Bears

Was Jon Scheyer exploited?

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Was Jon Scheyer exploited?

In the wake of Jon Scheyer's decision to pursue his professional basketball career in Israel, a longtime scout, coach and observer charges that Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski "betrayed" Scheyer and didn't give him an opportunity to reach his full potential in college.

Don Konopacz describes Scheyer as "a microcosm of almost all white players today regardless of height" and blames the NCAA for installing a very short three-point line "because white players weren't having much impact in the NCAA tournament and the cheating for black athlete was getting out of hand.

"This way, the short three-pointers more than offset the dunks and drives to the basket of the more athletic players. The NCAA did this to help white players have an impact on the game but at the same time it ruined the future of a lot of great white players who could have reached their potential and easily made it to the NBA."

Players like Scheyer, who wasn't selected in the NBA draft after his senior season, a rarity for an ACC Player of the Year. Why? Scheyer was a better player coming out of high school than he was coming out of Duke. He was never coached to his full potential," Konopacz insisted.

"The NBA is a league for guards and small forwards. Scheyer is a guard and the guards have to guard on defense first of all. Most guards in the NBA can create their own shot, penetrate and make the defense rotate, which leaves a player open. Scheyer doesn't have those aspects in his game.

"When Krzyzewski moved Scheyer from two-guard to point-guard, it was because he couldn't create space for himself to get his shot off or drive to the basket. At the point, Scheyer brought the ball up, passed to another perimeter payer and went off to the side of the three-point line to wait for someone else to kick the ball to him so he could get his shot off. He didn't have point skills."

But Krzyzewski said Scheyer was one of his favorite players. "Any day with Jon Scheyer was a good day," Coach K. told Sports Illustrated.

But did he feel guilty that he hadn't developed Scheyer to his full potential?

After Scheyer's sophomore season, Konopacz informed other coaches and critics that Scheyer wouldn't be the "next Jerry West" as some had envisioned. In fact, Konopacz claimed Scheyer wouldn't even measure up to former Lyons star Jeff Hornacek, who walked on at Iowa State and later had a successful 14-year career in the NBA. "I predicted Scheyer would struggle to make the NBA," he said.

"I believe players like Hornacek, Chris Mullin and Mark Price became NBA All-Stars because they played without a short three-point line on the court. Instead, today's players lack complete games. Big men should get film of Dan Issel and Jack Sikma, who were great insideoutside players they could learn from. How about Kevin McHale with his 'up and under' moves that complemented his shooting? A lot of these kids today are just like a one-crop economy.

They seem to do only one thing in basketball when more is needed to be successful."

It is argued that the Scheyers of this world are having parameters set on their games. Coaches are not coaching them so they improve and reach their potential. Instead, coaches only think about winning at any cost and, if they win, they can get a better coaching position and more money.

"They dont seem to care that the players they left behind are only a fraction of what they should be," the scout said. "I blame these coaches for betraying players like Scheyer and not coaching them in order to reach their potential."

Konopacz insists, as do many old-time coaches, that the game was better was better prior to the introduction of the three-point shot, when set plays and X's and O's were more than scribblings on a chalkboard, before the word 'athleticism' became a buzzword.

"I wish we could go back to the pre-1972 era when there was only one state championship game in Illinois. That probably isn't possible," he said.
"But let's at least eliminate that extremely short line that seems to divide the court between shooters and rebounders.

"Let's get back to basics such as give-and-goes, back doors, mid-range jump shot and pick-and-rolls, to a time when centers and power forwards established themselves down in the blocks with a variety of moves. Remember when Mark Aguirre would muscle his way in the blocks and take that feathery turn-around jumper or went up and under while laying the ball off the glass?

"Don't you miss the great moves and action around the basket? The whole object of the game was to get the ball as close to the basket as possible for the easiest possible shot. The team that did that most frequently would probably win the game. Coaches played chess matches to master the art of getting the highest percentage shots.

"I also miss players developing skills in order to have a complete game. Let's have coaches start coaching players to reach their potential again. I can understand when a player doesn't work hard enough to reach his potential but I can't understand when a player isn't coached and given the chance to reach his potential. They asked Jon Scheyer to do one thing--shoot--and the rest of his game got rusty."

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 Bears position grades: Defensive Line

2017 grade: B+

Level of need: Medium

Decisions to be made on: Mitch Unrein (free agent), John Jenkins (free agent)

Possible free agent targets: Jared Crick, Frostee Rucker, Dominique Easley

This unit was consistently the Bears’ best in 2017, with Akiem Hicks playing at a Pro Bowl level (don’t let his exclusion from the game fool you on that) and Eddie Goldman putting together a rock-solid, healthy year. 

Hicks signed a four-year contract extension just before the season began and rewarded the Bears with a dominant year, racking up 8 ½ sacks and 15 tackles for a loss. Goldman played in and started 15 games and was a key reason why the Bears limited opposing rushers to four yards per carry, tied for the 10th-best average in the league. 

But while the Bears’ defensive line was certainly good, it wasn’t as good as it could’ve been. These words from Vic Fangio ring true for Hicks and Goldman:

“I think they all have a lot more to give to us than we’ve seen,” Fangio said. “And it’s our job to get them to improve and become even better players. That will be more important to us than anybody we can acquire between now and whenever our first game is. So, and I know it’s always sexy to talk between now and the first game, you know, who are you going to draft, who’s in free agency, etc., but we’ve got to get our so-called good players playing even better. And that will be critical.”

