Archive for March, 2010

Taking a necessary time-out, back soon

FamilyLivingPictureFriends, I need to step away for a little while. This is a busy time in the sports calendar, but I’m sure you would agree that family matters trump all. Take care of things until I return and, as always, thanks for your readership. Jeff.

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Tubby Smith may be headed back to SEC — to Auburn (UPDATE II: Tubby denies rumors)

Tubby Smith has Minnesota pointed up, and this might be a good time for him to leave.

Tubby Smith has Minnesota pointed up, and this might be a good time for him to leave.

When Tubby Smith left Georgia after only two seasons in 1997, it was for his expected dream job at Kentucky. If he leaves Minnesota after only three, it’s probably to defrost. And possibly to come back to the South.

Smith, who has the Minnesota Golden Gophers in the NCAA tournament for the second straight season, reportedly is close to becoming the next coach at Auburn, according to CBSSports.com college writer Dennis Dodd.

The report — which follows days of media speculation that Smith could be headed to either Auburn or Oregon — makes a lot of sense. Auburn fired Jeff Lebo immediately following the SEC tournament, and wants to make a splash with this hire. The Tigers are moving into a new $90 million facility next season. They want to hire a proven coach, even if it means paying a significantly higher salary than they’ve paid for a basketball coach in the past.

Welcome to the new SEC, where …

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McLouth’s early chill raises some questions for Braves

There's line somewhere about the bubble bursting on the season. But I won't go there yet.

There's a line somewhere about the bubble bursting on the Braves' season. But I won't go there yet.

It doesn’t make sense to panic only 31 at-bats into a regular season. So I suppose it doesn’t make sense to panic 31 at-bats into spring training. But is it too early to be concerned about Nate McLouth?

The Braves were not completely comfortable with McLouth as their leadoff hitter. We suspected that after he hit .256 last season, and it was confirmed when they pursued Johnny Damon in free agency, albeit belatedly. (Damon ultimately signed with Detroit for $8 million.)

After going 0-for-3 Thursday, McLouth is 1-for-31 in the spring. He has struck out 12 times. His batting average: .032. His on-base percentage: .114.

I emailed a question to Frank Wren, and his response was completely in line with that of any general manager’s in March: “There really isn’t concern. You only have to look at his career to know that he will get it going.  Players have 30 at-bat slumps all the …

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Hawks still hoping for No. 2 seed (and a little attention)

Josh Smith and the Hawks hope for a welcoming party at two weekend home games. (AP photo).

Josh Smith and the Hawks hope for a welcoming party in two weekend home games. (AP photo)

The third best team in the NBA’s Eastern Conference, which is based in one of the league’s top markets, returns home to Philips Arena Friday night. Their hope is that somebody notices.

The Hawks are doing their part. They’ve had a chance to fizzle and haven’t. OK, there was that collapse Wednesday night in Toronto when a 12-point lead evaporated in the fourth-quarter and they lost in the final seconds on a jumper by Chris Bosh. But here’s the pass: The loss came with their leading scorer (Joe Johnson) sitting out. It was their second game in two nights on the road against a team (Toronto) fighting for a playoff spot. There are worse ways to go splat.

Four weeks ago, the Hawks lost consecutive games at Phoenix and Golden State. There were signs of settling. At 34-20, they basically were  a .500 team (15-14) after a meteoric 19-6 start. But since then, they’ve won nine of 13. A …

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Quick hits: Spirit mute; Thomas climbs; Obama goes red

Has anybody seen the Atlanta Spirit? They were here just a minute ago . . .
I'm not saying anything and you can't make me.

I'm not saying anything and you can't make me.

ITEM: The New York Times writes an interesting story on pro sports ownership and the economy. The article mentions the Hawks and the Thrashers as teams that may be on the market. Hmmm.

POSTSCRIPT: So I posted this blog Wednesday morning on the Times story. Sent emails to two owners (Mike Gearon, Bruce Levenson), two general managers (Rick Sund, Don Waddell) and the heads of the teams’ respective public relations departments. Our Chris Vivlamore requested to speak to Waddell, who has been the quasi-CEO of the two sports teams since Bernie Mullin’s exit.  No response. No denial. Certainly no confirmation. Not even a, “We’re not going to comment on every story that comes out” non-denial/denial. Now, I don’t know if the Atlanta Spirit has put the two teams up for sale. I don’t know if one team is for sale and one isn’t and they didn’t want to put …

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Smoltz sets the odds on him pitching again: 50-1

Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux will be reunited -- in the press box.

Tom Glavine, John Smoltz and Greg Maddux will be reunited — in the press box.

So I phoned John Smoltz — now professional broadcaster and media leech — Wednesday and still couldn’t get him to utter the “r” word. Don’t know why. When a guy tells you that his “desire” to pitch “is not where it was three months ago,” it seems to me the decision has been made.

