Team USA perfect through qualifying behind Durant, Carmelo


Team USA perfect through qualifying behind Durant, Carmelo

As expected, the United States men's basketball team had a relatively easy time in the qualifying stages of the 2012 Olympic Games, winning all five games and earning the No. 1 seed from Group A.
The United States, led by Kevin Durant's 18.6 points per game, won their five games by an average of 38.2 points. The closest an opponent got to taking down the top-ranked team in the world was Lithuania, who led in the fourth quarter before falling 99-94 to the Americans.
Durant has picked up right where he left off after leading the NBA in scoring last year. He has made a ridiculous 20-of-33 3-pointers, 15-of-17 free throws and is still second on the team in rebounding and fourth in assists. His nine steals are second only to Chris Paul (11). Though LeBron James and Kobe Bryant took most of the pre-Olympic headlines, Durant has been the team's MVP through five games.
And for all the discussion that made those headlines, about whether the 2012 team could defeat the 1992 Dream Team, this year's team had an "Angola-like" performance of their own, defeating Nigeria 156-73 last week. The 156 points and 83-point winning margin were both Olympic records, as were the Americans' 3-pointers (26) field goals (59) and field goal percentage (71 percent).
Team USA's most impressive single-game performance also came against Nigeria, as Carmelo Anthony, America's second leading scorer during qualifying at 17.4 points, poured in 37 points in just 14 minutes in the blowout. He made 10-of-12 3-pointers in the record-setting performance.
LeBron James has played facilitator for much of the first five games, averaging 4.4 assists per game thus far. But he has also shown the ability to take over games down the stretch, specifically when he scored nine points in the final four minutes against Lithuania.
And for all the talk of whether the Americans could shoot from outside and rebound, Team USA silenced those critics. The Americans shot a blistering 47 percent from beyond the arc and lead all teams with 44.4 rebounds per game. They also had a rebounding margin of 8.8.
Perhaps the biggest surprise through five qualifying games has been Kevin Love. The 6-foot-11 big man was one of the last players to make the team, but finished third on the team in scoring (13.0 points), led the team in rebounding (6.4) and was tied for third in 3-point makes (8) in qualifying play.
Even 19-year-old Anthony Davis has looked the part in London, shooting 11-of-14 from the floor and averaging 3.5 rebounds per game in 11.3 minutes.
A surprise in the wrong direction has been Kobe Bryant. After the five-time NBA champion averaged 15.0 points in Beijing in 2008, Bryant has averaged just 9.4 points on a team-worst 38.9 percent from the field.
Team USA will play Australia on Wednesday and, if they win, will play the winner of Brazil and Argentina. Spain is on the other side of the bracket and is considered the odds-on favorite to play USA in the gold medal game.

Wendell Carter Jr. is now 6 feet, 9 inches---and other Bulls' height adjustments

USA Today

Wendell Carter Jr. is now 6 feet, 9 inches---and other Bulls' height adjustments

With player heights long a topic of question and debate, the NBA informed teams that all players must be measured by a team physician this training camp.

It’s all part of the league’s push towards transparency, which includes detailed reports on officiating and other initiatives.

So who grew and who shrank among the Bulls?

Wendell Carter Jr. dropped from 6 feet, 10 inches to 6-foot-9, which will do nothing to change the narrative that he's an undersized big man. Kris Dunn moved from 6-4 to 6-3. Daniel Gafford isn’t 6-11, as first advertised when drafted, but 6-10. And Denzel Valentine is no longer 6-6 but 6-4.

The Bulls even pushed down Coby White’s flamboyant hairstyle and discovered he’s 6-4, not 6-5.

As for those who grew, well, Zach LaVine’s All-Star candidacy now features him as a 6-6 guard, not 6-5. New big man Luke Kornet is really big; he’s 7-2, not 7-1. And Shaq Harrison somehow grew from 6-4 to 6-7.

That’s the official Bulls’ roster. 

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Trubisky or not, Matt Nagy should be the lead voice on future Bears QB decisions

USA Today

Trubisky or not, Matt Nagy should be the lead voice on future Bears QB decisions

The play of Mitch Trubisky in his season-and-a-half under coach Matt Nagy is, for better or worse, an unfinished work. Whatever the final result, after this season or the next, the latter of which looming as a decision point on a long-term contract for Trubisky, the Bears may be best advised going forward to make Nagy the decision-maker on quarterback calls rather than GM Ryan Pace.

Pace owes his head coach a leading voice and vote in finding a quarterback (or two) in the Bears’ 2020 draft and/or offseason. Because a simple NFL fact is that Matt Nagy deserves a chance to develop his own quarterback, not simply have his tenure defined by a quarterback (Trubisky) that he inherited.

Plus, Nagy has arguably better credentials and experience for quarterback evaluations than Pace.

Nagy learned his craft from Andy Reid, whose head-coaching career began in Philadelphia with the 1999 drafting of Donovan McNabb. Reid also drafted four more quarterbacks during McNabb’s run, including A.J. Feeley (2001) and Nick Foles (2012), as well as bringing in Michael Vick to deepen the depth chart.

When Reid went to Kansas City (and brought Nagy with him) in 2013, the first thing he did was to trade for Alex Smith from San Francisco; Reid (and Nagy as QB coach) groomed Smith into a three-time Pro Bowler. But while Smith was being brought along, the Chiefs also drafted three more quarterbacks in the four drafts following the Smith trade. The third of those quarterbacks was Patrick Mahomes, whom Nagy had a one-year hand in developing before taking the Bears job.

Pace, who said at the outset of his GM reign that ideally the Bears would be able to draft a QB every year, has largely ignored the quarterback pipeline, as noted previously. Trubisky has been the only quarterback among Pace’s 32 picks over five drafts.

Nagy has been involved in acquisitions of Nick Foles, Alex Smith and Patrick Mahomes. Pace’s efforts have been toward Marcus Mariota (the Titans wanted too much for the 2015 No. 2 slot), Jay Cutler, Mike Glennon and Trubisky. Regardless of how Trubisky develops or doesn’t through the rest of 2019, Pace owes his coach a leading place in the quarterback-selection process from start to finish.

The search for depth or an upgrade from Trubisky may circle back to Mariota, who has now been benched in Tennessee and has never been the same player after suffering a broken leg in late 2016. Mariota played for Bears offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich at Oregon and obviously had high grades from Pace coming into the NFL.

Trubisky is largely the same QB he was for John Fox

Trubisky may yet prove to be the solution for the Bears quarterback situation. But results over his three – not just the two in Matt Nagy’s system – seasons say he is pretty much what he looks to be.

The cliché narrative, never particularly refuted by Trubisky, was that the young quarterback was shackled by a combination of John Fox’s conservatism and Dowell Loggains’ supposed incompetence. Two points suggest otherwise:

One, is that his first brace of coaches knew Trubisky’s limitations, both in general as well as those from simply being a uber-green rookie with only 13 college starts. Trubisky was deemed to have accuracy issues in the mid and deeper range, which has repeatedly proved to be the case, as recently as Sunday.

The second is that, in 2017 after his first three rookie games getting settled in, Trubisky in fact threw slightly more passes (31.3 per game) over his final nine starts under Fox/Loggains than he did through his 14 starts under Nagy in 2018 (31.0).

Parenthetically, in those first three in 2017, a governor was in place, with Trubisky throwing 25, 16 and 7 passes. The Bears also won the latter two. 

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