Archive for March, 2009

Finally, a Braves’ career without a detour

 

Finally, a fixture in Atlanta.

It appears we finally have a fixture in Atlanta.

The deal that may turn Chipper Jones into the ultimate sports rarity — a one-franchise athlete — began not with a conference call or in a boardroom or on a golf course.

“I believe we were in the elevator,” Braves general manager Frank Wren said. “It was last September, and I think we had just arrived at the hotel in New York and we were going up.”

Those New York elevators are fast. There wasn’t enough time to work out details. But Wren said something about a contract extension, Jones sort of nodded in agreement and before the doors opened the seeds for a new deal were planted.

Maybe we should consider squeezing both sides of Congress into an elevator.

After detaching themselves from so many franchise icons in recent years, the Braves finally decided to keep one around. Chipper Jones, a Brave since the draft 19 years ago, signed an extension that potentially keeps him in Atlanta through 2013. So he fits in somewhere between …

Continue reading Finally, a Braves’ career without a detour »

Kentucky, Calipari could be a dangerous marriage

How quickly we forget the potential downside of success.

This Sports Illustrated cover should be hanging on the walls of athletic department.

10. Is this what they mean by history repeating?

John Calipari is not the dirtiest coach or the worst person to ever to walk the face of the earth, or even Massachusetts — even if former Temple coach John Chaney did not once scream at him from across the room: “I’ll kill you — you remember that!” But in the case of Kentucky: Should there be much of a difference between not being the dirtiest coach or the worst person in the world — and being uncomfortable close enough? Kentucky should know better.

9. Look to the left: That’s real, not Photoshopped.

Kentucky basketball suffered through one of the worst scandals in  the history of college sports, which covers a lot of history. The program was put on three years probation and banned from the post-season and television for two years. Eddie Sutton was fired after admitting, yeah, players getting Emery envelopes full of cash from boosters probably …

Continue reading Kentucky, Calipari could be a dangerous marriage »

Durham looks at Georgia now and sees potential, not cows

For anybody who believes Damon Evans has a hard sale when it comes to convincing the masses (and a coach) about the potential of Georgia basketball, Hugh Durham has a story for you.

It was about 31 years ago when Durham was hired as the Bulldogs coach. He was introduced on a Friday and the following morning walked into his office, picked up the phone and began recruiting.

Hugh Durham's view from courtside was far better than the view from his office window.

Hugh Durham took Georgia to five NCAA tournaments and the Final Four.

“Back then the basketball team shared the coliseum with agriculture,” he said. “We didn’t have central air or anything. All the fans were off. So when I got there I had to open the windows. Well, back then, the barns were right below my window, and I remember calling this kid on the phone, a point guard from New York, and all of a sudden the cows start mooing. The kid says, ‘Coach, what’s that noise?’ I said, ‘Oh, it’s just a bunch of horns.’ He must’ve thought, ‘Gee, the car horns sure sound different down there.’ ”

The recruit must’ve …

Continue reading Durham looks at Georgia now and sees potential, not cows »

Hawks get hit by the first wave

 

After eight straight home wins, Josh Smith and the Hawks expected better Wednesday.

Josh Smith and the Hawks hoped for better than this against San Antonio. (Rich Addicks/AJC.)

Josh Smith likened this week to “a tidal wave,” which of course led to the obvious question: Are the Hawks standing on high enough ground?

They are assured of a postseason berth for the second straight season. They are moving closer to a home playoff series for the first time in 10 years. They have displayed chemistry and resolve by sweeping a seven-game homestand, which had followed a 13-18 stretch, which had followed a 21-10 start.

None of that suggests they’ll soon be spitting out seaweed any time soon.

But on Wednesday night, the Hawks played the first of three games against teams — San Antonio, Boston and Los Angeles — that have won eight of the past 10 NBA titles.

The tidal wave reference: completely understandable.

“When we played those seven games at home, we were tested against some pretty good teams,” Smith said Wednesday. “But this will test our competitiveness. This …

Continue reading Hawks get hit by the first wave »

FSU is dead to me — but Capel is very much alive

 

Transylvania, Serbia, Hades, Tuscaloosa

The Count's Final Four picks: Transylvania, Hades, the Bat Cave and Alabama.

It has been a difficult week at the Countdown, as I let my man love for Toney Douglas get the best of me, and it resulted in picking Florida State to get to the Final Four. So now, after a monumental face plant against Wisconsin — and there is the ACC’s general tournament showing in a nutshell — I wake up in the morning and look at my bracket and the entire East Regional is curled up in the fetal position, as my wife and daughter mock me, knowing I’m all but dead in our house pool for a $10 Starbucks card (which, of course, I paid for.) If nothing else, I have something in common with Braves general manager Frank Wren. He also had the Seminoles in the Final Four in his bracket. The difference is, Wren had the Noles defeating North Carolina and going to the championship game. John Schuerholz would NEVER have done that. (Sorry. That was too easy.) You can find the picks of all four of Atlanta’s GMs in …

Continue reading FSU is dead to me — but Capel is very much alive »

Jones doesn’t want it to end this way

 

Andruw Jones is trying to convince Texas — and everybody else — that he can still play.

