Looking Inside Chris Pronger's Knee is a Pleasing Experience

Looking Inside Chris Pronger's Knee is a Pleasing Experience

Chris Pronger spoke with reporters this afternoon discussing his recent knee surgery in addition to all of the other ailments that have hit him over the past few seasons.

He indicates it's "this could happen to anybody" type of injuries but, over the past two seasons, we've seen him emerge from one injury with a completely different one. While taking a puck to the hand or a stick to the eye has nothing to do with age, the ability to recover and stay in game-shape while not doing everyday routines, could be related to it. Also alarming is that they don't seem to have any idea (or aren't saying) what the virus is exactly.

He's passed his concussion test, but he's not out of the woods on whatever is slowing his body down. That said, the doctor who looked inside his knee the other day was pleased with what he saw.

The full Pronger transcript:

Q: When did you have your surgery and how are you feeling? 

A: I had the surgery on Tuesday afternoon. I’m feeling okay just ice and elevation, trying to get the swelling out and I start my rehab tomorrow 

Q: Holmgren said the other day that you would be out for 4 weeks. Are you optimistic that it will be four weeks? Do you think you could be back sooner than that? 

A: I have no idea. Again, I had surgery two days ago, so  once I start getting my rehab going, as I progress through that I’ll know a bit more. Gauging off of when I had my other knee done a couple of years ago, a month sounds about right, but again, it may be 3 weeks, it may be 6 weeks, I don’t know. We just kind of gave a ballpark number because we don’t really know. 

Q: You mentioned the other surgery and that one took about 9 weeks. Homer said he thought that one was more involved…did the doctors tell you what was different about this surgery compared to the one you had two years ago?

 A: There was a little bit more damage on the one a couple years ago. There were pretty big chunks they took out and it was not as clean as this knee was. The doctor was pretty pleased when he got in there to see what exactly was involved and was pretty please with what he saw. 

Q: Did you feel like you were almost ready to come back from the virus and then this whole thing with the knee came up? 

A: Well, my knee had kind of been bothering me. It’s gradually gotten worse since I came back from the eye injury. When I stopped skating, as I started to try to work out, it started to bother me. I’d do daily workouts and try to do legs every other day and it got to a point where I couldn’t do my leg workouts so I knew something was wrong. I went and got the MRI and got a plan to get it fixed very quickly as opposed to last time, Tim, when you got mad at me for doing it so late. 

Q: Was there anything that you did when you played that would have contributed to this injury? 

A: Not that I know of. I don’t remember ever getting hit; I don’t remember ever catching it in a rut or doing anything. I don’t know what it’s from…I have a couple suspicions, but I don’t really know.

Q: How frustrating is this for you? Last year you said was the season from hell and this year so far you’ve had three different issues. How tough it for you mentally now with this kind of start? 

A: Again, I was pretty pleased with how my summer went with training and obviously got in a preseason game and felt like I got a pretty good start to the season. When you have a fluke injury where you get slashed in the face with a stick and now the knee, it’s a little disheartening. But I felt like I was playing pretty well when I got hurt the first time. It just sets you back. You’re just starting to get your rhythm, you’re starting to get in your groove and you’re comfort level is very high and this kind of sets you back. I have to go through that whole process again whenever I do get back. 

Q: How scary was the virus? When we asked Paul he didn’t really know what it was. He said there were tests but it wasn’t anything overly-serious… 

A: I just didn’t feel well. I didn’t know what it was, we said it was a virus but I didn’t know what it was. I had never felt like that before, where I had headaches and nausea and all the rest of that stuff. So I had a concussion test. I took the baseline test and passed that… I’ve just never felt like this where you get lightheaded, you have headaches, you’re nauseous...It’s been a bit of a mystery with what exactly is going on. I did some blood-work and we’re trying to get to the bottom of what’s going on. 

Q: Is this one of those things, with your surgery, where you might’ve been able to play but you wanted to take care of it so that when it comes time for the games that really matter—the playoffs—you can be 100 percent?

A: I think if it was the playoffs or the Stanley Cup Final, I could play, but it was to the point where I wouldn’t have played very well. We can always say we can play but at what level and at what detriment are you playing? At this stage in the season, not knowing the other side of it, it was prudent to get it done now so that if I’m able to return in 4 weeks, let’s say, then I’m able to get 3 weeks in before the all star break and then put the hammer down after that, as we get into the playoff stretch. 

Q: When you go through something like this-- when you’ve had so many surgeries-- do u do any soul searching and say, my body’s breaking down here, how long do I want to go through this? Or do you say to yourself, hey, I did have a fluke injury with the eye but now I have both of my knees taken care of so they should be good to go for a few more years…? 

