Matchup of Elites I: Johnson vs. Tillman

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Matchup of Elites I: Johnson vs. Tillman

Every so often a game brings together not just elite players but elite players for two teams in exactly opposing positions, with the prospect of going against each other virtually every snap.
 
Such will the case be on Sunday when the Bears and Houston Texans line up against each other (assuming that one is not called away to be with his wife in childbirth):
 
Texans WR Andre Johnson vs. Bears CB Charles Tillman.
 
Bears WR Brandon Marshall vs. Texans CB Johnathan Joseph.
 
All four have been Pro Bowl selections. Both cornerbacks were chosen last year. Marshall has represented the AFC three times (MVP once), Johnson five times. Johnson is 6-3, the opponents' big receiver against whom 6-2 Tillman has been matched ever since his rookie year.
 
Johnson has an NFL record 60-plus receptions in each of his first eight seasons, 42 this year, tied for 18th in the NFL. Tillman, who endured Johnsons 10 catches, 148 yards and two touchdowns in Houstons 2008 game-16 win that cost the Bears the playoffs, has shut down Calvin Johnson this year to go with his two interceptions, both returned for touchdowns.
 
I knew that about Tillman last time we played him, Johnson said. Whenever you get the ball, you just have to make sure youve got it tucked away well and make sure youve got it protected.
 
Lovie Smith saw Johnson in 2004, Smiths first as Bears coach, Johnsons second with the Texans (drafted third overall in 2003, the year Tillman was drafted in the secod round). He saw Johnson again in 2008. Four more years have not dimmed the luster of an elite at his position.
 
He was a great player back then. We see the same thing now, Smith said. The last couple of years he had some injuries thats hurt him a little bit. When hes healthy, hes as good as there is. We played some good receivers this year, and hes as good as there is out there.

SportsTalk Live Podcast: Toews still out, Bulls pull out win over Spurs

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SportsTalk Live Podcast: Toews still out, Bulls pull out win over Spurs

In the latest SportsTalk Live Podcast, Mark Grote (670 The Score) and Mark Carman (WGN Radio) join Kap on the panel. Jonathan Toews is still not back at practice. Is it time to panic?

Meanwhile, the Bulls beat the Spurs. And Rajon Rondo compliments the coaches? Is all well in Bulls-town?

Plus, Dexter Fowler is Cardinal. Should Cubs fans be angry?

And finally, is it good idea for Jordan Howard to get the ball less for the rest of the season?

Check out the SportsTalk Live Podcast below: 

Lucas Giolito striving to contribute to White Sox 'as soon as possible'

Lucas Giolito striving to contribute to White Sox 'as soon as possible'

At one point, it was looking like Lucas Giolito could be headed to the White Sox in exchange for Chris Sale.

But when Sale was dealt to the Boston Red Sox, Giolito's name was in the clear of rumors — until 29 hours later, when the Nationals' top prospect would be headed to Chicago in a different trade, which sent outfielder Adam Eaton to Washington.

“It’s kind of like the world we live in now. Social media is always out there and everything is on Twitter,” Giolito said in a conference call Friday. “I saw my name being mentioned on Twitter for Chris Sale. I know with the winter meetings all sorts of stuff being thrown around. I was just trying to focus on what I’m doing in this offseason which is lifting and all my workouts. Kind of just whatever happens, happens. 

“It’s funny that Sale ended up going to the Red Sox and something else happens that I’m going to the White Sox now with a couple teammates. It’s really interesting stuff but I’m super excited.”

The move for Rick Hahn & Co. to acquire Giolito was the second major trade to begin the White Sox rebuilding process. But Giolito didn't come alone.

In addition, the White Sox received Reynaldo Lopez — who Giolito has played with since 2014 — and the Nationals' 2016 first-round pick Dane Dunning.

"I definitely think it’s amazing to be coming over to the White Sox with a bunch of young talent," Giolito said. "I think it’s a great opportunity for us to all develop and get better and hopefully put a really good team together in Chicago. Definitely excited to be coming over with a couple guys from my previous organization."

[MORE: Rick Hahn, White Sox prepared to make more 'painful decisions' if the price is right]

Giolito went 6-5 with a 2.97 ERA and 1.28 WHIP across three minor-league levels this past season. He admitted his mechanics weren't quite in sync and is looking to improve on that.

"Sometimes things get out of whack. I believe I let too much get out of whack last year," Giolito said. "So this year with my training program I have in this offseason — lifting and Pilates and everything — I’m just trying to make sure that I can stay as athletic as possible so I’m able to repeat the right delivery more often. Once I start playing catch and doing bullpens and everything these next few weeks, right before spring training, I’m going to make sure I put that all together so I can repeat my delivery as best as possible."

His struggles continued when he got to The Show.

In his major-league debut on June 28, Giolito held the New York Mets to just one hit over four scoreless innings before a rain delay cut his night short. That turned out to be his most effective outing of the season as he finished the year with an 0-1 record, 6.75 ERA and 1.78 WHIP in six games with the Nationals, four of them being starts.

"(My MLB debut) didn’t go as well as I would’ve liked it to go, obviously, as you look at the numbers and everything," he said, "but I feel that with the White Sox now (and) getting traded and everything, it’s kind of like a fresh opportunity and a new start to get up to the big leagues again and contribute and do everything I can to stay there as well."

[SHOP: Gear up, White Sox fans!]

Despite his low numbers, the 22-year-old Giolito believes he's ready to play on the White Sox main roster as soon as next season.

"I’ve had some experience in the big leagues last year," Giolito said. "Especially last year, I took a lot positives away because I did experience such a good amount of failure in a lot of I’d say like hardship when I made it up and didn’t perform up to what I believe is my best capabilities.

"I’ve pitched a good amount of innings in the minor leagues and I’ve had a little experience in the big leagues so I’m just really looking forward to making it up in the big leagues with the White Sox and contributing as soon as possible."