Bulls

Torn ACL could end Rivera's legendary career

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Torn ACL could end Rivera's legendary career

From Comcast SportsNet
KANSAS CITY, Mo. (AP) -- Mariano Rivera drifted back to the outfield wall, just like he'd done in batting practice so many times before, baseball's greatest closer tracking down another fly ball with childlike joy. Everything changed before anybody could blink. The Yankees' 12-time All-Star caught his cleat where the grass meets the warning track in Kansas City, his right knee buckling before he hit the wall. Rivera landed on the dirt, his face contorted in pain, as Alex Rodriguez uttered the words "Oh, my God" from some 400 feet away. Bullpen coach Mike Harkey was the first to reach Rivera, whistling toward the Yankees' dugout for help. Manager Joe Girardi had been watching from behind the batter's box and set off at a run down the third-base line, angling toward center field and his fallen reliever. "My thought was he has a torn ligament, by the way he went down," Girardi said later. His instincts proved correct. Rivera was diagnosed with a torn ACL and meniscus Thursday night after an MRI exam taken during the Yankees' 4-3 loss to the Royals. The injury likely ends his season, and quite possibly his career, an unfathomable way for one of the most decorated pitchers in history to go out. "It's not a good situation, but again, we've been through this before, and we're being tested one more time," Rivera said, pausing to compose himself in the Yankees' clubhouse. "It's more mentally than physical, you know? You feel like you let your team down." The 42-year-old Rivera has said that he'll decide after the season whether hang it up after 18 years in the major leagues. And while Girardi said he hopes that baseball's career saves leader makes a comeback, Rivera sounded as if retirement is a very real possibility. "At this point, I don't know," he said in a whisper. "Going to have to face this first. It all depends on how the rehab is going to happen, and from there, we'll see." The injury seemed to cast a pall over the Yankees, who played from behind the entire way Thursday night. They put the tying run on third base in the ninth inning before Mike Moustakas made a stellar play on a chopper by Rodriguez, throwing him out by a step to preserve the win. Afterward, the only thing on A-Rod's mind was Rivera. "I saw it all go down," Rodriguez said. "It's hard even to talk about it tonight. I mean, Mo has meant so much to us on a personal level, and his significance on the field, on the mound. But the bottom line is we're the New York Yankees, and nobody is going to feel sorry for us." There's a much different feeling about Rivera, though. One of the most durable pitchers to ever play the game is well-liked and universally respected. That's what happens when you save 608 games and have five World Series rings. "You're talking about somebody who does something that's never been done," said Derek Jeter, who had four hits in the game. "It's not like somebody comes along the next day and does it." Jeter said that Rivera has been shagging balls for "20-some years," at least as long as they've known each other. It never crossed the captain's mind that Rivera would get hurt tracking down a fly ball in batting practice. It's just something that people had come to accept. "That's his conditioning. He's always shagging balls," Jeter said. "He's like a center fielder anyway. It was a freak thing. There's no other way you can explain it." Girardi also defended Rivera's decision to shag balls in batting practice, pointing out that the reliever hadn't been on the disabled list since 2003, and reasoning that Rivera may never have become the same shutdown closer if not for all the work he put in before games. "You have freak injuries, and this is one of them," Girardi said. "We had a guy carrying a box down the stairs that broke his foot. You can fall off a curb. You have to allow him to be an athlete and a baseball player and have fun out there. I've never seen Mo do anything recklessly, or seen Mo dive to try to rob a home run. It's the way he exercises." Girardi was too far away from the outfield wall to see what happened, but he knew that Rivera had sustained a significant injury when he saw players and coaches gathering around him. Rivera grabbed immediately at his right knee and started rubbing it, stopping only to briefly cover his face with his glove. Harkey and Girardi eventually carried Rivera to a cart brought onto the field, gently setting him into the back with his knee propped up. "At first I thought he was being funny, but then I realized that he was injured, he was down, and that's when I really got worried," said David Phelps, who made his first major league start Thursday night. "There's nothing I can do but stand there and watch. It's a miserable feeling." The cart rounded the warning track before disappearing up a tunnel, and Rivera didn't put any weight on his knee when he was helped back into the Yankees' clubhouse. He was examined by Royals associate physician Dr. Joe Noland, but it wasn't until the MRI exam was taken at KU MedWest that head physician Dr. Vincent Key made the diagnosis. "I thought it wasn't that bad, but it's torn," Rivera said. "Have to fix it." Girardi said that Rivera would be reexamined by the Yankees' physicians, but Rivera said that he would rather remain with the team in Kansas City than fly back to New York on Friday. The Yankees play three more against the Royals before a day off. "If it's going to happen, it's going to happen doing something I love to do. And shagging I love to do," Rivera said. "I'd do the same thing, without hesitation. The reasons why it happen, you have to take it as it is. Fight through it. You know, just have to fight." Rivera is only the latest closer to go down with a significant injury this season. The Royals' Joakim Soria, the Reds' Ryan Madson and the Giants' Brian Wilson all required Tommy John surgery. Tampa Bay's Kyle Farnsworth is out with a strained elbow, Boston's Andrew Bailey had surgery to repair a ligament in his right thumb, and Washington's Drew Storen had a bone chip removed from his elbow, though the Nationals expect him to pitch this season. Of course, none of those players has nearly the pedigree of Rivera. With the same devastating cutter that has carried him for years, Rivera has made at least 60 appearances each of the last nine seasons. He blew a save on opening day this year, but allowed only two hits in eight scoreless innings after that, picking up five of his 608 saves. "I always argued he was the best pitcher of all-time," first baseman Mark Teixeira said. "Not just the best reliever, but the best pitcher of all-time. "Accidents happen. That's all I can say. You can get hurt getting out of bed, literally. You can get hurt doing anything," Teixeira said. "That's Mo. Part of what makes him great is he's so athletic, and he loves to run around out there and have fun. You can't play this game for 15-plus years without having fun. It was just a tough accident."

