Fire

Kendall Johnson out at Glenbard West

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Kendall Johnson out at Glenbard West

He was projected to be one of the top 20 football players in the class of 2013 in Illinois, a swift and athletic running backwide receiver with game-breaking potential, what every college coach and recruiting analyst perceives as a difference-maker.

But Kendall Johnson won't be playing football at Glenbard West next fall. He has been dropped from the squad by coach Chad Hetlet for violating training rules. "It's a sad case," Hetlet said, not wishing to go into details.

Sad indeed. How good was Johnson?

"Definitely a Division I player as a wide receiver or running back," Hetlet said. "He was one of the most explosive kids I've seen. His balance and explosive speed made him special."

Recruiting analyst Tom Lemming of CBS Sports Network said Johnson "is a definite Division I player. He was a top 25 player, maybe top 10 in a very good year for talent in the Chicago area."

As a sophomore, Johnson rushed for 900 yards. He carried 12 times for 183 yards and three touchdowns against Downers Grove North. The 6-foot-1, 186-pounder with 4.49 speed attracted early interest from Ohio State and Iowa. He has a 3.4 grade-point average on a 4.0 scale. He had everything going for him.

But Johnson's troubles began even before the 2011 season started. He was suspended for the first three games because of a disciplinary violation and never seemed to get untracked. He appealed his last transgression but the school's athletic board rejected it.

"I regret the whole thing," the 17-year-old said. "If I had a chance to go back in time, I would go back and change it. But it happened and I have no power to go back. It is rough on me and rough on my family and rough on my teammates, too. We can't play our senior year together. But it's something that is done and I'm trying to improve from it."

Based on his potential, Johnson was invited by Lemming to attend the junior combine at the U.S. Marines' Semper Fidelis All-American Game in Phoenix last January. He impressed onlookers.

"He has big-time ability," Lemming said. "He can run and catch. He has good vision. He ranked in a group of the elite players as a sophomore. But now he has blown a chance at a free education and a good football career."

Lemming pointed out that Johnson is the latest in a line of gifted players produced in the city and suburbs who possessed great potential to play in college and the NFL but didn't make it. The list includes Phillip Macklin of Proviso East, Hubert "Boo Boo" Thompson of Proviso West and Mike Burden of Palatine.

"No area in the country has had so many disciplinary problems with great players," Lemming said. "They had great potential but their careers were derailed by off-the-field issues."

But Johnson remains determined to play football at the major college level, specifically in the Big Ten. "I am looking for exposure and I want to build my reputation back up," he said.

"My dad and I are trying to figure out how to play football. If not, I will be in school for academics and I will try to make my way to college and work my way up. I know people know what I am capable of doing. My dad and I aren't sure what level I can play. And we're not sure if a college coach will take me after this situation.

"It was different things that happened over a period of four years. But one thing that put me in this situation (dismissed from the team) was 100 percent not my fault. I appealed but the school board wouldn't let me come back."

Johnson has received letters from Indiana and Georgia Tech. North Central College in Naperville and Dubuque also have expressed interest. Johnson has talked to North Central coach John Thorne, who built a great program at Wheaton Warrenville South High School in the 1990s, has visited the campus and attended a game. He likes what he has seen.

"Wherever I go, the No. 1 thing is to play football," Johnson said. "This summer I plan to keep in shape and call college coaches and see if I can visit their campus. I want people to know that I'm doing the right things. I probably will go to a junior college for one year and work my way up."

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

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USA TODAY

Bastian Schweinsteiger finally sees the field in Fire preseason

Coach Veljko Paunovic still went with a second-choice lineup to start the Fire's preseason match against USL expansion team Nashville SC on Wednesday, but the second half featured the first preseason action for Bastian Schweinsteiger.

Schweinsteiger came on for the second half, along with Nemanja Nikolic, Johan Kappelhof and a few other Fire regulars. The German sat out the first four preseason games, but looked sharp in his 45 minutes.

One of the highlights was this smooth move between two defenders:

Schweinsteiger also had an impressive switch pass to set up a shot for second-round pick Diego Campos in the final minutes of the game. Campos drilled the shot on target, but was unable to beat the goalkeeper.

The team did not say Schweinsteiger was injured despite the repeated absences in matches. The Fire have dealt with injuries to Matt Polster, Luis Solignac, Daniel Johnson and rookie Grant Lillard this preseason. None of those four, along with Dax McCarty, played in the 0-0 draw.

The Fire next play Saturday at Orlando in a final match in Florida before returning to Chicago. The Fire also play Tulsa, the team's USL affiliate, at Toyota Park on March 3 before taking on Sporting Kansas City in the season opener on March 10.

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

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AP

There are 600,000 reasons you won't hear Gar, Pax or Hoiberg discuss losing

The Bulls made headlines on Tuesday when VP John Paxson announced that David Nwaba, Cristiano Felicio and Cameron Payne would be entering the rotation, thus continuing the youth movement in Chicago.

On the surface the moves make sense. The 24-year-old Nwaba, the 25-year-old Felicio and the 23-year-old Cameron Payne will be replacing 28-year-old Justin Holiday, 29-year-old Robin Lopez and 25-year-old Jerian Grant. The Bulls want to see what they have in these younger players who haven't played much; they already know what they have in Lopez and Holiday, and Grant (like the other two) is under contract through next year.

OK, got that? Here's why they're making the move: they're sitting 8th in the NBA Lottery standings and really want to move into the top-5 to give themselves a chance at what should be a loaded front-end of the draft class. It's pretty obvious, and anyone who tells you otherwise is either named Gar Forman, John Paxson or Fred Hoiberg.

And here's why: On Wednesday Mavericks owner Mark Cuban was fined a whopping $600,000 by the NBA for comments he made on a podcast regarding tanking. The Mavericks are currently 18-40, the third worst record in the NBA. This comes a season after they finished 33-49, netting them the No. 9 pick that turned into talented point guard Dennis Smith Jr.

So when Cuban was asked about the best interests of his Dallas team, which touts young talent but clearly isn't headed for the postseason in 2018, he said this on the House Call with Dr. J Podcast:

"I'm probably not supposed to say this, but, like, I just had dinner with a bunch of our guys the other night, and here we are, you know, we weren't competing for the playoffs. I was like, 'Look, losing is our best option. [Commissioner] Adam [Silver] would hate hearing that, but I at least sat down and I explained it to them. And I explained what our plans were going to be this summer, that we're not going to tank again. This was, like, a year-and-a-half tanking, and that was too brutal for me. But being transparent, I think that's the key to being kind of a players owner and having stability."

Cuban isn't wrong, and the Mavericks sure as hell aren't the only team tanking. But to come right now and admit that losing is the team's best option wasn't, as Cuban predicted, going to sit well with the league office.

Commissioner Adam Silver sent out a memo with the fine that said Cuban's comments "which concerned his perspective on the team's competitive success this season" were "detrimental to the NBA."

So while the Bulls are going about their business in trying to lose as many games down the stretch as possible, don't expect anyone to admit it's the reason behind their personnel moves. There are 600,000 reasons why.