A: Well you have to look at the injuries in their totality. I got hit with a puck and I broke my foot. I got hit with a puck in the hand and I broke my hand. I got slashed in the face and hurt my eye. The knees are things that, you know, I hurt my knee in the game against Boston in the Stanley cup playoff and this one was from I don’t know what. The only one that was really perplexing was the back. I don’t really know how or what happened there and probably never will. It’s just one of those things. You look at the number of the injuries and they would seem to be kind of fluky. Three of them I got hit with the puck or a stick. Are those everyday hockey occurrences? Yeah, it could happen to anybody. When you play the game hard and you play a lot of minutes you’re that much more inclined to have something happen to you because you’re always out there. So you still have to take a look at it as, yeah, I’ve had a lot of surgeries and it takes a toll on your body but you’ve got to continue to follow rehab protocol and follow guidance of the doctors and try to make sure that you’re doing the best you can to take care of your body and take care of your mind at the same time to prepare yourself to be ready when you do get back. 

Q: Just to be clear, are you still dealing with the effects of the virus? Or whatever you said you wanted to call it? 

A: Yeah, I’m not quite…again, we’re still trying to ascertain what’s going on, and like I said, I’ve never felt like this before so...I don’t really know what’s going on.

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

Phillies prospect J.P. Crawford learning to fight through failure

ALLENTOWN, Pa. — Plastered on a wall outside the press box in Coca-Cola Park is a sign — "Pigs to the Bigs" — surrounded by dozens of stars.

Each has upon it the name of a player who has made the leap from the Triple A Lehigh Valley IronPigs to the parent Phillies since Lehigh Valley began operations in 2008 — everyone from outfielder Chris Snelling (April 30, 2008) to pitcher Nick Pivetta (April 29, 2017), the latter of whom has since returned to the IronPigs.

It is a study in the star-crossed, of guys who bounced up and down (Pete Orr, July 8, 2011), guys who flamed out (Domonic Brown, July 28, 2010), guys whose fate is yet to be determined (Maikel Franco, Sept. 3, 2014).

The point being that the path to major-league stardom seldom follows a straight line.

That has been demonstrated once again by the Phillies' top prospect, shortstop J.P. Crawford, who spent weeks in bounce-back mode earlier this season.

And now finds himself there again.

His 0-for-4 night in Thursday's 8-4 loss to Indianapolis left him hitless in his last 16 at-bats, his slash line for the season at .175/.291/.221.

Recall that Crawford, the 16th overall pick in the 2013 draft, had exactly four hits in 48 at-bats over his first 14 games of the season, an average of .083.

Never before had the 22-year-old experienced anything like it, and he took a methodical approach to remedying the problem. He did some video work. He tinkered with his stance. He consulted with hitting coach Sal Rende and roving minor-league hitting instructor Andy Tracy. And slowly but surely, he began coming around.

The thinking at that point was that his slump might serve as a valuable lesson, a blessing in disguise.

As Crawford put it hours before Thursday's first pitch, "I'd rather struggle here than if I ever make it to the big leagues, God willing. I'd much rather have it [happen] down here than up there."

Though it will happen there, too. Baseball, everyone always says, is a game of failure. It's just a matter of how each player deals with it, works through it, minimizes it.

Lehigh Valley manager Dusty Wathan has said repeatedly that he was impressed by Crawford's approach to his scuffling start, that he thought the youngster treated it as "a growing opportunity" that can only help him down the line.

It was all Wathan could have hoped for, for Crawford or anybody else.

"I think it's a good thing to be able to have some experience to look back on, later on," he said. "Now, when they're going through it they probably don't think of it that way, but those of us who have been around baseball and been in situations like that personally, too, know that it's going to get better."

Wathan, seated at his office desk in a T-shirt and shorts before Thursday's game, has been around the block. He previously managed Crawford at Double A Reading, and believes those 14 games in April represent a blip.

"We know that J.P.'s a great player," Wathan said. "I think [such struggles] can actually end up being a good thing for these guys."

If Crawford, a native Californian, had few previous failures to draw upon — "He hasn't really had any," Wathan said — he at least had a ready roster of big-time athletes in his family with whom he could commiserate. His dad, Larry, was a CFL defensive back from 1981-89. His cousin, Carl, was a major-league outfielder for 15 years, ending last season. His older sister, Eliza, played softball at Cal State-Fullerton.

Certainly it appears they have kept him grounded, because he is singularly unimpressed by his draft status or ranking with various scouting services.

