Archive for February, 2010

Braves make right move with pitch to Johnny Damon

Johnny Damon thinks the Braves would be a good fit, and it's clear now the feel is mutual.

Johnny Damon believes the Braves would be a good fit, and it's clear now the feel is mutual. (AP photo)

I come not to bash Frank Wren but to applaud his efforts.

After an offseason that has done little to stir the masses — unless you count angry torch-carrying villagers — Wren has taken a significant step toward improving the Braves’ roster, just nine days before the start of spring training. The general manager has made a pretty significant offer to free agent Johnny Damon, according to our David O’Brien. That basically means Wren sees the same thing that so many of us see: 1.) Damon, even at 36, could be a valuable asset to the Braves; 2) The team has a void in the lineup at leadoff.

I’ve been banging the drum for Damon for weeks. I addressed it nearly three weeks ago and even put up a poll, asking for your thoughts (results: 78 percent said sign him). Then I brought it up again Monday after there were indications Wren might be interested but was waiting for Damon’s price to …

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Tee Martin could help Kentucky recruit in Georgia

Tee Martin's connections to Atlanta include working as an assistant coach at Morehouse College. (AJC photo)

Tee Martin's Atlanta connections include working as an assistant coach at Morehouse.

I understand that of all the concerns facing Georgia football fans these days, one of them almost certainly is not: “I’m really worried about losing recruits to Kentucky.”

But the name “Tee Martin” apparently still resonates with today’s youth in the state, and it’s one of the reasons Kentucky coach Joker Phillips just hired Martin as his wide receivers coach. Martin is best known for leading Tennessee in 1998 to the national championship. In his two years as starter — he followed Peyton Manning — Martin also went 7-1 against Georgia, Florida, Alabama and Auburn.

Here’s where Atlanta and Georgia and recruiting come in. After an unspectacular pro career (NFL, NFL Europe, CFL), Martin became quite familiar with the local landscape. He did quarterback camps. He coached as an assistant at Morehouse College, North Cobb and North Atlanta high schools. He apparently left quite an impression, at …

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Lehtonen trade is another blemish on Thrashers’ draft history

Kari Lehtonen has struggled with injury and maturity issues.

Former Thrasher Kari Lehtonen struggled with injury and maturity issues. (AP photo)

When the Thrashers selected Patrik Stefan with their first pick in their first draft in 1999, general manager Don Waddell said: “This is a very big day for our franchise. We’ve made it no secret how we feel about Patrik and what kind of player he is.”

Three years later, when Waddell made Kari Lehtonen the first goalie the franchise drafted with a No. 1 pick, the Thrashers’ GM said: “Our scouts say that he is the best amateur goalie coming out for the draft in the last 10 years. He can make the difference for our team for a lot of years to come.”

Stefan was a bust and is now out of hockey. Lehtonen’s career has been a roller coaster and he is now in Dallas. No deep analysis necessary here.

When Lehtonen was traded Tuesday night to the Dallas Stars, it punctuated the franchise’s largely inglorious draft history, primarily with their early selections. We know that the lifeblood of any team — …

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Hawks are hoping to use Saints as a blueprint

Can Josh Smith and the Hawks replicate the Saints' post-season success?

Can Josh Smith and the Hawks replicate the Saints' post-season success?

It took 21 seasons before the New Orleans Saints finally reached the playoffs. It was 34 years before they won a postseason game and 43 before they found their way to the Super Bowl.

So let’s start with this: When it comes to the playoffs, regardless of the sport, having an impressive resume is not a prerequisite to winning a championship. If the Hawks were seeking some affirmation that unlikely story lines develop every day, they just got it.

The Saints just won the Super Bowl. Next week, Liechtenstein conquers China.

How do you view the Hawks right now?

  • Championship team.
  • They’ll make it to the NBA finals.
  • They’ll win make it to the East finals.
  • They’ll win one round.
  • One and done.

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The Hawks face the Miami Heat Wednesday night at Philips Arena. It will be their final game before the All-Star break. After Miami, they’ll have played 51 games and hold …

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Valentine’s Countdown: Tiger, Kendra and a statue of Bud?

The Count has saved a lot of money on roses.

The Count: not one for flowers.

The Count isn’t quite the romantic. He never has been one for long relationships. Then again, you sort of eliminate the possibility of being tied down to one women when you bite a dozen new acquaintances on the neck every full moon. That leaves his hookups somewhat pale and undemanding. Fortunately, that means The Count doesn’t have to deal with every guy’s least favorite holiday, Valentine’s Day. But here’s great news, guys: Valentine’s Day has been devalued by $4 this year! It’s true. According to something called the National Retail Federation, couples will spend an average of $63.34 romancing each other this Valentine’s Day, or roughly the cost of drive-thru for two, his and her Nick Saban bobblehead dolls and a six-pack in Tuscaloosa. That $4 less than in 2009. “Valentine’s Day is more of a discretionary occasion than Christmas and birthdays, which means it will be hit particularly hard by the current economic climate,” said George Van …

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Braves could be waiting on Damon to lower his price (UPDATED)

Here's Johnny Damon hitting a three-run triple at Turrner Field last season -- as a Yankee.

