Archive for April, 2011

Poll time: Where would Hawks’ series win over Magic rank?

Record producer Jermaine Dupri was among those to witness the Hawks pull to within one win of a series upset over Orlando. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Record producer Jermaine Dupri was among those who witnessed Hawks close in on series upset over Orlando. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

If the Hawks win any of the next three games — their first chance coming Tuesday night in Orlando — they’ll upset the Magic in the first round of the NBA playoffs. I’m not an Atlanta native but I’ve lived here long enough to know postseason series (or game) wins are not the norm for the pro teams.

The Hawks were 9-2 underdogs to Orlando to win this series. The online sportsbook Bodog also had them at 30-1 to win in five games, 9-1 to win it in six and 20-1 to win it in seven.

Here are what I believe are the top four postseason moments/upsets. There’s room for No. 5, which we’ll get to shortly.

♦ 1.) Braves win the World Series (1995): Duh. Tom Glavine’s one-hitter and David Justice’s home run in game 6 against Cleveland gave Atlanta its only championship in the four major pro sports.

♦ 2.) Falcons go to the Super Bowl (1998): Morten Andersen kicks the …

Continue reading Poll time: Where would Hawks’ series win over Magic rank? »

No Charlie Sheen, but Tech may have found quarterback

Quarterback Synjyn Days looked strong in Georgia Tech's spring game Saturday. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

Quarterback Synjyn Days looked strong in Georgia Tech's spring game. (Johnny Crawford/AJC)

When Georgia Tech played its spring game Saturday, it didn’t quite attract the fanfare, attention or turnstile count that Georgia did a week ago. The Jackets even limited the usual celebrity element on campus.

Shocking. After the way the baseball team embraced Charlie Sheen at batting practice the other day, you would have thought Lindsay Lohan would be singing the national anthem at Bobby Dodd Stadium. Maybe Mel Gibson leading the pregame prayer. Paris Hilton preaching to sorority girls on ambition and the meaning life.

Fortunately, coach Paul Johnson kept this one low-key. Just football, no sleaze. In the process, he also may have learned something about one of his quarterbacks.

Synjyn Days was not the best quarterback through most of spring drills, but he easily was the best one in the spring game. He rushed for 112 yards and a touchdown. He threw for another score. His overall …

Continue reading No Charlie Sheen, but Tech may have found quarterback »

SEMI-LIVE: Tech continues QB search in ‘T-Day’ game

Unfortunately, this guy does not play on the offensive line.

Unfortunately, this guy doesn't play on the Jackets' offensive line.

Good morning. I’m sitting in the press box at Bobby Dodd Stadium, and I think I see Jamal Crawford down on the 50, lining up his next three-point bank shot.

Georgia Tech’s offense should have such success with long-range heaves. (How’s that for a transition?) The run-dominated option offense had even less success than usual passing last season, and a big part of that was the loss of wide receiver Demaryius Thomas. Quarterback Joshua Nesbitt also struggled last season (39 for 105, 37.1 percent) and had his senior season ended by a broken arm.

So it follows that much of the focus this spring, leading up to today’s “T-Day” game, is on the quarterback position.

Redshirt junior Tevin Washington has a slight edge on redshirt freshman Synjyn Days as Nesbitt’s replacement. But there’s the possibility that both will be beat out in the fall by incoming freshman Vad Lee of Durham, N.C.

I’m sure coach Paul Johnson also …

Continue reading SEMI-LIVE: Tech continues QB search in ‘T-Day’ game »

For Hawks, home hasn’t always been where heart is

Hawks fans had no reason to cheer in playoffs against Orlando last year. (Curtis Compton ccompton@ajc.com)

Hawks didn't give fans a reason to cheer in playoffs against Orlando last year. (Curtis Compton)

This can be a strange and fickle sports market. Teams don’t get a huge window to grab the public’s attention, and when they lose it it’s hard to get it back.

The Braves had it in the early to mid-1990s, then lost it when fans became jaded. The Falcons had it with Michael Vick, then lost it amid the blur of calamities that followed, and even three winning seasons haven’t brought back everybody. The Thrashers had it for about five minutes. But even their hard-to-beat-down fans eventually were crushed by franchise ineptitude, and it will take time to reconstruct bridges (assuming nobody phones Bekins).

This is the Hawks’ window. Blow this and it will be some time before anybody looks in their direction again.

They played two road playoff games at Orlando, winning one and having a good chance at a second upset in the other. That was impressive. But now that they’re home, will they play …

Continue reading For Hawks, home hasn’t always been where heart is »

Hawks lose to Magic but prove something in process

Josh Smith and the Hawks threw a scare into the Orlando Magic again Tuesday night but fell short and lost game two. (AP photo)

Josh Smith and the Hawks threw a scare into the Orlando Magic again Tuesday night but fell short and lost game two. (AP photo)

ORLANDO – They won game one and threw a scare into Orlando in game two.

Forget the odds. Forget the mood swings of the regular season. Forget the part of you that says, “I don’t like this team. I don’t trust this team. They’re going nowhere.”

The Hawks didn’t guarantee themselves a playoff series upset with their performances in  Orlando. But they certainly sent a message in game two that game one wasn’t a fluke. After winning the series opener Saturday, they led the heavily favored and desperate Magic by as much as 10 points in the second quarter, fizzled, fell behind by 14 in the fourth, looked dead and then showed the fight and resiliency that too often was missing this season to pull to within two at 78-76 with two minutes left.

In the end, they ran out of gasps and spasms, losing 88-82 Tuesday night. But Orlando walked off their home court with …

Continue reading Hawks lose to Magic but prove something in process »

LIVE BLOG: Can Hawks make it two straight over Orlando?

