Archive for April, 2010

Even with loss, Braves show they’re not going away

The scoreboard tells the story as Roy Halladay tamed the Braves' lineup the night after Tuesday's comeback. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The scoreboard tells the story as Philadelphia's Roy Halladay tamed the Braves' lineup the night after Tuesday's comeback win by Atlanta. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

We’ve seen in sports how one athlete can seem to plug an entire franchise into a light socket.

One such occurrence came in 1979. The Los Angeles Lakers drafted Magic Johnson. There’s a great story about Johnson’s first game that set the tone for his career and that first season. The Lakers won their opening game on a hook shot by Kareem Abdul-Jabbar at the buzzer. They beat the San Diego Clippers, which generally doesn’t arouse thoughts of a postgame parade. But Magic was so taken by the moment that he ran and jumped into the arms of a stunned Abdul-Jabbar.

The story goes that Abdul-Jabbar — not the most excitable player in league history — then told Johnson, “You do realize we have 81 more games, don’t you?” But that moment set the tone for the Lakers’ season. They won the NBA title that year.

The …

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LIVE: Braves go for two over Phillies (and maybe a sign)

The Braves figured there was no harm in keeping this up for a little while.

The Braves figured there was no harm in keeping this up until batting practice Wednesday.

Hello. On my way to Turner Field today, I saw Jason Heyward rescue three kids from a burning building and hurl himself in front of a meteor just before it crashed into Earth.

“No big deal,” he said later, brushing himself off.

Kidding. Sort of.

Everybody here is still exhaling after Tuesday’s dramatic, 4-3 win over Philadelphia. Three-run, two-out, ninth-inning rallies started by the .200-hitting Troy Glaus just don’t happen every day. (The Braves still had the line score up on the scoreboard this afternoon).

A game-tying home run by Heyward? Yeah, that happens. What doesn’t happen with this kid?  As David O’Brien wrote in his ball blog, Heyward’s 16 RBI in his first 13 major league games equals the feat of Ted Williams for players under the age of 21. I have this theory that when your early career accomplishments are starting to be compared to dead legends, you’re pretty good.

Here’s …

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Goodell had no choice but to suspend Roethlisberger (UPDATED)

Whatever Ben Roethlisberger said from his notes the other day didn't satisfy Roger Goodell. (AP photo)

Any NFL player should know by now that there are two judicial systems: One is the  set of laws that govern this country. The other has to do with the perceptions and whims of Roger Goodell.

Goodell suspended Pittsburgh quarterback Ben Roethlisberger for six games for violating the NFL’s personal conduct policy. There’s a possibility of the suspension being reduced to four games if a review before the season indicates he has made sufficient progress in his behavior.

That judgment, of course, will be made by Goodell.

The announcement came on the league’s website. It included the stipulation that Roethlisberger “must undergo a comprehensive behavioral evaluation by medical professionals.” (Excerpts of Goodell’s letter to Roethlisberger is below.)

In Goodell’s view, it doesn’t matter that Roethlisberger has been twice accused but never charged with sexual assault. A long pattern of negative behavior — some of which was detailed in the GBI’s investigation into the rape claims …

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When Josh Smith is on, the Hawks can’t be stopped

Josh Smith skies for two of his 21 points Tuesday night, and all John Salmons can do is watch. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Josh Smith skies for two of his 21 points in Tuesday night's win, and all John Salmons can do is watch. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Joe Johnson is the Hawks’ four-time All-Star, their highest-paid player and the one guy on the roster who spoke openly the other day about feeling he needed to prove himself as one of the game’s elite players by carrying his team in crucial moments in these playoffs, if necessary.

All of that is accurate. But it doesn’t diminish the impact Josh Smith can have on a team. We saw again why Tuesday night.

He is forever the Hawks’ X-factor because so few can do what he does, which, by the way, is everything. The only comparable might be a guy named LeBron.

As Al Horford said when asked about key performers for the Hawks in this postseason, “Joe is one of those players who lives for the big moment — he’s our go-to guy. But I think Josh is the biggest key for us. He gets everybody going. He makes things happen. When he’s rebounding the ball, scoring …

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We’re LIVE from Hawks-Bucks (and 2-0 would be huge)

Tuesday's Zaza Pachulia fan club was in attendance Tuesday: (left to right) Andy Johnson, Kenny Traber, Michael Kramer and Carter Davis, from Milledgeville. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Zaza Pachulia fan club was in attendance Tuesday: (left to right) Andy Johnson, Kenny Traber, Michael Kramer and Carter Davis. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Hello, and welcome back to the NBA playoffs, something I feel the need to broadcast again since my wife and I were walking around Piedmont Park for the Dogwood Festival Sunday and a nice young man from the Hawks was passing out vouchers for free — yes, free — tickets to tonight’s game.

Oh well. Guess everybody is saving their shekels for the Orlando series.

But the Hawks have a opportunity to visit rare franchise history tonight. Only three times in franchise history — and twice since the team has been in Atlanta — have the Hawks taken a 2-0 lead in a best-of-seven series. With a 1-0 lead over Milwaukee, they can accomplish that feat for the first time since 1970.