Here's Johnny Damon hitting a three-run triple at Turrner Field last season — as a Yankee.

There are several reasons to believe the Braves have interest in Johnny Damon, not the least of which is the fact that they have yet to declare publicly, “We have no interest in Johnny Damon.” And given that the player is represented by agent  Scott Boras, they would have all the motivation in the world to shoot this rumor down.

I know. We’ve been down this road before. David O’Brien has discussed it on his blog, and I wrote nearly three weeks ago that the Braves needed to take a run at Damon to fill their need for a leadoff hitter. Most of you agreed. I just checked poll results and of 2,750 readers who voted, 78 percent supported the Damon idea.

This is what has happened since: Nothing.

That’s good news if you support Damon’s signing. The market has dried up and there’s reason to believe Boras’s asking price is coming down. Whether it comes down to the Braves’ liking remains to be …

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Sports’ feel-good list: Saints No. 1, Braves, others follow

These signs say it all for what the New Orleans Saints have overcome.

These signs say it all for what the New Orleans Saints have overcome.

It’s understandable if some of you are having a hard time embracing this moment.  Two weeks ago I asked how you felt about the Falcons’ No. 1 rival reaching the Super Bowl and — despite the feel-good nature of the New Orleans Saints’ story — it was clear the masses were split.

But in terms of Feel Good Champions — granted, a subjective title –the Saints reign supreme.

Everybody has their favorite sports moment. Given the Saints’ stunning Super Bowl win over Indianapolis Sunday, I thought it would be timely to list some of the greatest championship storylines in pro sports history. These are my Fave Five.

1.) New Orleans Saints (2009-10): Sunday’s win, in itself, wasn’t a monumental upset. The Colts were only five-point favorites. But think about the backdrop. Even with s0me recent success, the Saints historically are one of the losingest franchises. This is where the wholebrees2 paper-bag-on-the-head thing …

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Bettman wants Thrashers’ owners to get their act together

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman still believes in Atlanta as a hockey market.

NHL commissioner Gary Bettman still believes in Atlanta as a hockey market, but the Thrashers have been hurt by ownership squabbles.

Smart, objective businessmen know that when a company goes belly-up, it’s probably not the fault of the minimum-wage schlepp on the assembly line. So it follows that when NHL commissioner Gary Bettman was asked about the myriad problems the league’s Atlanta franchise is having, he didn’t point to an underachieving goalie or a failed intern in marketing.

It starts at the top. It always starts at the top.

“Ultimately, the ownership situation has to be straightened out,” Bettman told The Atlanta  Journal-Constitution. “It’s difficult to operate a franchise when owners aren’t getting along. It’s even more difficult in a recession climate. A team has to be at its very best. Issues have to be resolved and everybody has to be together so they can interact with fans. But that’s difficult when the owners aren’t together.”

The Atlanta Spirit owners want …

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Hewitt has a right to be ‘embarrassed’ — by team and himself

Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt wasn't happy with anybody Saturday, and it showed. (AP photo)

Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt wasn't happy with anybody Saturday, and it showed. (AP photo)

While Paul Hewitt is beating the drum for a 96-team NCAA tournament field, he might want to note that his team just looked like No. 97.

Facing North Carolina State, the last-place team in the ACC, Georgia Tech committed 22 turnovers, missed 14 free throws, blew several layups, also a slam dunk, struggled to execute an in-bounds play as if it were rocket science (isn’t this the Institute of Technology?), melted down against a full-court press and somehow blew a 16-point lead in the time it takes to say, “NIT.”

Yes, Tech won the game. By two points. And a spasm.

Hewitt was so thrilled that he ripped his players. Then himself. Then his players again. Then he snapped at a simple question in the postgame media session. At one point he even belabored the fact that he has been preaching to players about not throwing lob passes against the press “since the first day I walked into the door. …

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One word about NCAA tourney expansion to 96: lunacy

Imagine how trying to fill out a 96-team bracket would cut into President Obama's work day?

Imagine how filling out a 96-team bracket would cut into President Obama's work day.

The Super Bowl is the single biggest event in sports, the latest evidence being that we’ve just spent the past two weeks debating what commercials we should or shouldn’t be subjected to while we’re trying to focus on our beer. And nachos. And beer.

(By the way: Received yet another email today from an organization asking me to interview them about “family.” I would’ve thought ignoring the first 23 emails about “family” would’ve been a hint. Are “family” organizations oblivious to hints?)

Are you favor of NCAA tournament expansion?

  • No. Keep it at 65 teams.
  • Yes. Just add three more play-in games.
  • Yes. Open it up to 96 teams.

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Where was I? Oh yes, sports. The Super Bowl may be the biggest event, but the NCAA basketball tournament is the best thing going. It contains everything we love about sports, particularly upsets and underdog stories. It’s …

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