Bears

Davis added to USA Basketball player pool

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Davis added to USA Basketball player pool

PHILADELPHIA -- Chicago native Anthony Davis, a freshman at the University of Kentucky, was recently added to the USA Basketball player pool for the upcoming 2012 Summer Olympics in London. Davis, who declared for the NBA Draft after leading the Wildcats to the NCAA Championship last month -- and winning a boatload of awards in the process, including national and conference player of the year, top freshman and best defensive player -- is projected to be the top pick in next months draft.

Along with Davis, Oklahoma City Thunder sixth man James Harden was also added to the pool of players, while several up-and-coming stars, such as Washingtons John Wall, Sacramentos DeMarcus Cousins and Clevelands Kyrie Irving, were named to the USA Select Team, a group of young players who will train with and scrimmage against Olympic-team hopefuls in Las Vegas this summer.

The additions of Davis and Harden were made after multiple players, including Bulls All-Star point guard Derrick Rose and Orlando center Dwight Howard, suffered significant injuries that will likely prevent them from playing, while other candidates, such as holdover veteran forward Lamar Odom and Lakers center Andrew Bynum, are unlikely to participate for other reasons.

One candidate, 76ers All-Star swingman Andre Iguodala, a member of the 2010 gold-medalist FIBA World Championships team alongside Rose, voiced his opinion about Davis, who hasnt yet stepped foot on an NBA court, potentially joining the Olympic team.

Big fan, Iguodala, an Illinois native, told CSNChicago.com, following the Sixers Friday-morning shootaround at the Wells Fargo Center, where his team will take on the Bulls in Game 3 of their first-round playoff series hours later. He can affect the game in different areas, which is important. I saw the national-championship game and he wasnt scoring, but his emotion impacted the play on the floor and thats what I enjoy about players like that.

With Howard and big men like LaMarcus Aldridge out due to injury, Odom unlikely to make the squad after a disastrous season in Dallas and Bynum declining to play, USA Basketball is desperately in need of more size -- the only true post-player candidates are recently-named NBA Defensive Player of the Year Tyson Chandler of the Knicks and All-Star power forwards Kevin Love of Minnesota, the Clippers Blake Griffin and Miamis Chris Bosh -- although Davis lacks professional experience, his shot-blocking expertise could give him a shot and even if he doesnt make the squad, simply training during July with his soon-to-be peers should give him a leg up as a rookie.

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.”