Here are the three times it has happened:

♦1957-58: St. Louis Hawks take a 2-0 lead over Detroit in the Western Conference finals. They won the series, 4-1, and …

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With no Roethlisberger, Falcons catch break at Pittsburgh

Here's Ben Roethlisberger laughing at a mini-camp Monday. He must know something nobody else does. (AP photo)

Here's Ben Roethlisberger laughing at a Steelers' mini-camp Monday. He must know something nobody else does. (AP photo)

Timing is everything in an NFL schedule. That’s because weather, injuries and impending suspensions for knucklehead quarterbacks are significant factors.

For that reason alone, there’s a pretty good chance the Falcons’ 2010 season will get off to a good start. If the report by Pittsburgh radio station WDVE is accurate, the Falcons will open the year Sunday, Sept. 12 against the Steelers. The NFL releases the schedule tonight.

Understand, a road game at Pittsburgh isn’t necessarily good news. But the Falcons have known the Steelers would be a road opponent since the end of last season. Playing the first game at Pittsburgh all but ensures two things: 1) No snow; 2) No Ben Roethlisberger. The Steelers’ quarterback is almost certain to get suspended by NFL commissioner Roger Goodell after recently being accused of sexual assault in Milledgeville, as well as other …

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Countdown’s trouble spots: Milledgeville and Remerton?

The Count didn't club with Mr. Haney.

The Count didn't club with Mr. Haney.

Back in the day, The Count could swing. Oohhh, yeahhh. New York. L.A. Miami Beach. Milledgeville. Wait. Milledgeville? Remerton? Has Buckhead slid that far off the radar? See, that’s the problem today. People used to go to cowtowns to escape their problems. Now, Green Acres really is the place to be! (Kids, ask your parents.) Ben Roethlisberger can’t stay sober in Milledgeville, or anywhere close to the right end of the evolutionary scale. Zach Mettenberger — soon-to-be formerly of Georgia — found a way to get into trouble in Remerton, which is surrounded by Valdosta, which is surrounded by nothingness. Mettenberger found so much trouble in Remerton that Mark Richt kicked him off the football team. The problem when things like this happen is the nation’s media, and sub-media, descend on these outposts and make the locals look like yahoos. Which sometimes isn’t difficult. Take Richard Bentley. He sells insurance in Milledgeville. He’s also …

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You’re on clock for Falcons (and why not Thomas?)

Why would the Falcons be scouting Demaryius Thomas unless they're interested in him? (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Why would the Falcons be scouting Demaryius Thomas unless they're interested in him? (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

I’ve looked at several NFL mock drafts and I have come to a stunning conclusion: Everybody is guessing. OK, maybe not so stunning.

But the same few names keep coming up around the Falcons’ pick at No. 19 overall. All are good players. All make sense in their own way. In a moment, I’ll list them and then you’ve got a chance to vote for which of the five you would prefer to see in  a Falcons’ uniform in 2010.

One name may surprise you: Demaryius Thomas.

A few weeks ago, I told you why I believe Thomas has a chance to become, not only a solid NFL receiver, but possibly the most impactful NFL player out of this Georgia Tech class. I’m including defensive end Derrick Morgan. That doesn’t mean Thomas is a better athlete than Morgan. But Thomas’ skill set at the position he plays translates perfectly for the NFL: He’s big, strong, tough, blocks, can catch and goes after the …

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Jonathan Dwyer will overcome bad pre-draft rumor (UPDATED)

Jonathan Dwyer should be a solid NFL player and will be an early draft pick. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Jonathan Dwyer should be a solid NFL player and will be an early draft pick. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

(Updated below with new information.)

It’s not uncommon in the weeks leading up to NFL drafts that we read and hear rumors — factual, fictional or somewhere in between — that affect a player’s draft stock.

A prime example of this came back in 1983, when rumors of recreational drug use led to Dan Marino not getting drafted until the 27th pick (and the sixth quarterback taken). Even then Steelers coach Chuck Noll admitted years later the team was scared off by the rumors. We’ll never know to what extent the Marino rumors were true, but he went on to become an NFL Hall of Famer.

What happened to Jonathan Dwyer Sunday was something completely different — to say nothing of completely unfair. Fox Sports reported that the Georgia Tech running back was among the high-profile players to fail a drug test at the NFL scouting combine. AJC.com picked up the story, then followed it up later, …

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Richt no longer soft on crime at Georgia, and that’s good

Zach Mettenberger (5) is now out of the Georgia QB derby after being kicked off the program. So hello to Logan Gray(6) and Aaron Murray(11)  (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Zach Mettenberger (5) is out of Georgia's QB derby — and the program — after being kicked out by Mark Richt. Life for Logan Gray(6) and Aaron Murray (11) just got easier. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

Let me be the first to congratulate Mark Richt, and not because he just figured out the quickest way to settle a potential quarterback controversy (kick one guy off the team.)

When Richt first arrived in Athens, he was soft on crime. I guess that’s not surprising since he came out of the Bobby Bowden/Let’s Just Make Them Run Steps On Tuesday And Hope This Blows Over School of Discipline. It certainly didn’t make Richt an evil person. But it just took a while before he seemed to realize that punishment in Athens sometimes required more than a slap on the wrist.

Now, I don’t know what Georgia’s freshman quarterback, Zach Mettenberger, did that led to Richt kicking him off the team Sunday, as our Tim Tucker reports. But my sense is that if this was five years ago, there’s a better …

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