Bears

Deja vu: Hamilton injured vs. 76ers, but returns to the game

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Deja vu: Hamilton injured vs. 76ers, but returns to the game

With 3:15 left in the third quarter of Saturday nights Bulls win over Philadelphia, there was suddenly a flashback to last season. Rip Hamilton, in the midst of a strong individual period and raining down mid-range jumpers, leaped in the air to make a pass and when he landed, immediately began limping.
For the injury to occur against the 76ers, the team that ousted the Bulls from the playoffsand against whom Derrick Roses season ended in Game 1 of the first-round series at the United Centerwas eerie enough, but considering Hamiltons injury-plagued debut season in Chicago made it downright terrifying for both the team and its fans.
Hamilton couldnt put pressure on his left foot and was helped off the court by teammates Luol Deng and Kirk Hinrich, then headed to the locker room, after which the organization informed the media that he suffered a sprained left foot.
In a twist, however, Hamilton not only returned to the bench, but was reinserted into the contestshades of Joakim Noah, who severely sprained his ankle in Philadelphia during the aforementioned series, then briefly returned to play in the same game, though he was out for the remainder of the series afterwardsby Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau as a designated free-throw shooter. Hamilton knocked down three of his four attempts at the charity stripe to close out the Bulls win.
It was a lot scarier than I thought, but well see. Tomorrow Im supposed to get an MRI on it. But the good thing about it, I was able to put a little bit of weight on it and I was able to go back into the game, the veteran recounted afterwards. I didnt get an x-ray. It was just one of those things, its all feeling and there was a lot of adrenaline still in the game. I felt as though I could still move. I know I wasnt 100 percent or anything like that, but I felt as though I could still get out there and help the team.
Hamilton injured himself when I jumped up. As soon as I came up off my feet, thats when I really felt something on the bottom of my foot. I felt something pop.There wasnt anybody around. They always say the worst injuries are when nobodys around and you didnt fall on anybodys foot or anything like that, so it was just one of those things that when it happened, it just scared me and when I felt it, I didnt want to put any pressure on it, but there wasnt a whole lot of pain. So, thats why it was so freaky to me, continued the Pennsylvania nativehe grew up less than an hour from Philadelphiawho admitted his foot was sore afterwards. I would have tried to play even earlier, if asked. Thats why I came back on the bench. They kept asking me, Can you play? and I was like, Man, I wont know until Im actually out there defending somebody live or running down the court, so it was one of those things that if I got there, I was going to see how it was going to feel.
Thibodeau asked me and I told him, Yeah, put me back in the game. He didnt want to put me back in at first and I was like, Im good. As long as my right shooting arm is good, Im good, the shooting guard went on to say. I just told myself, Just figure it out. Whoever Im guarding, just try to run near them and hope they dont get the ball.
I wanted to be back out there. Coach took a chance on me and put me back out there.
Thibodeau, perhaps sensitive to the criticism he received for putting Noah back into the May playoff game, explained that he didnt have an official diagnosisas did Hamilton, who stated, I dont know what it is. We dont know what it is until I get an MRIfor the injury and was simply relying on advice from the Bulls medical staff. Although Hamilton walked with a noticeable limp, he was functional on the floor.
When he came back to the bench, Fred Tedeschi, the teams head trainer told me that we could use him if we needed him, so I thought we needed him, the coach said. Well, Im not a doctor. I just ask the trainer, Can he go? We do have a medical staff here. I know you guys the media are trained that way also, but they have to be cleared by the doctor and the trainer before I get to them. If Fred tells me that he cant go, then hes not going to go. Hes been evaluated so, I trust our medical staff.
The silver lining to the injury is that if Hamilton has to miss any significant amount of time, the Bulls now have the cap space to sign a 14th playera minimum-salary veteranto the roster, something that wasnt imminent as of last week, when it became possible, according to a person with knowledge of the situation. But the organizations front office and player-personnel staff have been keeping a close eye on available veterans if the need arose, which likely wont be known until Monday, as the team is off Sunday.

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.”

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

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USA TODAY

Reynaldo Lopez is changing his place in the White Sox rebuild: 'When I'm on the mound, I'm the best and I don't care about the rest'

Rebuilds are full of surprises.

