Cubs

Will Greg Oden ever play again?

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Will Greg Oden ever play again?

From Comcast SportsNet
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Greg Oden has suffered yet another setback with his troublesome knees. The often-injured 7-foot center was undergoing a minor procedure Monday to clear out debris in his left knee in Vail, Colo., when the surgeon determined there was additional damage and performed microfracture surgery, the Portland Trail Blazers said. The former No.1 pick in the 2007 NBA draft has now had two microfracture surgeries on his left knee, and one on his right. He has also undergone surgery for a fractured left kneecap. The Blazers say Oden will not play this season. "It's hard to put into words the heartbreak for everyone involved, but especially for Greg. He's a young man who has experienced a great number of physical challenges in his playing career and today is yet another significant setback for him," Trail Blazers President Larry Miller said in a prepared statement. "We have a lot of empathy for Greg and his family during this difficult time." Oden, who has not played in an NBA game since Dec. 5, 2009, has appeared in 82 career games for the Blazers, averaging 9.4 points and 7.3 rebounds. It was expected that he might be able to play this season, but a checkup before the start of training camp in December reportedly revealed concerns about a non-weight-bearing ligament in the left knee, further setting back his rehabilitation. Oden was a restricted free agent heading into this season. The Blazers and Oden initially agreed to an 8.9 million qualifying offer for this year, but when the setback was announced the two sides restructured the deal, which was dropped to 1.5 million. He will become an unrestricted free agent following this season. Oden has turned down several interview requests this season. Shortly after the news about the latest surgery broke, Blazers forward LaMarcus Aldridge posted on Twitter: "Praying for my bro G.O. get better!" The Blazers were in Los Angeles on Monday night for a game against the Lakers. "I'm sure he's saying, Why Me?' Sometimes in life, things like that happen, and you wonder why it's happening to you," coach Nate McMillan said about Oden before the game. "Some of these injuries have occurred, not only on the floor but off the floor. There's really not an explanation for why, or sometimes how they're happening. I'm sure it's been a frustrating start for him." Portland's acting general manager Chad Buchanan told reporters that the team knew there was the possibility of an additional microfracture surgery when he went in for the procedure. The doctor found two defects, he said. Buchanan was asked whether the latest surgery might mean the end of Oden's career. "Greg's still very young, in relative terms, for a professional basketball player. He's recovered from a couple of these before -- his last two microfracture lesions have healed fine," Buchanan said. "So there's no reason to think he couldn't come back as long as he shows the work ethic and desire that he's had in the past to come back. I think it's premature to speculate anything beyond that." The former Ohio State star was selected over Oklahoma City's Kevin Durant with the top pick in the 2007 draft. Debates raged over who should be the No. 1 selection, and the Blazers eventually went with Oden in the hope that he would lead the team -- along with Brandon Roy and Aldridge -- to an NBA championship. But Oden's rookie season was postposed when he required microfracture surgery on his right knee that forced him to miss the 2007-08 season. Oden's repeated knee problems have drawn comparisons to Sam Bowie, the injury-plagued big man the Blazers selected ahead of Michael Jordan in the 1984 draft. While Bowie played in 76 games his rookie season, averaging 10 points and 8.6 rebounds, he appeared in just 63 games over the next four seasons because of injuries. He missed the entire 1987-88 season. In all, he had five operations.

Cubs' World Series expectations are no surprise, but they show how radical transformation from Lovable Losers has been

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USA TODAY

Cubs' World Series expectations are no surprise, but they show how radical transformation from Lovable Losers has been

MESA, Ariz. — Tom Ricketts sure doesn’t sound like the guy who met his wife in the bleachers during the century-long tenure of the Lovable Losers.

“Everyone knows that this is a team that has the capability to win the World Series, and everyone will be disappointed if we don’t live up to that capability.”

Yeah, the Cubs have been among baseball’s best teams for three seasons now. That curse-smashing World Series win in 2016 was the high point of a three-year stretch of winning that’s seen three straight trips to the National League Championship Series and a combined 310 wins between the regular season and postseason.

But it’s still got to come as a strange sound to those who remember the Cubs as the longtime butt of so many baseball jokes. This team has one expectation, to win the World Series. The players have said it for a week leading up to Monday’s first full-squad workout. The front office said it when it introduced big-time free-agent signing Yu Darvish a week ago. And the chairman said it Monday.

“We very much expect to win,” Ricketts said. “We have the ability to win. Our division got a lot tougher, and the playoff opponents that we faced last year are likely to be there waiting for us again.

“I think at this point with this team, obviously that’s our goal. I won’t say a season’s a failure because you don’t win the World Series, but it is our goal.”

The confidence is not lacking. But more importantly, success drives expectations. And if the Cubs are going to be one of the best teams in baseball, they better keep winning, or they’ll fail to meet those expectations, expectations that can sometimes spin a little bit out of control.

During last year’s follow-up campaign to 2016’s championship run, a rocky start to the season that had the Cubs out of first place at the All-Star break was enough to make some fans feel like the sky was falling — as if one year without a World Series win would be unacceptable to a fan base that had just gone 108 without one.

After a grueling NLDS against the Washington Nationals, the Cubs looked well overmatched in the NLCS against the Los Angeles Dodgers, and that sparked plenty of outside criticism, as well as plenty of offseason activity to upgrade the club in the midst of baseball’s never-ending arms race.

“I think people forget we’ve won more games over the last three years than any other team. We’ve won more playoff games than any other team the last three years. And we’ve been to the NLCS three years in a row,” Ricketts said. “I think fans understand that this is a team that if we stay healthy and play up to our capability can be in that position, be in the World Series. I don’t blame them. We should have high expectations, we have a great team.”

On paper, there are plenty of reasons for high expectations. Certainly the team’s stated goals don’t seem outlandish or anything but expected. The addition of Darvish to a rotation that already boasted Jon Lester, Kyle Hendricks and Jose Quintana makes the Cubs’ starting staff the best in the NL, maybe the best in the game. There were additions to the bullpen, and the team’s fleet of young star position players went untouched despite fears it might be broken up to acquire pitching.

“I think this is, on paper, the strongest rotation that we’ve ever had,” Ricketts said. “I think that being able to bring in a player of (Darvish’s) caliber reminds everyone that we’re intending to win our division and go all the way.

“We’ve kept a good core of players together for several years, and this year I think our offseason moves have really set us up to be one of the best teams in baseball.

“Just coming out of our team meeting, the vibe feels a lot like two years ago. Everybody’s in a really good place. I think everyone’s really hungry and really wants to get this season off to a great start and make this a memorable year.”

There should be no surprise that the team and its players and its executives and its owners feel the way they do. The Cubs are now expected winners, even if that’s still yet to sink in for the longtime fans and observers of the team they once called the Lovable Losers.

Blackhawks deal Michael Kempny to Capitals for conditional third-round pick

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USA TODAY

Blackhawks deal Michael Kempny to Capitals for conditional third-round pick

The Blackhawks dealt defenseman Michael Kempny to the Washington Capitals for a third-round pick. Kempny had seven points in 31 games this season.

Kempny, 27, recorded 15 points in 81 career games for the Blackhawks. He tallied an assist in Saturday's 7-1 victory over the Capitals.

Kempny signed a one-year extension through the end of this season back in May.