosby also met with chiropractic neurologist Dr. Ted Carrick in Atlanta earlier this month to deal with lingering motion issues, saying he was "happy" with his response to Carrick's treatment. Just not enough to put any sort of timetable on a return, though he's hopeful the shot he received from Bray will not be required on a regular basis. "It's something I'd rather not have to do to be honest with you," Crosby said. "I'd rather get work done here." Crosby was vague on specific treatment but will focus on keeping his neck loose to help get rid of inflammation. Though he's skating, he claims he's "not where he wants to be." His plan remains to play whenever his body lets him, which could be sometime before the season ends. The Penguins are just as optimistic. "There has never been any indication from any doctor over the last year that he'd have to shut it down for the season, that he'd have to retire," Shero said. "We're going to find a way to get a handle on this and get him back on the ice as safely and quickly as possible."
The final 25 games was supposed to be all about the development of the Bulls’ recent acquisitions and securing a record worthy of one of the last three envelopes at the NBA Draft Lottery.
Only Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn seemed to matter, with Cameron Payne and Cristiano Felicio being the perfect window dressing for development as opposed to just saying a team is tanking.
But Bobby Portis is making a case that he isn’t to be forgotten in the big picture, that his worth is more than just being a punchline to the jokes that followed his incident with Nikola Mirotic.
The only thing Portis didn’t do right in the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers was missing a point blank shot that would’ve given the Bulls an improbable and unwanted win, and it would’ve given him 40 points.
Instead he had to settle for a career-high 38 as Joel Embiid was bearing down on Portis when he caught a diagonal pass from Dunn with 1.1 seconds left, having the shorter T.J. McConnell on him and taking a power dribble to gather himself.
“If I could go back I would’ve just went up the first time off the glass like I always do,” Portis said. “We just have to try to close out games better.”
Embiid showed he’s worth all the trouble with his health problems, scoring 30 with 13 rebounds and five rebounds while Ben Simmons put up 32 with 11 assists and seven rebounds as the 76ers improved to 31-25, good enough for seventh place in the East.
In a game that featured remarkable resolve from a purposely undermanned Bulls team as they sat Robin Lopez and Justin Holiday, they put themselves in position to win after trailing by 18 early. After leading by five courtesy of a LaVine walk-down triple with 1:02 left, they made a couple critical errors that allowed the 76ers to steal a game the Bulls won’t mind them taking at the end of 82.
Denzel Valentine’s inbounds pass with 5.9 seconds left was intended for LaVine, but Embiid stepped in front for a steal as they were in position to make it a free-throw game the rest of the way.
Similar to the Bulls’ unlikely win over the Orlando Magic before the All-Star break, they returned the favor as 76ers rookie Ben Simmons made free throws after the steal to give the visitors a one-point lead, setting the stage for the final play.
If learning lessons is what the last 100 quarters of basketball is supposed to be about, the Bulls got a big-time lesson in a game that ultimately means nothing.
“These are learning opportunities for our team,” Bulls coach Fred Hoiberg said. “I couldn’t be happier, the way we went out and competed. We dug ourselves an 18-point hold and (fought) our way back—have complete control of the game.”
Control was wrestled from the 76ers by Portis’ able and quick hands. Taking more of a scoring posture since Mirotic’s departure, Portis has never been shy about being aggressive.
But now he’s being encouraged in that department, playing a big part in the Bulls’ tying their franchise record of 18 triples with six of his own, scoring 21 in the first half and not backing down one step from the massive Embiid.
“I kind of struggled from (three) in the last six, seven games,” said Portis, who didn’t take much time off during the All-Star break. “I think I’ve shown this entire year, trying to stay consistent and be a spark off the bench.”
Counting the last two games before the break, Portis has been on the best scoring binge of his career—cementing his place in the league when just a few months ago, many were questioning if the Bulls should’ve actually picked up his player option following the Mirotic incident.
His 25.0 points in the last three, along with scoring in double figures for seven straight games are career-bests. With every flex, every energetic plea to the crowd and resourceful score underneath the rim, Portis is becoming a player the Bulls can’t afford to plan without.
The stage was set for a Portis breakout shortly after the incident, when he was serving his suspension to start the season. When the Bulls traveled to Miami and Orlando, he flew on his own to Orlando for dinner with his mentor, former NBA veteran and Magic assistant coach Corliss Williamson.
Williamson, a player who was not to be trifled with during his career, told Portis essentially, “this too shall pass”.
“Just play your game,” Williamson told NBCSportsChicago.com recently. “Don’t put any pressure on yourself about what’s gonna happen after this year. What’s got him here is hard work, how hard he plays in the game. He continues to do that, he’ll be successful.”
Portis recalled the dinner where he was finally able to confide and unleash after weeks of frustration. Calling Williamson a father figure dating back to their Arkansas roots, where Portis played on Williamson’s AAU teams in middle school, Portis put his trust in him and came back reinvigorated.
“We talked for hours about the whole situation,” Portis told NBCSportsChicago.com “He told me when I come back to come 10 times harder. When people play this game and play the right way, they forget about the other stuff. That’s what I’m trying to do.”
Scoring 38 tends to remake a narrative.
“Bobby just continues to improve,” Hoiberg said. “He’s a confident kid that goes out and plays with a ton of swagger and toughness. You need that, to go out and play with that type of effort. He’s tenacious on the glass. He’s getting the crowd into the game.”
When speaking of Portis, Hoiberg’s face went from flush to beaming, knowing how far Portis has come in his three years—being a player who wouldn’t take 3-pointers with confidence to now unleashing them whenever a defender’s feet shows the slightest hint of leaning back.
“Regardless if I’m making shots, I try to leave it all out on the floor,” Portis said. “It felt good making shots, being able to help the team. I wanted the win tonight.”
Portis helped make up for the Bulls not getting their usual production from Dunn, who struggled guarding the bigger Simmons and Lauri Markkanen, who missed all five of his 3-pointers and made just one field goal in 32 minutes.
“You can put he and Lauri together,” Hoiberg said. “It gives you two guys that can stretch the floor and space it, two guys that can rebound, two that can put it on the floor. It’s exciting to think about when Kris gets his rhythm back.”
And now, Williamson’s words have proven to be prophetic for his pupil, because if the Bulls aren’t seeing Portis as a key part of their future, there’s about 25 other teams who’ll be lining up for his services this summer.
“I told him don’t even worry about it,” Williamson said. “Let your game speak for itself. People who really know you, know what type of person you are. You start producing people will forget about it and love you for what you do on the court.”
His game is talking, even if the Bulls’ loss was one they’d rather have taken in silence.
In the latest edition of the Bulls Talk Podcast, Mark Schanowski, Will Perdue and Kendall Gill recap the Bulls’ 116-115 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers, look at the continued growth of Zach LaVine, Lauri Markkanen and Kris Dunn, and discuss if Bobby Portis is part of the Bulls’ long term future.
They also check in on LeBron James and the new-look Cleveland Cavaliers, discuss whether or not the Golden State Warriors can make another title run and the latest on the status of San Antonio Spurs guard Kawhi Leonard. The guys also discuss how Oklahoma guard Trae Young could look in a Bulls uniform if he’s available for them in the draft.