Fans can pencil in any names they want into their 2020 lineups, but there’s almost no one who’s going to have a 100-percent success rate when it comes to predicting exactly what the next contending White Sox team will look like.

Reynaldo Lopez carried plenty of hype when he was acquired from the Washington Nationals in the Adam Eaton deal prior following the 2016 season. He had a high prospect ranking before he was called up last summer. He hasn’t materialized out of nowhere.

But with names like Lucas Giolito, Michael Kopech, Alec Hansen, Carlos Rodon and others to compete with for one of those coveted rotation spots of the future, was anyone going to use the term “ace” to describe Lopez?

Well, in this rebuilding season’s most pleasant surprise for the White Sox and their fans, that’s exactly what Lopez has been. He’s been hands down the team’s best starting pitcher, and he’s making the case that he shouldn’t be considered an ancillary piece in this rebuilding process but a featured one.

He might not be getting the attention that others are. But he’s doing the most with his opportunity of being at the big league level right now. In the end, as long as you’re getting batters out, who cares how much attention you get?

“It’s not about what people say or what they are talking about,” Lopez said through a translator. “It’s about the confidence I have in myself, and I have plenty of confidence in myself. For me, I’m the best. I’m not saying the other guys are not. I’m just saying that’s the confidence I have. When I’m on the mound, I’m the best and I don’t care about the rest.”

Sunday marked the best start of Lopez’s young career, so said the pitcher himself. He was terrific in shutting down the visiting Texas Rangers, holding them to just two hits over eight scoreless innings.

It was one heck of a bounce-back performance considering what happened last time out, when he was roughed up for six runs in just two innings against the Pittsburgh Pirates.

The difference? His attitude, his focus, his intensity, his conviction.

“I just changed my attitude in the game,” Lopez said. “I was more positive today than I was in my last outing and that was one of my biggest differences.”

“I do think he came out a little bit more focused, to be honest,” manager Rick Renteria said. “The intensity level was a little higher today. I think he threw the first couple pitches 97, 98 miles an hour, where his last outing they were at 93, 94. There wasn’t a whole lot of commitment or conviction to his pitches (against the Pirates). I think, as we talked after the last outing, (pitching coach Don Cooper) spoke to him a little about making sure he brought that intensity that he has the ability to do, to bring it from Pitch 1 and he did today.”

Renteria liked it all, and he saw something different in his pitcher when he went out to talk to him with two outs in the eighth. Lopez issued a two-out walk, and Renteria considered lifting Lopez from the game.

Lopez made sure his manager wouldn’t pull the plug on this outing.

“I hid the baseball in my glove because I didn’t want to leave the game,” Lopez said. “I asked me, ‘How are you? Are you good?’ And I told him, ‘Yes, I’m good.’ Then he asked me again, ‘Do you think you are able to get him out?’ And I said yes, ‘This is my game, and I’m going to finish it.’”

What did Lopez do with his extra life? He finished it all right, blowing Shin-Soo Choo away with a 96-mile-an-hour fastball. Then he showed as much emotion as he’s ever shown on a major league field. He earned that celebration.

“When you see your manager come out and you’ve already gone through most of your game in terms of what you might think you have in number of pitches available to you, and you reiterate that you want to finish a particular batter because you want to get out of that inning, and you do it, it's an accomplishment,” Renteria said. “It's a big accomplishment. For him, pretty good hitter. He battled him and he was able to get out of that inning and complete a very, very strong eight-inning outing.”

It’s the kind of exclamation point on a dominant afternoon that could stir some big plans in White Sox fans always dreaming of the future. What Lopez has done this season has been a strong case for a spot in that future rotation and a spot at the front of it, at that. Following Sunday’s gem, Lopez owns a 2.98 ERA with at least six strikeouts in four of his nine starts.

There’s a lot of development and a lot of time left before the White Sox contention window opens. But Lopez pitching like this offers a glimpse into the crystal ball, a look at what could be for an organization that’s acquired so much talent over the last two years.

You might not have seen it coming like this, but the future arriving in the form of Lopez is a sign that brighter days are ahead on the South Side.