Players vote Thaddeus Young, Otto Porter Jr. as Bulls captains

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USA Today

Players vote Thaddeus Young, Otto Porter Jr. as Bulls captains

CHARLOTTE, N.C. --- The tribe has spoken. In a players' only vote administered by coach Jim Boylen, Thaddeus Young and Otto Porter Jr. will be captains for the Bulls.

"They’ve demonstrated an ability to put the team above themselves and the ability to communicate with their teammates in a positive way," Boylen said. "I haven’t felt they’re worried about getting liked. They’re worried about getting it right. Something we talk about here is leadership over likership. And I think they have a great feel of that."

Young, a 12-year veteran, long has commanded respect as the consummate teammate. Porter arrived from the Wizards last season and is in his seventh season.

"It means a lot," Porter said. "Just everything I’m doing is for the team, on and off the court. I gotta represent the team right. Make sure our guys are knowing they’re leaded in the right direction. I take that seriously."

Zach LaVine has voiced desire to assume more leadership and perhaps other players, particularly relatively new ones, earning the captain title over him will be instructional and motivational. In the meantime, look for LaVine to land on Boylen's leadership committee, which he established last season. The practice, which is used more in football than basketball, raised some eyebrows around the league for its unconventional usage.

"The leadership group has not disintegrated. It’ll be structured with the help of the captains. I felt the captains was the first step to that. Captains are very important to me in my career," Boylen said. "I’ve always thought it’s big to the leadership of your team. I’m thrilled with the two players that the team voted on having as our captains. We wanted training camp to go by. We wanted everybody to get a chance to be together and see how people operate. And so we voted on it."

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It's playoff week for several 4-4 teams

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NBC Sports Chicago

It's playoff week for several 4-4 teams

While the official start of the 2019 IHSA State Football Playoffs won't be announced until Saturday night, teams that are holding 4-4 records heading into Week 9 are already in state playoff mode.

