Archive for May, 2011

LIVE: Can Hawks keep their edge at home against Bulls?

The Hawks went 3-0 at home against Orlando and will try to maintaint that advantage tonight.

The Hawks went 3-0 at home against Orlando and will try to maintain that advantage tonight.

Two weeks ago, the Hawks came home after a split of their first two playoff games in Orlando and we wondered if Philips Arena would turn into a shop of horrors (as it had so often this season).

Then they won two games to take a stunning 3-1 series lead over an Orlando team and closed out the series in six games. They went 3-0 at home. Suddenly we dare to think: Can they do the same against Chicago and win this series over the Bulls — without Kirk Hinrich?

Having split the first two games at Chicago, the Hawks can take this second-round series simply by winning their home games again — something that would not have seemed plausible before the Orlando series.

Before the Magic series, coach Larry Drew wondered himself about home-court advantage, but his feeling changed after the first two games in Orlando.

“Coming back from Orlando after game two, I could sense the confidence level, the …

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Hawks’ Crawford throws water on smack-talk charges

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Jamal Crawford's words after game two against the Bulls apparently irritated some folks in Chicago. (AP photo)

Only in the playoffs do we get implausible story lines like this: “Jamal Crawford throws down gauntlet!”

There was some pretty funny stuff at this morning’’s shoot-arounds for tonight’s playoff game between the Hawks and Chicago. It won’t quite reach the grease-fire level of Jameer Nelson’s “Catch you in the second round” comment before the Orlando series, but apparently Crawford is public enemy No. 1 in Chicago.

Several Chicago media members (mostly television) asked Bulls players to respond to Crawford’s comments’ following the Hawks’ game two loss, which began with: “If that’s their best shot, we’re in good shape.” Crawford’s entire quote in context wasn’t nearly that strong. But a few Bulls players were baited into responding.

♦ Carlos Boozer: “Is that what he said? He has the right to his opinion. I’m not into talking in the papers. I’m more [do the ] walking on …

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John Rocker tells magazine he’s close to publishing memoir

Post career, John Rocker appeared on ESPN's "Pros vs. Joes" show in 2006. (AP photo)

Post career, John Rocker appeared on ESPN's "Pros vs. Joes" show in 2006. (AP photo)

John Rocker: Published author?

Rocker, the Braves’ former pitcher and ticking time bomb, has been referenced frequently in the past couple of weeks. He was an historical reference point for observers after Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell’s verbal altercation with fans in San Francisco, which allegedly included homophobic slurs.

Rocker, who still lives in Atlanta, apparently is self-publishing a memoir. Title: “Scars and Strikes.” It’s due out in June. The current issue of Atlanta Magazine has a profile on Rocker in its May issue. The story, written by Charles Bethea, doesn’t really break new ground, but it has a few amusing comments. Included:

♦ Rocker says the book will be a mixture of baseball and politics, with some of his “philosophy and feelings.” He adds that it will be “how the conversation would have gone had that writer gotten it right.” The reference was to the Sports …

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How they really stand — from Braves (1) to Jacket hoops (10)

Original Caption:  	101010 Atlanta : Braves pinch hitter Eric Hinske is celebrated by teammate for his 2-run homer for a 2-1 lead over the Giants during 8th inning of the Game 3 of the National League Division Series at Turner Field on Saturday, Oct. 10, 2010 at Turner Field in Atlanta. Hyosub Shin hshin@ajc.com

Expect Braves to do some postseason celebrating, and maybe win division. (Hyosub Shin)

I was going to wait until after the NBA playoffs to reveal this year’s edition of the, “How They Really Stand” rankings, just on the chance that Hawks guard Jeff Teague (based on his Monday playoff debut) suddenly morphs into Oscar Robertson and Atlanta’s NBA franchise becomes the standard for area sports teams. But I’ll take a chance. Following are my completely unscientific rankings of the local pro and major college teams. (No Georgia State football yet; longer resume is needed). It’s impossible to do this without somebody reacting, “Schultz, you’re an idiot.” But I get that at breakfast every morning, so I’m OK with it.  Rankings are based on current strength of team, franchise/program stability and direction. Last year’s rankings are in parenthesis.

♦ 1. Braves (2): They’ve tripped out of the starting gate. But this is too good of a roster to stay down for long. They have the pitching …

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Countdown: Smoltz’s splat, Gators’ buzz, Newton to UFL!

This outfit is not golf course appropriate.

This outfit is not golf course appropriate.

The Count never was much into golf as a youth. Didn’t like the clothes or the country club atmosphere and one time after spending all day at the driving range when he showed up on a young lass’s doorstep on the night of a full moon, he tried to hypnotize his victim with his mesmerizing gaze, just like his great uncle Count Dracula taught him, and the girl just started laughing and said, “You’re going to bite me in an Ashworth polo? Seriously?” Then she slammed the door and he slinked away.

But The Count was ready to come to the aid of former Braves pitcher John Smoltz, who played in last week’s Nationwide event in Valdosta. Smoltz needed a caddy. He opted to hire some young, punk kid who, like, you know, golfs. Big mistake. We count down . . .

10. When you’re at 27-over-171, you can’t go to bullpen

It started so well. Par, par, birdie. And then, oh, cover your eyes.

