Archive for May, 2011

Hawks and Josh Smith may have had enough of each other

When Josh Smith dominates, as he did in Game 4 against Chicago, he's a Hawks' fan favorite. (Curtis Compton/AJC).

When Josh Smith dominates, as he did in Game 4 against the Chicago Bulls, he's a favorite of Hawks fans. (Curtis Compton/AJC).

For seven seasons, Josh Smith has shown us that he can be the best player on the floor. For seven seasons, he has shown us that he can be the worst player on the floor. The fact these opposites often appear in the same game is what makes him so maddening.

This is why after seven seasons, it’s time to say goodbye.

Smith is not the biggest problem on the Hawks’ roster, he’s merely the greatest lightning rod for criticism. He’s not the player who has crippled the payroll and just followed the richest contract in NBA history — $123,658,089 — with his least-productive season. That would be Joe Johnson.

For as much as Smith is hammered for launching three-point shots, he had a better shooting percentage from three-range this season (33.1 percent) than Johnson (29.7). Johnson battled some injuries (elbow, thumb). But so did Smith (knee), and he’s …

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Bettman wants to make Thrashers’ sale hurt for Spirit

ockey fans celebrate at Portage and Main in downtown Winnipeg, Manitoba, after a report in The Globe and Mail newspaper that an NHL hockey team might move to Winnipeg, Thursday, May 19, 2011. NHL Commissioner Gary Bettman, Deputy Commissioner Bill Daly and True North Sports and Entertainment denied a deal has been reached to sell the Atlanta Thrashers to True North, which would relocate it to Winnipeg. (AP photo)

Hockey fans in Winnipeg aren't waiting for the official announcement: They were already celebrating the Thrashers' expected arrival on Thursday night. (AP photo)

Somebody who I trust — because he has been telling me that the Thrashers probably are going to wind up moving to Winnipeg for almost two years now — offered something else recently.

While it’s almost certainly too late to stop the train to Manitoba, Gary Bettman’s disdain for Bruce Levenson and the Atlanta Spirit is so great that wants to make it hurt financially for the Spirit.

I know. The last thing you really want to do right now is choose sides between Bettman and Levenson. Can they run into each other head first?

But if you’re looking for one microscopic scintilla of a possibility that the Thrashers’ move gets momentarily derailed, here it is: Bettman may be playing hardball. He not only wants the $60 million relocation fee that the NHL is mandating from True North Sports and Entertainment, he may want a share of …

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Will Muschamp comes back to Georgia — as a Gator

Will Muschamp is a Gator now (the Cujo eyes, caused by a flash, notwithstanding).

Will Muschamp may have barked as a Bulldog but he's all Gator now as the Florida coach.

A young, pretty girl sitting near the front of the room had a question for the Florida coach.

“Coach, I’m getting married soon and he’s a Georgia fan and …”

“That’s not my fault,” Will Muschamp said, playing to the crowd.

“My wedding is on the same day as the Florida-Georgia game,” she continued. “I was wondering: Can you guarantee Florida will win?”

Muschamp, the native of Rome, a long-time Georgia resident and former Bulldogs safety, smiled.

“I certainly can,” he said (and then he turned in my direction and alerted the crowd that this pronouncement almost certainly would be used in the local newspaper).

This should end any lingering debate about whether Will Muschamp has divided loyalties.

The annual meeting of the Atlanta Gator Club was held Thursday night. Atlantic Station was crawling with reptiles. More than 360 Florida fans crammed into a hotel ballroom, the …

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Will Muschamp back in Georgia (and other nuggets)

Will Muschamp steps back over the Georgia state border tonight when he speaks at the Atlanta Gator Club. (AP photo)

Will Muschamp steps back over the Georgia state border tonight when he speaks at the Atlanta Gator Club. (AP photo)

First, an update: No moving vans spotted at Philips Arena yet.

Now, back to college football.

Will Muschamp makes his triumphant return to Georgia, although probably not how some Bulldogs fans once envisioned. He is speaking at the Atlanta Gator Club tonight. As a Gator.
I’ll be there and will have a chance to speak to the new Florida coach beforehand his talk to Florida fans, so if you have something in particular you would like to know — other than, “How can you do this to us?” — let me know.

Anyway, given tonight’s plans, I thought a college football appetizer this morning would be appropriate. Let’s start with …

♦ 1. Are the Gators going to be a “disappointment”?

ESPN.com did kind of a strange poll, asking readers what will be the most disappointing team in the SEC next season. The thing is, fans were asked to choose from only these five schools: Alabama, …

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Forget Hawks, Thrashers — J.B. Smith has other issues (UPDATED)

Ed Peskowitz, Michael Gearon and Bruce Levenson are among the Atlanta Spirit owners looking to sell the Hawks, Thrashers and Philips Arena' operating rights.

Ed Peskowitz, Michael Gearon and Bruce Levenson are among the Atlanta Spirit owners looking to sell Hawks and Thrashers.

(UPDATED BELOW: 4:15 p.m.)

It remains to be seen if the Thrashers are sold and moved to Winnipeg, or if the Hawks and Philips Arena operating rights are sold to new ownership. But that’s the way to bet.

Also, don’t bet on J.B. Smith.

I’m not going to spend a lot of time on Smith because appearances are that he’s just one more name in a sea of pretenders who claim to be interested in one or all of the Atlanta Spirit properties. But he and others have never taken the necessary steps to prove their financial worth (assuming they have sufficient worth).

