Bears

Knicks face Bulls without services of All-Star Anthony

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Knicks face Bulls without services of All-Star Anthony

It isnt a long-term injury on the level of the Bulls Derrick Rose or even Knicks teammates Amare Stoudemire and Iman Shumpert, a Chicago-area native, but New Yorks Carmelo Anthony missed his second consecutive game Saturday night with a middle-finger injury.

The superstar scorer and early-season MVP candidate was also sidelined for the Knicks blowout road win over defending-champion Miami after suffering a cut to the finger while diving into the crowd for a loose ball and while he had a day off in Chicago before facing the Bulls, after warming up prior to Saturdays contest, Anthony determined hed sit out another game to get healthy, perhaps in time for his first matchup in Denver against the Nuggets, his former team, Sunday.

Right now its just the comfort level of being able to just go out there and dribble, just getting through the first time you get hit, the first time I get a hard pass, just getting past that, Anthony said before the game. You just get caught up in the moment. When the momentum is going, youre not really thinking about your hand. I went out there and tried it, and knowing I still would force myself to go through it, youve got to be smart. Weve played 20 games at this point in the season and I didnt want to have another setback.

I think it was just me being able to catch passes, especially from Raymond. He fires them, so Ive got to get myself mentally prepared for that. But thats the only thing, being able to control the ball, catch the ball. Today, I worked out. It felt pretty good. Im pretty sure a couple more hours wont do anything but help it, continued the All-Star, who noted the advice given to him by teammate Tyson Chandler, a former Bull. Chandler told me not to, him and Jason Kidd. They pulled me up, told me that was the best thing for me to do. But they know how bad I want to play. I actually came early on the bus. Jason Kidd told me hes never seen me on the first bus. I was bored. But for me, to say to myself that Im going to sit out that Miami game and then tonights game, I really trust my teammates and feel as though they can take care of business.

Even with Anthony missing Thursdays prime-time showdown against the Heat and last seasons starters Stoudemire and Shumpert, an explosive second-year guard from suburban Oak Park, Ill.ironically, former Bulls Ronnie Brewer and Kurt Thomas are their temporary replacementsthe Knicks are currently atop the Eastern Conference, propelled by a combination of potent three-point shooting and a much-improved defense.

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.”