Bears

With the 29th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select...

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With the 29th pick in the 2012 NBA Draft, the Chicago Bulls select...

Even with Thursdays NBA Draft quickly approaching, it isnt as buzzworthy as Derrick Rose being on a video-game cover commercials featuring the Bulls point guard, Lakers superstar Kobe Bryant and Clippers All-Star Blake Griffin were in heavy circulation during the recently-concluded NBA playoffs or the overblown speculation surrounding whether or not All-Star Luol Deng will be traded for a lottery pick, but the Bulls have continued to diligently make preparations to select a player with the 29th overall pick.
The organization has brought in several players to work out in preparation for the draft, as well as to contemplate potential additions for Julys summer league roster, but it is believed that the team is targeting the best available player with the choice, particularly a guard prospect.
Sure, if the likes of Ohio State power forward Jared Sullinger, whos been medically red-flagged because of back problems, drops that far in the first round, it would be hard to pass him up, but other than that unlikely occurrence, the Bulls will look to add shooting or a player who can create his own shot, preferably both. One player that fits that description is Memphis shooting guard Will Barton, who is scheduled for a return visit to the Berto Cente rhe worked out with a large group of prospects almost a month ago for a solo workout Wednesday morning, according to a source.
The slender swingman made great strides as an outside shooter between his freshman and sophomore seasons, but that aspect of his game, as well as adding strength to his frame, are still considered works in progress compared to the rest of his versatile skillset. However, Bartons stock is rising around the league and he may not be available when the Bulls make their selection.
Nevertheless, heres a rundown of prospects the Bulls may consider Thursday:

Will Barton, 6-foot-6 shooting guard, Memphis: The aforementioned Barton is a high-energy, jack-of-all-trades type with a penchant for attacking the basket, something the Bulls could use, especially with Rose on the shelf to begin the season.
Jared Cunningham, 6-foot-4 shooting guard, Oregon State: Another slashing type, Cunningham is regarded as a combo guard and a high-level athlete, as well as a player well-regarded for his defensive acumen.
Kim English, 6-foot-5 shooting guard, Missouri: A wing shooter, English played on a balanced Missouri team in college, but has distinguished himself in both the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament and pre-draft workouts.
Festus Ezeli, 6-foot-10 center, Vanderbilt: Still a raw offensive talenta function of the native of Nigeria not playing much organized basketball before collegeEzeli is viewed as a rim protector on the defensive end with a pro-ready body.
Evan Fournier, 6-foot-7 shooting guard, France: Fournier, a smooth swingman who possesses both scoring and playmaking ability, is perhaps the highest-rated international prospect in the draft and is expected to play in the NBA next season, not be stashed in Europe.
Draymond Green, 6-foot-7 forward, Michigan State: Green lacks the size to play power forward and the quickness to play small forward, but his intangibles, toughness, winning mentality and uncanny passing ability intrigue a lot of teams.
John Jenkins, 6-foot-4 shooting guard, Vanderbilt: Jenkins is a bit undersized for his position and lacks the athleticism and versatility to impact the game other than shooting the ball, at which he may be the best in the draft.
Orlando Johnson, 6-foot-5 shooting guard, UC-Santa Barbara: A scorer with toughness, Johnsons strong build and mature game have eliminated many doubts about the lower level of competition he played against in college.
Doron Lamb, 6-foot-4 shooting guard, Kentucky: A tremendous outside shooter with a savvy game, Lamb lacks great size and athleticism, but simply knows how to play the game, as hes capable of scoring in bursts, but also playing off the ball or functioning as a playmaker.
Scott Machado, 6-foot-1 point guard, Iona: A pure point guard who might already be close to hitting his ceiling, Machados size is a question mark, but his unselfishness and passing ability could allow him to make an impact as a rookie backup.
Quincy Miller, 6-foot-9 small forward, Baylor: A North Chicago native, Miller has one of the biggest upsides in the draft, but with only a lone season of college hoops under his beltone in which he was still recovering from an ACL injury suffered during his senior year of high schoola small sample size to evaluate.
Jeff Taylor, 6-foot-7 small forward, Vanderbilt: Yet another Vanderbilt player, Taylor already has a niche as a defensive-oriented wing with nice athleticism and a continually-developing outside jumper.
Tyshawn Taylor, 6-foot-2 point guard, Kansas: Criticized as erratic throughout his four-year college career, Taylor brings good quickness and the ability to defend to the table, as well as the experience of playing in high-pressure situations.
Marquis Teague, 6-foot-2 point guard Kentucky: The brother of Atlanta Hawks point guard Jeff Teague, the younger Teague had an up-and-down freshman season, but his physical toolsnamely, his explosivenessmight be too hard to pass up.
Tony Wroten, 6-foot-6 point guard, Washington: Wroten has excellent size for his position and remarkable court vision, but hes also turnover-prone and has a shaky outside jumper, descriptions that were attributed to Celtics All-Star Rajon Rondo when he was coming out of college.