"I [couldn't] care less about that," he said. "All that doesn't really matter. Once you get on the field, everyone's the same. Everyone's the same player."

Though he was somewhat less than that early on. He was admittedly frustrated, but far from defeated.

"You've got to stay on the positive [side] on everything," he said. "You can't get too down on yourself, or else you're just going to do worse."

Had it been a major-league situation instead of a player-development situation, it is entirely possible that Wathan would have held him out of the lineup a day or two, just to let him clear his head.

"Or maybe not, because he contributes every night, somehow," the manager said.

And as Crawford said, "You're not going to get better sitting. You've got to go out there and play."

He admitted earlier this month that while he had once been reluctant about video study, he found great benefit in it when he was looking for answers in late April.

He decided to raise his hands while at the plate, and the hits began to come. He batted at a .253 clip over 24 games, including a six-game hitting streak, bringing his average to a season-best .196 on May 20.

Now it's back to the drawing board. It is, after all, a game of failure. It's just a matter of dealing with it, working through it, minimizing it.

He has become well-acquainted with the concept.

The case for Kansas' Josh Jackson to the Sixers at No. 3

The case for Kansas' Josh Jackson to the Sixers at No. 3

Over the weeks leading up to the 2017 NBA draft, we'll be making cases for the Sixers to draft several prospects. Our series will kick off with options at No. 3 (or trade downs) followed by second-round possibilities. The 2017 NBA draft will take place on June 22 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, New York.

Josh Jackson

Position: SF
School: Kansas
Height: 6-8
Weight: 203
Wingspan: 6-9¾

Jackson enjoyed an excellent season in his one year with the Jayhawks. Regarded as one of the top high school recruits in the country, Jackson didn't disappoint. The super athletic swingman averaged 16.3 points, 7.4 rebounds and three assists per game.

Jackson is without a doubt the best two-way player in this draft. He can guard positions one through four. He averaged an impressive 2.2 steals and 1.4 blocks per 40 minutes, using his length and athleticism to disrupt passing lanes. He's also strong and physical, with the ability to body up ball handlers and cutters, and redirect them.

He's a bit underrated offensively. He struggled with his shot early on, but improved as the season went on. In his last 17 games, he shot 48 percent from three on over three attempts per game. As his three assists a night indicates, he's a good and willing passer. He's also a better ball handler than he gets credit for, with the ability to get to the rim using his left or his right. Oh, and he can finish.

The case for Jackson
He fits the Sixers as an elite wing defender who plays well off the ball. If his shot continues to improve, he could be a great complement to Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. 

No, he's not an obvious fit, but he's way too talented at a position they really don't have. And talented wings aren't easy to find. Robert Covington has been a find for the Sixers and should definitely be given a contract extension, but Jackson simply brings more to the table on both ends of the court. The shot is a concern, but we've seen almost every player improve their shot with head coach Brett Brown and the Sixers' staff.

The case against Jackson
You can't just overlook the fact that he shot an abysmal 57 percent from the free throw line. That simply won't get it done. Free throw shooting can also be an indicator of whether a player can improve his stroke from the field. If the Sixers take Jackson, you have to hope that 57 percent is an aberration. 

Jackson also had some trouble off the court. There were two separate incidents. Both cases were recently resolved, but they both show a lack of maturity and, quite frankly, stupidity. 

One case involved Jackson backing up his car into another and then leaving the scene. He was given probation and forced to pay a $250 fine. In a more troubling incident, Jackson kicked the driver's side door and kicked out a tail light of a member of Kansas' women's basketball team after an argument. He reached a diversion agreement that requires him to attend anger management classes, write a letter of apology and refrain from using alcohol or recreational drugs for a year.

The Sixers will have to vet Jackson long and hard to determine if these incidents were out of a character or part of a troubling pattern.

Analysis
Washington guard Markelle Fultz is the No. 1 player on the board and will likely be picked by the Celtics. The consensus seems to be that the Lakers will take UCLA guard Lonzo Ball. With those two players off the board, Jackson is the clear-cut pick at No. 3.

At worst, you have an elite wing defender that can help slow down the likes of LeBron James, Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Giannis Antetokounmpo in the Eastern Conference. He's also going to be a nightmare in the open court running the floor with Simmons. I'd bank on him having at least a modest improvement on his shot.

The off-the-court stuff is definitely a concern, but it's possible they're just dumb decisions by a young kid. He's so talented, you better be certain that there's an issue if you decide to pass on him at No. 3. If he stays out of trouble, he's absolutely worthy of the No. 3 pick.