Several familiar names are in search of big Week 9 wins just to get into the playoff field. 

Marist (4-4) has been a Class 8A regular yet the Redhawks and head coach Ron Dawczak will need to beat Loyola Academy (6-2) on Saturday in Wilmette just to find a place in the playoffs this year. So how difficult has the Redhawks road been so far in 2019? Marist four losses (Notre Dame/Brother Rice/Mount Carmel and Nazareth Academy) have a combined 28-4 record and beating Loyola on Saturday in Wilmette should count for more like two wins.

Naperville Central (4-4) entered the 2019 season ranked by everyone, yet after a 0-3 start the Redhawks have been able to settle down and win four of its last five games to get into position to land its fifth win Friday night in Naperville. The Redhawks can undoubtedly make a case for having one of the state toughest schedule. Its four losses (Hinsdale Central, Lincoln-Way East, Pickerington Central OH and Neuqua Valley) are a combined 29-3. So who's the Redhawks Week 9 cupcake? None other than the state's top ranked team in East St. Louis (8-0). And much like Marist a win over the Flyers this Friday should count for much more than one win. 

New Trier (4-4) and head coach Brian Doll has made the IHSA state playoff field for the past 16 seasons and 23 out of the last 24 years, yet the Trevians need to beat longtime rival Maine South (6-2) at home tomorrow night to keep it's state playoff streak alive. 

The DuKane Conference has been full of surprises in 2019 and both St. Charles North (4-4) and Wheaton North (4-4) are looking to seek wins on Friday to remain alive. St. Charles North was also highly ranked to begin the season but has dropped three straight games and will need to beat Wheaton South (5-3) at Red Grange Field to advance.  Wheaton North has won two straight games including a big 24-19 win last Friday over St. Charles East (6-2), but now a Friday night showdown against Batavia (6-2) in Batavia looms for the Falcons. 

The North Suburban conference has a ‘Win To Get In Bowl’ Friday night as Stevenson (4-4) travels to Lake Forest (4-4). Libertyville (4-4) needs a wn on Friday night against Zion-Benton (3-5) and the Wildcats will be keeping a close eye on the playoff pairings show since they are low (30) on playoff points. 

The Southwest Prairie East is, well, a mess. Plainfield South (4-4/3-1) and Plainfield East (4-4/3-1) are seeking a win to get in, yet even with wins both Plainfield schools could lose the conference title and automatic bid to Joliet West (3-5/3-1). Joliet West and head coach Bill Lech holds a tie breaker if all three teams win on Friday night and that looks more and more a possibility. Plainfield South will host Romeoville (1-7), Plainfield East travels to Joliet Central (1-7) and Joliet West will travel to Plainfield Central (1-7). 

Both East Aurora  (4-4) and Elgin (4-4) square off on Friday at Elgin's Memorial Stadium for a chance at getting into the state playoff field...and just let that statement sink in. East Aurora. Elgin. State Football Playoffs. Needless to say not too many outside of those programs expected to be playing a meaningful in Week 9 especially with so much on the line. A win for East Aurora would be the Tomcats first state playoff bid since 1982 and for Elgin it would be the Maroons second state playoff appearance since 2001.

Looking for more drama? The West Suburban Silver conference will feature Lyons Township (4-4) and first year head coach Dan Hartman in search of its fifth win on Friday night. All the Lions and Dan Hartman has to do is travel to Hinsdale Central (7-1) and beat Hartman's former team from  a season ago in Hinsdale. Also Oak Park-River Forest (4-4) has a tall task looking to get an upset win over Glenbard West (8-0) in Oak Park on Friday night. 

While several of these on the bubble teams have some tall task this week, never say never especially when teams are playing for their playoff lives and if the 2019 season has taught us anything, it's that anything can happen on any given Friday night/Saturday in IHSA football.