What's your guess on how the scoreboard will read in the end? Let's hear your predictions below.

What's your guess on how the scoreboard will read in the end? Let's hear your predictions below.

ORLANDO — Funny moment at a local restaurant and watering hole that Michael Cunningham and I visited Monday night. It was trivia night, and one of the players named their team, “Tomorrow is Dwight’s Last Home Game.”

And you thought you were cynical about the Hawks. How bad is it when an Orlando Magic fan not only assumes the Hawks — your Hawks! — would sweep this playoff series, but that Dwight Howard will try to force a trade out of town before the next NBA season? (Howard can opt out of his contract after one more season.)

Hawks players expect Orlando will come out desperate tonight. The question is: How do the Hawks respond? No predictions here. As has been stated repeatedly, this has been a strange season where logic seldom applies. But imagine the euphoria surrounding this team if it sweeps two in Orlando.

Here are a few subplots going into the game:

Heavyweights: Howard vs. …

Continue reading LIVE BLOG: Can Hawks make it two straight over Orlando? »

Collins’ comments get attention of Van Gundy, Howard

Stan Van Gundy has given referees, league an earful about Dwight Howard getting hit.

Stan Van Gundy has given referees, league an earful about Dwight Howard getting hit.

ORLANDO — Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy got into trouble last month for comparing NBA commissioner David Stern to a world dictator, so he’s trying to bite his tongue these days. But it’s clear Van Gundy and Dwight Howard are not happy with the tactics the Hawks are employing against the Magic’s center in their playoff series, which resumes tonight.

When asked Tuesday about the Hawks’ physical play against Howard, Van Gundy specifically referenced remarks made by Jason Collins in my column Monday (Tuesday’s print editions).

“Jason Collins basically had a quote in the paper that said Dwight’s gotta know every time he goes into the lane we’re going to hit him — so it’s not like it’s a secret strategy,” Van Gundy said. “It’s everybody’s strategy. Jason Collins is just one of the few guys to come out and admit it.”

Orlando wasn’t happy when Howard was called for both a foul and a technical foul for …

Continue reading Collins’ comments get attention of Van Gundy, Howard »

Hawks’ Collins ready for game 2 (round 2?) against Howard

Dwight Howard finds himself in a trio of Hawks: Jason Collins (left), Josh Smith and Al Horford (obscured).

Dwight Howard surrounded by Hawks: Jason Collins, Josh Smith and Al Horford (obscured).

ORLANDO – Dwight Howard is an expert on awards. He has just been named the NBA’s defensive player of the year for the third straight season, which adds to a resume that already includes five All-Star Games, three all-NBA first-team honors and a finals appearance in only seven seasons. He could win an MVP award one day.

So I figure if Howard, awards expert, says that Jason Collins deserves an award, he must know what he’s talking about.

“He pulled me back,” Howard claimed of the Hawks’ Collins. “So of course I flew back. He should get an Academy Award.”

Actually, it wasn’t Collins who tugged at Howard in game one of the playoffs. It was Sasquatch. Possibly with weak-side help from the Easter Bunny and a herd of unicorns.

This first-round match-up between the Hawks and Orlando has been intriguing for two reasons: 1) Atlanta, a significant underdog, won the opener in Orlando; 2) Howard, …

Continue reading Hawks’ Collins ready for game 2 (round 2?) against Howard »

Van Gundy: Hawks’ Hinrich deal better than Carmelo trade

Here's Kirk Hinrich knocking the ball away from Dwight Howard in game one Saturday.

Here's Kirk Hinrich knocking the ball away from Dwight Howard in game one Saturday.

ORLANDO — I think Stan Van Gundy just said Kirk Hinrich is better than Carmelo Anthony.

OK, not quite. But the Orlando Magic coach did declare the Hawks’ trade for Hinrich was the best deal any team made at the NBA trade deadline, including the New York Knicks’ acquisition of Anthony from Denver.

Whether you think Van Gundy is telling the truth or just trying to sweet talk the Magic’s opponent between games of their playoff series, here’s the quote on Hinrich: “He’s always been one of the best defensive guards in the league. Going back to when I was in Miami and he was in Chicago, I’ve always thought he was one of the best guys guarding [Dwyane] Wade. He can guard at both guard positions. He’s got good size. He’s extremely tough. He’s smart and a great competitor. Up until this year he had been a real up-and-down shooter. That was his main flaw. But he’s shot extremely well this year.”

And now, …

Continue reading Van Gundy: Hawks’ Hinrich deal better than Carmelo trade »

Playoff win shows Hawks haven’t quit on Larry Drew

Larry Drew led the Hawks to their first road playoff win over a higher seed in 14 years.

With Saturday's victory over Orlando, Larry Drew led the Hawks to their first road playoff win over a higher seed in 14 years. (AP photo)

ORLANDO – This can get lost in the euphoria of Joe Johnson coming up big in a playoff game, Kirk Hinrich looking almost young again on defense and Jason Collins getting head-butted from a frustrated Dwight Howard.

But it’s worth noting: The Hawks followed Larry Drew.

They followed his game plan. They followed his season-long cries for a consistent effort and passion, his pleas for mental and physical toughness. They won their playoff series opener against Orlando on Saturday night, and in doing so put to rest any suggestions that players had tuned out or quit on their first-year coach. Wins like this simply don’t happen if guys aren’t paying attention.

It doesn’t explain the absurdity of some Hawks performances during the season, including five home losses by 21 or more points. But it gives credence to the theory that the problems have been …

Continue reading Playoff win shows Hawks haven’t quit on Larry Drew »