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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."

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Dwight Howard shares his first health update since back surgery

Dwight Howard shares his first health update since back surgery

Three weeks removed from back surgery to take care of his nagging gluteal injury, Dwight Howard rejoined the Washington Wizards for their Tuesday night contest with the Atlanta Hawks inside State Farm Arena. 

"Physically, I'm a lot better than I was before the surgery. The nine games I played, I basically played on one leg. So, you know, I'm just happy that that's out the way and I can rehab and get ready for the second half of the season," Howard told NBC Sports Washington's Chris Miller. 

During those nine games, the 33-year-old averaged 12.8 points, 9.2 rebounds, while shooting over 62% from the floor. 

Howard is no stranger to back surgery. In 2012, the then Orlando Magic center underwent a procedure to repair a herniated disk which ended his season and took him out of Summer Olympics (London) participation. 

The veteran now deals with a slow recovery process before returning to basketball activities. 

Right now, the only I can do for rehab is just walk. Anybody who has had back surgery, they understand that. You know, for the first month and a half, you can't lift weights. You can't run. You can't do anything but basically walk. 

Howard plans to remain in Atlanta for rehab. Three weeks ago, Washington said it would re-evaluate Howard after two or three months. 

"Every day I try to sit down, and you know, spend at least an hour visualizing, you know, getting healthy, but also returning to the court."

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Wizards fold late, fall to Trae Young and Hawks in Trevor Ariza's debut

Wizards fold late, fall to Trae Young and Hawks in Trevor Ariza's debut

The Washington Wizards lost to the Atlanta Hawks 118-110 on Tuesday night. Here are five observations from the game...

1. When the Wizards smashed the Lakers on Sunday night and John Wall dropped 40 points, the team's social media naysayers collectively yawned, 'Let's see them do the same against Atlanta on Tuesday.' Sure enough, those people were right.

Wall and the Wizards did not bring anything close to the same energy against Atlanta that they had vs. L.A. Because the Hawks are terrible, the Wizards were able to hang around until the fourth quarter, but Atlanta pulled away with 36 points in the final frame.

There was plenty not to like about this game from the Wizards' side of things. They shot just 33.3 percent from three (13-for-39) and missed 11 of their 36 free throw attempts.

Wall had one of his worst games. He shot just 33.3 percent from the field and went 3-for-11 from three to the tune of 15 points and six assists. He played only 26 minutes due to foul trouble.

It wasn't as lopsided as their worst defeats this season, but this ranks up there with some of the Wizards' most inexcusable losses of the year so far. Even after making trades to shuffle their bench and team chemistry, the results remain the same. They let a bad team sneak up on them once again.

2. Trevor Ariza made his debut and essentially picked up right where he left off in 2014. He ended up with 19 points, eight rebounds, four assists and six steals, making a noticeable impact on both ends of the floor. His six steals tied a career-high.

Ariza went 4-for-11 from three with just about all of them on wide-open looks. Ariza was excellent  in his last tenure in D.C. at drifting away from the defense and making them pay from beyond the arc. Wall and Bradley Beal seemed to remember that, as they consistently found him for outside shots. 

The Wizards' overall defensive effort was up-and-down, as they allowed 35 points in the first quarter and 118 for the game. But Ariza was mostly not to blame, as he played smart and measured defense. With the exception of an early play where Kent Bazemore hit an open three, he did a good job closing out on perimeter shots.

The trade of Kelly Oubre Jr. for Ariza may ultimately prove short-sighted, and many fans seem to strongly disagree with the decision. But those are the things we should see over the course of the season that show why Ariza could be an upgrade in the short-term. He will play solid, structured defense with few mistakes or lapses in focus.

3. The fans who paid the price of admission in Atlanta to watch the referees go to work got their money's worth. It was hard to hear Steve Buckhantz with all the whistles.

Seriously, there were so many fouls. The two teams combined for 61 of them. Four Hawks players had four fouls or more and four Wizards players had five or more. That included Markieff Morris, who fouled out in only 17 minutes.

Even clean plays were fouls, like this one. Jeff Green got way up to deny Alex Len, only to have a foul called.

4. Otto Porter Jr. remains out with a right knee contusion, making this the fourth straight game he has missed. He hasn't missed five consecutive games since his rookie year.

With Porter out, head coach Scott Brooks rolled with Jeff Green to start alongside Ariza. Ariza is slated to be in the lineup moving forward, so that pushed out Satoransky, who had made eight straight starts.

Satoransky ended up playing mostly as a backup shooting guard with Sam Dekker at small forward. Chasson Randle, who was recently brought back on a non-guaranteed contract, backed up Wall at point guard. Though that may have had something to do with his defensive matchup on Trae Young, it was surprising.

Ian Mahinmi also got some burn after three straight DNP-CDs. That may have been due to the presence of Len, who is a lot to handle for small-ball fives.

Speaking of big men, Dwight Howard made an appearance on Tuesday. He didn't play, but sat on the bench with the team for the first time since his back surgery.

5. All of those lineup mentions should highlight one notable exclusion. That is Troy Brown Jr., who continues to be on the outside of the rotation looking in. Even with Porter out and Oubre now gone, Brown isn't in the mix.

Brown's inability to get playing time remains a head-scratcher. Yeah, he can't shoot, but he can do so many other things, things that the Wizards need. Whenever he gets spot minutes, he contributes with his passing, rebounding and defense. 

The fact he isn't playing a lot could be expected, as he was drafted outside the lottery by a deep, veteran team. But to not play at all, even when injuries pave the way? That's tough to understand.

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