Bulls

Biggest Bears surprise for '12? Hard choices

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Biggest Bears surprise for '12? Hard choices

Mac and Spiegs on WSCR-AM 670 The Scores The McNeil and Spiegel Show posed their question of the day to me during my weekly Thursday visit at 10 a.m.: What would be your biggest surprise of the 2012 Bears season so far?

A few possibilities: The play of the defensive line, the work of safeties Chris Conte and Major Wright. I threw in the specific level of play from Charles Tillman (he was very good last year, but this?). I should have thought of Tim Jennings, whose pass defense work has been exceptional.

I did agree with Matt on the safeties. Conte and Wright have taken individual and collective steps up and Id have to guess that the Bears werent expecting quite this much or they wouldnt have invested another third-round draft choice on a safety (Brandon Hardin).

Obviously the Carolina Panthers are on the topics list and none of us could find a way to pick Ron Riveras troubled team to beat the Bears. If there is an NFL surprise, I suggested it would have to be the falloff of Cam Newtons play. What I saw of him last year was a bigger RGIII and its surprising to see that level of talent struggle the way it has.

Danny wondered when the wave of feel-good around the Bears might take a tumble and my pick for that is in Tennessee. I have the Bears at 6-2 after the first half, beating Carolina but losing in Nashville. The Titans are better than they showed through five games and Chris Johnson is looking like the back he used to be, Difficult game.

Well check in again next Thursday at 10 a.m.

NBA trade talks shift into high gear

NBA trade talks shift into high gear

With just over two weeks to go until the NBA trade deadline on Feb. 8, a number of contending teams are looking to add that one piece that could give them a chance to get to the Finals.

Here in Chicago, we know John Paxson and Gar Forman have been burning up the phone lines for weeks, trying to find out if any team is willing to offer a first round draft pick for Niko Mirotic or Robin Lopez. Justin Holiday, Jerian Grant and Denzel Valentine also could be available for the right price. After all, it’s Year 1 of the rebuild, and the Bulls are trying to put together a roster that can eventually challenge for a championship, not merely compete for a seventh or eighth seed next season.

Meanwhile, the three-time defending Eastern Conference champion Cavs are going through their annual mid-season slump, but this time their defensive issues might be beyond repair with the current roster. The Cavs have been rumored to be in pursuit of veteran help, including the Clippers’ duo of DeAndre Jordan and Lou Williams. Problem is, Cavs rookie GM Koby Altman doesn’t have a lot to offer in return beyond that unprotected first-round Brooklyn pick acquired in the Kyrie Irving deal last summer.

Will the Cavs deal a potential Top 3 pick to get LeBron James the help he needs to make an eighth straight trip to the Finals? We’ll all find out over the next two and a half weeks.

1-on-1 with East St. Louis safety Antonio Johnson

1-on-1 with East St. Louis safety Antonio Johnson

While many top Chicagoland underclassmen took part in the third annual EDGYTIM MLK Underclassmen Showcase powered by EFT Football Academy last week, several others from outside the area participated and made waves of their own. Athletes from Central and Southern Illinois made statements, while others from a dozen states and Canada turned heads as well. 

East St. Louis sophomore safety Antonio Johnson (6-foot-2, 185 pounds) was one of several Flyers who made a very positive impression and made the most of his experience. 

Johnson, who started at wide receiver and safety for the Flyers (10-2 in 2017), is already appearing on several college radar screens. Johnson remains one of several underclassmen to watch for head coach Darren Sunkett over the next few years. 

I caught up with East St. Louis sophomore safety prospect Antonio AJ Johnson at the showcase and discussed his winter plans, his recruiting and why he made the nearly-300 mile trek in the dead of winter to compete at this event.