Hicks will enter Year 3 in Fangio’s scheme, while 2018 will be Goldman’s fourth. It’ll also be a critical year for Jonathan Bullard and Roy Robertson-Harris, who’ve flashed potential at times but haven’t been able to turn that into consistent success on the field. 

And that’s where we begin to look ahead to free agency and the draft. Is the Bears’ evaluation of Bullard -- their 2016 third-round pick -- positive enough to hand him a bigger role in 2018? That’s question No. 1 to answer, with No. 2 then being if the team should try to re-sign Mitch Unrein. 

It may be a bit risky to move forward with Bullard, given how popular Unrein was among the Bears’ defensive coaching staff. 

“He’s one of the glue guys on the defense and the team,” Fangio said last November. “Every team needs a few of those guys who are going to do everything right, full speed, hard and tough all the time, and that’s Mitch.”

Defensive line coach Jay Rodgers offered this up about Unrein back in October: “He allows those guys to play fast,” with “those guys” being Hicks and Goldman. 

Statistically, the 30-year-old Unrein doesn’t  jump off the page, but he did record a career high 2 ½ sacks in 2017. Perhaps there would be some benefits to continuity in the Bears’ base 3-4 defensive line.

Worth noting too is this position isn’t a huge need, given Unrein usually played between 40 and 55 percent of the Bears’ defensive snaps on a per-game basis last year. Keeping Unrein for a relatively low cap hit would make some sense, as opposed to testing free agency to replace him.

Jared Crick is coming off back surgery and an ineffective 2016; Dominique Easley is coming off his third torn ACL this decade; Frostee Rucker is in his mid-30’s. The Bears could look to pick a 3-4 defensive end in April, but that would be a pretty quick re-draft of the position and would be an indication they don’t think much of Bullard. This seems like a position where keeping the status quo is likely, save maybe for replacing John Jenkins with a different backup behind Goldman. 
 

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

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AP

Anthony Davis could be the lone torch-bearer for Chicago at All-Star weekend in 2020, and object of recruitment

There were no Lakers or Clippers in the 2018 All-Star Game, but Los Angeles was well-represented with plenty of homegrown talent, plenty of historians with Los Angeles ties and all the pageantry L.A. can provide.

Russell Westbrook, Paul George and James Harden are among the All-Stars who came home to put on the biggest show of entertainment the league has to offer, and the new format featuring captains LeBron James and Stephen Curry produced one of the most competitive finishes in recent All-Star history as the spectacle wasn’t lost on DeRozan, who plays for the conference-leading Toronto Raptors.

“It was a dream come true,” DeRozan said. “I’ll forever be a part of this, and to come out and be a starter in my hometown, it was a dream come true.”

With Chicago hosting the event in 2020, one wonders if the city or the Bulls will be as represented.

“What better time to do it than in Chicago?” Bulls rookie Lauri Markkanen said about his aspirations of being an All-Star sooner rather than later.

New Orleans’ Anthony Davis, to this point, is the only Chicagoan carrying the torch as an All-Star. For years, Chicago could claim their homegrown talent rivaled the likes of Los Angeles and New York, the self-proclaimed “Mecca”.

But now they’ve fallen behind in the way of star power, as Derrick Rose has gone from MVP to one of the biggest “what if” stories in modern-day sports. Jabari Parker was expected to be next in line but his future as a star is murky due to the same dreaded injury bug.

“I didn’t know that. But there’s a lot of great players (from Chicago),” Davis said Saturday during media availability. “Jabari is just coming back, Derrick is going through what he’s going through. That’s fine. D-Wade is getting older. We have a lot of great guys. Guys have been hurt, in D-Wade’s case he’s just getting up there in age now (laughs).”

Davis is arguably the league’s most versatile big man, keeping the New Orleans Pelicans afloat while DeMarcus Cousins is out with an Achilles injury. He’s had to watch the likes of George deal with free agent questions about the prospect of coming home to L.A., even after he was traded from Indiana to Oklahoma City in the offseason.

It still hasn’t stopped the chants from Lakers fans, panting after George in the hope he’ll be a savior of sorts. And even though his contract isn’t up for another few seasons, teams are lining up in the hope they can acquire him through free agency or trade.

It could very well be him getting the chants when the All-Star party comes to Chicago and he could be joined by the likes of Markkanen and Zach LaVine in the big game.

LaVine was in Los Angeles for the weekend and Markkanen opened eyes around the league with his showing in the rising stars game as well as the skills challenge.

Davis could wind up being the object of everyone’s affection and could find himself being recruited by the likes of LaVine.

Even though 2021 is a long way away, a guy can dream, right?

“I mean, I’m cool with a lot of dudes in the NBA. I feel like I’m a likeable guy,” LaVine told NBCSportsChicago.com about recruiting star players to the Bulls franchise. “I can talk about situations like that, it would be my first time being put in a position. It would be a little bit different but I think I can handle it.”

LaVine has his own contract situation to take care of this summer, being a restricted free agent but understands the Bulls’ salary cap position and their long-term goals.

“Yeah I think once the offseason comes and everybody settles down, and I’m comfortable, and I know the position I’ll be in,” LaVine said to NBCSportsChicago.com.

“I think we’ll start having those conversations because we want to get the franchise back to where it was, on that high plateau. That’s what it’s supposed to be.”

“I’m trying to solidify myself in the league to a certain degree. Once you start reaching those points you can talk to anybody to get to where you want to get to.”

LaVine attended several events over the weekend and shared the same space as several All-Stars in non-media settings. It’s easy to see why he would think he could have that affect with his peers.

Being careful about the rules on tampering, he said about a potential sit-down with Davis, “I would bring some Harold’s chicken to the meeting and we’ll be all good.”