But if you’re wondering what the odds are of Smoltz actually pitching in a major league game again, think this: long shot.

“Good question,” he said, when asked what the numbers when be in a sports book. “I would say 50-1.”

Kind of long, isn’t it?

“There’s been some 50-1 horses that have won.”

Claiming race?

“Probably harness.”

I’ll say it: Smoltz is done. When I spoke to him last month, before spring training camps opened, he said he was at peace with whatever happened. But he also expressed a strong desire to extend his career. But that wasn’t the case today.

“At the end of the day, I knew I wasn’t going to get 15 …

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Report says Hawks and Thrashers may both be for sale (UPDATE: Spirit responds with silence)

The Atlanta Spirit has always been one big happy team. OK, maybe notsomuch.

The Atlanta Spirit has always been one big happy team. OK, maybe notsomuch.

The Atlanta Spirit ownership group has been disputing reports that it is seeking to sell the Thrashers and that the NHL team might be on the move to another city. Now comes a report that the Hawks also might be on the market.

A New York Times story on sports ownership during the recession references both the Hawks and Thrashers as being among franchises that might be for sale. The paragraph in question reads:

Now that the economy seems to be on the mend, owners who held off selling during the downturn are seeking to unload their teams. According to sports bankers, the teams thought to be for sale include the Atlanta Hawks, the Memphis Grizzlies, the Golden State Warriors and the Detroit Pistons in the N.B.A; the [Dallas] Stars, the Atlanta Thrashers and potentially the Columbus Blue Jackets in the N.H.L.; and baseball’s Houston Astros.

E-mails this morning to various club officials seeking comment …

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If Shumpert gets the point, Jackets have a chance

If Iman Shumpert is on his game, said Paul Hewitt, Tech will be hard to beat. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

If Iman Shumpert is on his game, said Paul Hewitt, Tech will be hard to beat. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

In 1990, when Georgia Tech went to the Final Four, Kenny Anderson was the MVP of the Southeast Regional. He was a point guard.

In 2004, when Georgia Tech went to the Final Four, Jarrett Jack was the MVP of the Midwest Regional. He was a point guard.

Some things in sports are aberrations. This isn’t one of them.

College basketball teams – even front-line dominated ones like Georgia Tech – go as their point guards go in the NCAA tournament. It’s why the Jackets could very well be on their way to a memorable run. Or a quick exit.

Derrick Favors and Gani Lawal are expected to be first-round NBA draft picks this summer. But Iman Shumpert might have more to do with how far the Jackets go in the tournament than his two more famous teammates.

Iman Shumpert's defense was a key during the ACC tournament. (AP photo)

Iman Shumpert's defense was a key during the ACC tournament. (AP photo)

“Regardless of what everybody else is doing,” Tech coach Paul …

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Woods making the right call on returning at Masters

Tiger Woods can run from a sex scandal but he's making the right call on returning to golf at the Masters.

Tiger Woods can run from a sex scandal but he's making the right call on returning to golf at the Masters.

It’s no guarantee that Tiger Woods will be able to repair his public image or return to dominance in professional golf. But he just made one right decision.

Woods announced what had been expected for the past several days — that he will make his return to golf at the Masters April 8-11 at Augusta National.

So arguably sports’ highest-profile figure will make his return at golf’s highest-profile event: Nothing like a flair for the dramatic. But that’s Woods, isn’t it?

The timing makes perfect sense. As I wrote in Sunday’s AJC, the Masters is one of the most controlled events in sports because it is held in a private club. As strange as it sounds given the stature of the Masters, it’s far more logical for Woods to return there than, say, at the John Deere Classic in Illinois.

Augusta National has a tight control on media credentials and tournament badges. That means no …

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Jackets’ Thomas still grounded, but he’ll top all in NFL

Demaryius Thomas has to play the role of spectator at the NFL scouting combine and again at Georgia Tech's "Pro Day."

Demaryius Thomas was a spectator at the NFL scouting combine and Georgia Tech's "Pro Day."

On the same day most on the Georgia Tech campus were thinking about basketball, the football practice field was covered with dozens of NFL scouts, officials and even three head coaches for  “Pro Day” Monday.

As one scout put it, “This is a little bit unusual.”

Football isn’t a foreign concept at Tech. But having four players projected to go early in the NFL draft is.  Derrick Morgan, Demaryius Thomas, Jonathan Dwyer and Morgan  Burnett all should be successful in the pros. But it says here the most impactful NFL player will be the guy who was forced to watch Monday’s drills while wearing a walking boot: Thomas.

His size (6-3, 229), strength, toughness, blocking ability and his willingness to go after the ball project well for an NFL wide receiver. He doesn’t have blazing speed but he doesn’t need it.

When Thomas suffered a broken left foot the week before the scouting combine, it …

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