Charles Leno, Jr. on Harry Hiestand: 'He's getting us better'

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USA Today

Charles Leno, Jr. on Harry Hiestand: 'He's getting us better'

Chicago Bears left tackle Charle Leno, Jr. has outplayed expectations after joining the Bears as a seventh-round pick in 2014. General manager Ryan Pace rewarded Leno for his play with a four-year, $38 million extension last offseason, committing to the former Boise State product as the Bears blindside protector for the immediate future.

Leno joined his teammates at the team's annual Bears Care Gala on Saturday and said new offensive line coach Harry Hiestand is going to make the group better.

"We love Harry, let's just get that out of the way," Leno told 670 the Score's Mark Grote. "Harry is a great coach. I saw what he did for guys that he coached in college and the guys that were before us here in Chicago. He's getting us better."

Hiestand's efforts at Notre Dame produced four first-round picks: Zack Martin, Ronnie Stanley, Quenton Nelson and Mike McGlinchey. He brings a no-nonsense coaching style back to Chicago, where he last served under Lovie Smith from 2005-2009. 

STANKEVITZ: In Harry Hiestand, Matt Nagy hits a home run on his first swing at Bears' coaching staff

Leno enjoyed the best season of his career in 2017. His 80.4 grade from Pro Football Focus was the best of all Bears linemen and his highest overall mark over the last four years. He finished 15th among all tackles graded by PFF last season.

Regardless, Leno still has to impress his new coach just like every other offensive lineman on the roster. The Bears haven't added any competition for Leno, but his fate as the team's long-term answer at left tackle could be decided by Hiestand.

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

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USA Today Sports Images

Matt Nagy is winning over his players by being himself

Despite losing 34 of his 48 games as the Bears’ head coach, John Fox’s players generally liked him and were disappointed to see him fired on New Year’s Day. That’s not to say they were blindsided by it — losing leads to people losing their jobs, even if the culture at Halas Hall had changed for the better following the disastrous end of the Marc Trestman-Phil Emery era. 

It was with that backdrop that Matt Nagy was offered and accepted the position of Bears head coach a week after Fox’s firing. Four and a half months later, Nagy has seemingly made a strong first impression on his new team, with one reason standing out among many: He’s genuine in who he is and what he does.

“I would say Nagy can be stern, and he can be playful also,” cornerback Prince Amukamara said. “I think when you’re a first-year coach, you want to win (over) your guys, and you want to be firm, and he’s doing that. You can’t really tell he’s a rookie coach or whatever. I feel like he was born for this, and he’s doing a great job.”

Granted, no player is going to publicly blast their new boss — especially not before he’s even coached a game yet. But veteran players also aren’t oblivious to who can and cannot work out as a head coach, and there haven’t been any “damning with faint praise” types of comments that were more common five years ago at the beginning of the Trestman era.

Will this win Nagy any games come September? No. But consider this sort of like team chemistry: It won't win a team anything, but if a team doesn't have it, it can be costly. 

“He’s a cool coach, man,” linebacker Danny Trevathan — who played for Fox in both Denver and Chicago — said. “He’s always giving us little details and smiling but we know he’s a hard worker just like we are. He’s up there working just like we are. He’s always putting us in the right position and he takes care of us. On the back end, where I come from, you take care of coaches like that. You go out and make plays for those coaches.”

From an observational standpoint, Nagy comes across as genuinely excited not just to be a head coach, but the head coach of the Bears. Players respect that approach — he's not coming in acting like a hired gun, and he's shown through these OTAs and practices that he cares about them, even if they haven't spent much time together yet. And he's also not strutting into Halas Hall every day with an over-inflated ego based on his promotion. That resonates, too. 

“I like the way he came in,” Trevathan said. “He came in humble but he was hungry. He came anxious, moving around in the meetings. I like that. That gets me fired up. I feel like we’ve got a good leader up here in the head coach.”