Smith has been pimped by some as this shadowy, mysterious figure who was going to swoop in and buy the teams and arena and save the day. One of his mouthpieces is a guy named Jay Clemons, who has written about fantasy football for SI.com. Clemons, however, now doesn’t hide the fact that he is Smith’s …

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Hawks’ decision to bring back Rick Sund was expected

Rick Sund has had some obvious hits and misses as Hawks general manager. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Rick Sund has had some obvious hits and misses as general manager. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

The Atlanta Spirit appears on the verge of selling the Thrashers to a group in Winnipeg and are in negotiations to sell the Hawks, which would rid Atlanta of the often dysfunctional ownership group all together. But Rick Sund isn’t going anywhere.

The Hawks have exercised an option on Sund’s contract, meaning he will be back for a fourth season as general manager. The story comes via our Michael Cunningham and originally was reported by Zach Klein of WSB Channel 2.

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There are mixed feelings on Sund. Last season he fired coach Mike Woodson, which most agreed with, but replaced him with Larry Drew. Drew was viewed by some as a weak candidate. But he seemed to prove himself during the Hawks’ playoff run when the Hawks upset Orlando in the first round and stretched the …

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McCann saves Braves, who are in position to make move

Dan Uggla and Martin Prado trap Brian McCann for his ceremonial dirt shower after his walkoff home run in Braves' win. (AP photo)

Dan Uggla and Martin Prado trap Brian McCann for his ceremonial dirt shower after his walk-off home run in Braves' win. (AP photo)

On the last day of the homestand, the Braves were shut out for the first 8 2/3  innings, came to within one strike of blowing a series to the worst team in the National League and watched as Chipper Jones struck out three times with runners on base (twice looking)

It did not start out as a blueprint for winning a division.

“Not pretty,” Jones said.

Didn’t matter. The Braves left town after a 3-1 victory over Houston on Tuesday to begin a seven-game road trip at Arizona. They were two games behind Philadelphia in the National League East (pending the outcome of the Phillies’ game at St. Louis Tuesday night), after opening this homestand four games back.

When they return, don’t be surprised if they’re looking down the rest of the East.

The Braves found an improbable way to win a game: Brian McCann hit a two-out, two-strike, game-tying, …

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BRAVES LIVE: Chipper to test knee, hopes to avoid surgery

Chipper Jones is hoping to avoid knee surgery, which would lead him to miss road trip.

Chipper Jones is hoping to avoid knee surgery, which would lead him to miss road trip.

(UPDATED: Noon.)

The Chipper Jones medical watch begins in earnest today.

Jones is in the lineup for this afternoon’s game against Houston after missing the last two games with a slight tear in the meniscus cartilage in his right knee. Whether he joins the Braves on their seven-game road trip after today depends on how the knee holds up. Manager Fredi Gonzalez didn’t seem overly concerned after batting practice, but the bottom line is that if Jones’ knee bothers him during the game, there’s a chance he’ll skip the road trip and stay home to have arthroscopic surgery.

“From what I know of that type of injury, you can play with it and you can’t hurt it any more,” Gonzalez said.

Jones and Heyward are back in lineup today.

Jones and Heyward are back in lineup today.

Translation: Even if the small tear turns into a larger tear, the surgery and rehabilitation would be the same.

Is this worry time? Not yet. Jones was limited to 95 games last …

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Door isn’t closed but Thrashers’ picture still gloomy

This photo of Michael Gearon (left) and Bruce Levenson would suggest Thrashers' owners have been behind the team 100 percent. Pictures can be deceiving. (AJC photo)

This photo would suggest Michael Gearon (left) and Bruce Levenson have been passionate and dedicated owners of the Thrashers. Pictures can be deceiving. (AJC photo)

So now we can officially move one aspect of the Thrashers’ potential franchise relocation from the logical rumor to the fact category.

The AJC has confirmed that Thrashers’ ownership is in negotiations to sell the team to True North Sports and Entertainment, which would move the franchise to Winnipeg. While the negotiations have long been assumed, this is the first time somebody familiar with the NHL process has confirmed talks actually are taking place.

Does this mean the Thrashers’ move to Winnipeg is a done deal? No. Fact is, the Phoenix Coyotes’ move to Winnipeg seemed certain until the city of Glendale, Ariz., stunningly agreed to pay $25 million to the NHL — effectively funding the team — for at least one more season. But the odds still heavily favor the NHL losing its NHL franchise for the second time.

NHL …

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Dan Uggla’s breakout could be key to Braves’ breakout

Dan Uggla broke out of his season-long slump in a major way with a game-winning homer and all three runs in Braves' 3-2 win. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Dan Uggla broke out of his season-long slump in a major way with this game-winning homer and scored all three Braves' runs in a 3-2 win. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

If you’re wondering about Dan Uggla’s game-day attire on Monday, he will arrive at the stadium wearing beige shorts, a plaid button-down shirt and tennis shoes with no socks.

We know this because for as much as Uggla insists he is not superstitious, this just isn’t the time to mess with the cosmic forces.

“I’ll wear the same thing I wore today — you ain’t lying,” he said, smiling.

This was a good day — unlike most of his days as a Brave. He went into Sunday’s game against Philadelphia carrying a .196 batting average the way a pageant queen carries a blemish in the middle of her forehead.

The Braves traded for Uggla. They committed to him over the long term with a five-year, $62 million contract extension. He reciprocated by hitting .154 with runners in scoring position while batting fifth.

Awkward.

“I know …

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