Bears

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."

Bears early Super Bowl odds

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USA TODAY

Bears early Super Bowl odds

The oddsmakers in Las Vegas don’t think the Bears 2018 season was a fluke.

It took them a while to come around on Matt Nagy and Mitchell Trubisky during the regular season, but a 12-4 finish and the NFC North crown was enough to earn them national respect heading into 2019.

Chicago is expected to enter next season as a legitimate contender. The early odds for the 2020 Super Bowl at multiple sportsbooks have the Bears in the top five.

The offshore site Bet Online has them tied with the New England Patriots and New Orleans for the third-best odds, behind the Kansas City Chiefs and Los Angeles Rams.

Super Book USA in Las Vegas is slightly less optimistic, giving Chicago 12-to-1 odds that are tied for fifth with the Los Angeles Chargers.

At this time last year, Super Book USA gave the Bears the lowest odds in the NFL for the 2019 Super Bowl at 100-to-1.

The team came a long way in Nagy’s first season, and expectations are already much higher for year two.

Five things we learned during the Bulls' West Coast road trip

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USA TODAY

Five things we learned during the Bulls' West Coast road trip

The Bulls finished up a difficult road trip on Thursday against the Nuggets with an embarrassing 135-105 loss. They went 0-5 on the trip and now have lost nine straight games, giving them the second worst record in the NBA.

While it wasn't pretty, we're trying to take five things we saw on the trip.

Lauri Markkanen is a different player when he gets going early

Thursday was Lauri Markkanen’s best performance of the road trip, and unsurprisingly it came in the game where he attempted 10 first-quarter field goals. He went 6-for-10 in the opening 12 minutes, hitting three 3-pointers, driving twice to the basket for nice finishes and hitting a baseline jumper.

It was a sight for sore eyes for a Bulls team that has an incredibly low 91.4 offensive rating in first quarters under Jim Boylen; that’s worst in the NBA by more than 8 points per 100 possessions. It was also good for Markkanen, who is averaging 4.0 points on 36 percent shooting in first quarters this season. It’s by far Markkanen’s worst shooting quarter (he’s at 47.4%, 44.6% and 43.6% in the final three quarters) so to see him start quickly was a good sign.

He had two attempts in the first quarter against the Lakers, four against the Jazz and four against the Warriors. He doesn’t need to attempt 10 every first quarter like he did against the Nuggets, but he needs to start aggressive. It changes how he plays the rest of the night like it did Thursday.

Jabari Parker needs to be in the rotation until he’s dealt

Jim Boylen had his reasons for yanking Jabari Parker out of the rotation, and maybe they were warranted. But it’s also clear that the timing has been correct to put him back in the rotation, and credit to Parker for being ready in that moment.

In the final three games of the trip Parker was really solid offensively, shooting 17 of 27 while averaging 14.6 points. It was much needed for an offense that simply couldn’t keep up with opponents most of the time. They’re going

He’s got his warts, he doesn’t have a good positional fit and he definitely isn’t part of the future. But Parker’s return to the rotation should continue. If it isn’t to help the team competing and playing better it’s becoming a nice bump to his trade value.

We’re still waiting for Kris Dunn to put it together

No one is more happy to come home than Kris Dunn. It was a largely forgettable trip for the Bulls’ point guard, who after a 17-point, 7-assist night in Portland was invisible for four games. In five road games he averaged 8.6 points and 5.4 assists. He shot 36.7 percent and just never seemed to mesh with the rest of the offense. He has his moments, but far too few of them.

His lack of 3-point shooting and drawing fouls is beginning to be a real concern. We knew Dunn wasn’t an elite 3-point shooter but he was making a concerted effort to get to the basket more often this season. While he seems to be finishing better around the rim – and he had a thunderous dunk against Denver – he simply isn’t drawing fouls and getting to the line. That’d be fine if he was an elite passer in this offense, but he simply isn’t. He runs basic pick-and-roll fine and drops off to bigs on drives at times, but overall there hasn’t been a lot of “wow” from Dunn like we’ve seen from Zach LaVine and Lauri Markkanen – and even Wendell Carter – at times this season.

It’s going to be a long 37 games

The belief as the injury-plagued Bulls trudged along during the first month of the season was that, once healthy, there was simply too much young talent to think about the top of the NBA Draft. After all, teams like the Cavaliers, Suns, Knicks and Hawks had far more precarious short-term situations and the Bulls, playing in the East, would at least remain competitive and beat similarly talented teams.

While we didn’t exactly learn this during the trip, the reality is the Bulls will smack dab in the mix for the league’s worst record this season. With Kris Dunn, Lauri Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the starting lineup the Bulls are 1-12. Part of that is the schedule – 11 of those 13 opponents are at or above .500 – but there simply isn’t enough chemistry between these three for it to yield results. Add in the midseason coaching change and the difficulty that puts on a young team and you’ve got a recipe for a disastrous final 37 games.

That isn’t necessarily a bad thing –heard of Zion Williamson? – but it’s an unfortunate truth that the Bulls aren’t as far along as we thought they’d be. Rebuilds take time, and it appears the Bulls will have very little to show for when they enter 2019 training camp. The Bulls have the sixth easiest schedule to finish the year, including two games against the Cavs and two against the Knicks, but progress the rest of the way can’t be measured in wins and losses. It’ll be looking at the Lauri-LaVine-Dunn three-man lineup numbers, LaVine’s ability to work off Markkanen (when Lauri is looking for his shot) and Dunn’s aggressiveness on the offensive side of the ball.

Chandler Hutchison is finally getting consistent run

It might have been the front office’s doing, but credit to Jim Boylen for finally giving Chandler Hutchison consistent run. The Bulls rookie played 25 minutes or more in every game during the road trip, the first time he’s logged that many minutes in five straight games.

It was promising, too, that his best games came in the final three of the road trip. After logging big minutes on the road he didn’t falter, scoring 11, 12 and 12 points against Utah, Los Angeles and Denver. Hutchison had scored in double figures twice this season, and he’s now done it three consecutive games. The increase in minutes has helped, but Hutchison was also 15 of 25 in that stretch. He doesn’t do much creating but seems to be in the right spots at the right time. He also averaged 6.2 rebounds and had a steal in the last four games of the trip. He was a real bright spot.