  Two years ago, Andruw Jones seemed to be on a path toward Cooperstown. Now, he is trying to avoid being released from his second team in two months and is facing questions that at one time never would have seemed fathomable.

  Do you still love the game?

  “No doubt. This is what I was born to do.”

  Do you understand why people doubt your dedication?

  “I’m working hard every day. I’m trying to do as much to show people what I can do when I get on the field.”

  What do you do if nobody wants you?

  “I’m not sure what’s going on right now. I guess I’ll find out soon. But I want to play.”

  By the time he was 29, Jones had won nine Gold Gloves, hit 342 home runs — well on a pace for 600 —played in five All-Star Games and placed as high as second in MVP voting as recently as 2005. He played through injuries. He was neither a clubhouse problem nor a chemical creation.

  Now, Jones is, …

Continue reading Jones doesn’t want it to end this way »

Horford’s already a leader in the clubhouse

There’s a problem with combines and scouting reports. There’s a problem when teams are swayed by 40 times and vertical leaps and resumes that read, “Four-time All-Global,” and they’re moved to scream on draft day: “We’ve found our savior! Get me marketing!”

Nothing can tell you what’s in a kid’s cranium.

The 199th selection turns into Tom Brady. The No. 1 pick mutates into Kwame Brown. The best general managers have to be lucky.

The Hawks are fortunate. They guessed right two years ago with the third pick in the NBA draft. It turned out to be Al Horford.

 

Who imagined Al Horford could be a centerpiece -- and a leader -- so quickly?

Who imagined Al Horford could be a centerpiece — and a leader — so quickly?

“Only a very small percentage of young guys can come into this league and lead,” Joe Johnson said. “The ones who do usually are the focal point of their team. Al’s different.”

 

Horford is different because he’s leading and he’s not the Hawks’ offensive centerpiece, like Chris Paul in New Orleans or LeBron James in Cleveland. He’s different …

Continue reading Horford’s already a leader in the clubhouse »

Naismith? Peach basket? Shouldn’t that have helped?

Dr. James Naismith invented basketball in December of 1891.

The first game was played one month later at the YMCA in Springfield, Mass.

This is basketball, before the concept, "Above the rim."

This was basketball, before the concept, "Above the rim."

The sport developed over time and in January of 1896, the first college game using five players per team was played, when the University of Chicago defeated the University of Iowa, 15-12. It  was believed to be such an exciting game that Nike swooped in the following week and began paying off AAU coaches, corrupted collegiate athletics, influenced recruiting and formed the basis of what we today call the, “NCAA.”

Or something like that.

Over 100 years later, the NCAA tournament begins this week in most of these United States. Georgia is not participating, I’m guessing because we’re still a little behind the curve. I did several minutes of research (it happens) and discovered that Atlanta was hit by a winter storm in 1896 that dropped six inches of snow on the city, and you know we just …

Continue reading Naismith? Peach basket? Shouldn’t that have helped? »

Richt: “It’s time to go back to old school.”

A lineman went down in the first tackling drill.

A lineman went down in the second tackling drill.

“You start thinking, ‘My gosh. We’ve lost two guys in the first 45 seconds of practice,’” Mark Richt said Monday. “That’s sort of how the whole year went for us. You think about things like that and, yes, I’ve got to say it was a reflection on how we prepared for games. I put that on me.”

Here's how Brandon Spikes defined motivation.

This is how Brandon Spikes defines motivation.

It has been over two months since Georgia’s last football game. It will be six months before their next one. Sometime between now and then, the Bulldogs need to relocate their edge, toughness and resolve, which Richt now concedes was so obviously missing last season.

He blames himself.

On the eve of spring practice, the Bulldogs coach said Monday he erred by running softer practices last season after the team began accumulating so many injuries so early.

“When a lot of guys get hurt and you’ve got bodies on the ground, you start thinking, ‘If …

Continue reading Richt: “It’s time to go back to old school.” »

This wasn’t the season for miracles

At one end of the court, they guarded the right guy at the wrong time. At the other end, a freshman guard and not the senior who got them here took the final shot, only to see the ball bounce off the rim.

Iman Shumpert's last-second shot didn't fall -- and that's the story of Georgia Tech's season. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin.)

Iman Shumpert's last-second shot didn't fall — and that's the story of Georgia Tech's season. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin.)

Maybe you believed (or hoped) that the unpredictable nature of college basketball in March and the most unlikely results of all – Georgia’s tornado-aided run last year in the SEC – set up nicely for another late-season miracle, this time by Georgia Tech.

But not this season. Not this team. Some teams in some seasons aren’t just meant to take their fans on emotional roller coasters. Some, like this year’s Yellow Jackets, just are meant to fall short early and use that as a template for the entire year.

“Every once in a while you’d like to see a pass get tipped or something,” Tech coach Paul Hewitt said Friday. “You’d like to see somebody on the …

Continue reading This wasn’t the season for miracles »