It started so well. Par, par, birdie. And then, oh, cover your eyes.

Smoltz somehow devalued the South Georgia Classic. He was 1-under …

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Twitter meltdown: Mendenhall seems to defend Bin Laden

What was Rashard Mendenhall thinking? Clearly, he wasn't. (AP photo)

What was Rashard Mendenhall thinking? Clearly, he wasn't. (AP photo)

When the NFL lockout ends, Rashard Mendenhall may have to find a rec league in Pakistan to find his next job.

Mendenhall, the Pittsburgh Steelers’ running back, has suffered a meltdown on Twitter, all but defending Osama Bin Laden at a time when most of the rest of the world is celebrating his death.

While we can’t confirm @R_Mendenhall that it is actually Mendenhall Tweeting. But it is a “verified” account, he is being followed by several teammates and there’s no report of his account being hacked.

So how do you explain these Tweets?

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– 5:29 p.m.: “What kind of person celebrates death? It’s amazing how people can HATE a man they have never even heard speak. We’ve only heard one side…”

– 5:37 p.m.: “We’ll never know what really happened. I just have a hard time believing a plane could take a skyscraper down demolition style”

–6:28 p.m.: “For those of you who said you want to see Bin Laden burn in hell and …

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Statistical evidence of Falcons’ need for Julio Jones

Despite defensive shortcomings, the Falcons also needed Julio Jones' game-breaking abilities.

Despite defensive shortcomings, the Falcons also needed Julio Jones' game-breaking abilities.

Opinions — many dissenting – continue to flow in on whether the Falcons made the right call with the most bold decision in the NFL draft: trading several draft picks for the right to move up and draft Alabama wide receiver Julio Jones.

I understand the concern. The Falcons need defensive help. I’m not oblivious to the 48 points Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay hung on them in the playoffs. I was at the game. But to suggest they didn’t need some help on offense and a potential game-breaker on that side of the ball ignores the obvious.

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Overshadowed in that Green Bay game: The Falcons weren’t very good on offense, either. They scored 21 points. But one touchdown was a 102-yard kickoff return. Another was a 48-yard drive, following a Packers’ fumble at …

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Braves’ Lowe bounces back from arrest and first inning

Derek Lowe settled down after a three-run first inning but wouldn't discuss if he felt the effects of an arrest a few days earlier. (AP photo)

Derek Lowe settled down after a three-run first inning but wouldn't discuss if he felt the effects of an arrest a few days earlier. (AP photo)

Professional athletes are creatures of habit. So it’s not a reach to suggest Derek Lowe probably felt slightly off-kilter at the outset of his start Sunday.

Why? Because lying on a prison cot for several hours three nights before a start is not part of his usual routine.

“Something like that has a way of humbling you,” Braves teammate Chipper Jones said Sunday. “Derek is one of the class clowns in here. He’s one of the more outgoing, funny guys. He’s one of the guys who keeps the clubhouse mood light. But you can see it affected his personality a little bit.”

It also may have affected his performance at the outset Sunday — not that we’ll ever know because Lowe wouldn’t let anybody peek into his cranium.

After being arrested for DUI, reckless driving and improper lane change late Thursday night, Lowe returned to the mound against St. …

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LIVE BLOG: Lowe starts as Braves try to win one vs. Cards (Update: McDowell suspended)

Pitcher Derek Lowe will try to get Braves back on track today. (Bob Andres/AJC)

Pitcher Derek Lowe will try to get Braves back on track today. (Bob Andres/AJC)

(UPDATE below on Roger McDowell, 1 p.m.)

After winning five out of six to close a West Coast road trip, the Braves returned home and reaffirmed they’re not quite in a groove yet.

They blew late-inning leads and lost consecutive games to St. Louis to open this series (5-3 in 11 innings on Friday; 3-2 on Saturday). Now they find themselves scrambling just to avoid being swept in today’s series finale. And as unusual circumstances go, here’s one: The pitcher who will try to turn them around is Derek Lowe, who spent late Thursday evening and early Friday morning in jail on charges of DUI, reckless driving and improper lane change.

In addition to off-field incidents involving Lowe and pitching coach Roger McDowell — who remains on “administrative leave” for alleged anti-gay slurs and inappropriate language with San Francisco fans — the Braves have a few lingering issues.

– Despite high expectations for …

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Roger McDowell lucky to be suspended only two weeks

Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell will escape with only a two-week suspension.

Braves pitching coach Roger McDowell will escape with only a two-week suspension.

This would be a good day for Roger McDowell to play the lottery. He’ll never be luckier than he is right now.

McDowell has been suspended for two weeks without pay and fined an undisclosed amount for alleged anti-gay slurs and his inappropriate conduct toward fans in San Francisco last week. He also has been ordered to take sensitivity training.

Say thank you, Roger.

Baseball commissioner Bud Selig — who last week suspended Ozzie Guillen two games for something as trivial as Tweeting — could have slammed McDowell.

I’ve heard from several readers who believe the Braves should have fired him. I wasn’t in that camp, but I do believe a suspension of at least 30 games was in order.

“I understand the decision made today by the commissioner,” McDowell said in a statement. “I am embarrassed by my actions and I plan to give a personal apology to Mr. [Justin] Quinn and his family. I would also like to …

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