Archive for September, 2011

NBA starts lockout — and it will be a while before it ends

NBA players, led by union president Derek Fisher, and executive director Billy Hunter, can put up a united front, but the owners won't likely fold in these talks. (AP photo)

NBA players, led by union president Derek Fisher, and executive director Billy Hunter, can put up a united front. But the owners aren't likely to fold in these talks. (AP photo)

The NBA is in a lockout. Get comfortable.

Several months back, I fully expected the NFL owners to implement a lockout in hopes of gaining financial concessions from players and maybe even twisting the union’s arm into an 18-game season. What I didn’t know was how long the NFL lockout would last. But logic said that it with so much television network money on the table, regular season games wouldn’t be canceled.

This is is different. NFL owners really didn’t want to change the entire financial structure with the players — they just wanted a bigger piece of the pie. But the NBA owners want to throw away the pie and blow up the whole bakery.

This simply is not a league that can support guaranteed, astronomical six- and seven-year contracts for players. It can’t afford to have such a soft salary cap …

Continue reading NBA starts lockout — and it will be a while before it ends »

Weekend Predictions: Richt over Nutt in the Stress Bowl

This week's tribute is to R.E.M. It's the end of the world as they know it.

This week's tribute is to R.E.M. It's the end of the world as they know it. (But they feel fine.)

Before more solid-gold projections — and after going 12-0 last week and 10-2 against the spread, I believe you owe me a bow, if not a Pop-Tart — this week’s big news comes from the University of Haifa (which by the way shows no signs of joining the University of Baghdad, Teheran Tech and Kabul State in major global realignment).

Actual factual: Scientists have determined that marijuana blocks the development of post-traumatic stress disorder. They reached this conclusion by somehow stressing out laboratory rats and then, I guess, had them pass around a really small bong. Dr. Irit Akiray said that marijuana “did not erase the experience of the trauma, but it prevented the development of post-trauma symptoms in the rat model.”

Loser of the Post Traumatic Stress Bowl gets a chocolate cake.

Loser of the Post Traumatic Stress Bowl gets a chocolate cake!

The only problems that developed during the experiments were rats kept escaping the lab to run …

Continue reading Weekend Predictions: Richt over Nutt in the Stress Bowl »

Poll: Should Braves start Lowe in playoffs (if they make it)?

Derek Lowe wasn't awful Wednesday. Would you want to see him in playoffs?

Derek Lowe wasn't awful Wednesday. Would you want to see him in playoffs?

When the Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez went to the bullpen at Florida Wednesday night, play-by-play announcer Chip Caray said, “Pitching change for Atlanta. Derek Lowe did not pitch poorly.”

Interesting choice of words. Then again, it seems this qualifies as news.

After allowing 15 earned runs and 26 hits in 13.1 innings over his last three starts, Lowe didn’t stink against the Marlins. He allowed three runs and six hits in 6.1 innings. It wasn’t Cy Young, but it wasn’t bad Vaudeville, either.

Who should be Braves’ third starter in playoffs?

  • Derek Lowe (9-16, 4.92)
  • Mike Minor (5-2, 4.27)
  • Randall Delgado (1-1, 2.70)
  • Julio Teheran (1-1, 5.40)

View Results

Loading ... Loading …

So here’s the thing. Last season, I made the mistake of writing off Lowe — for which he never let me forget — and he ended up becoming the Braves’ best pitcher down the stretch and in the postseason. This year, he …

Continue reading Poll: Should Braves start Lowe in playoffs (if they make it)? »

Shaq says Joe Johnson’s contract one reason for NBA mess

Shaq: "I like you but you're overpaid. Now give me that ball."

Shaq: "I like you but you're overpaid. Now give me that ball."

There hasn’t been a lot of talk about the NBA lockout, and maybe that’s something the league’s owners and players should really be thinking about during their talks for a new collective bargaining agreement.

But the recently retired Shaquille O’Neal just spoke, and he says if you’re looking for a reason why the league is having significant financial issues, you can start with the Hawks’ Joe Johnson.

O’Neal told the New Orleans Times Picayune that Johnson’s six-year, $119 million contract is a an example of a franchise overpaying for a player despite lacking the revenue to pay the contract. Shaq completely left out the fact that Johnson too often is a no-show in the playoffs, but maybe he didn’t want to be too tough in his early days as a commentator.

The money quote from Shaq: “I love Joe Johnson and I hope he doesn’t get mad with me, but he’s not a $20 million a year guy. Business-wise, Atlanta isn’t making that …

Continue reading Shaq says Joe Johnson’s contract one reason for NBA mess »

Braves are fizzling in a season that has never felt right

Can any more meetings solve the Braves' problems, starting with Derek Lowe?

Can any more meetings solve the Braves' problems, starting with Derek Lowe?

(Updated: 11:40 p.m.)

Maybe it was the raised expectations that followed the Dan Uggla trade, or maybe it was the euphoria of an anticipated lineup with Jason Heyward and Freddie Freeman (the cover of Sports Illustrated!), or maybe it was just the Braves’ return to the playoffs last season that got us all drunk.

But something has been off all season.

Braves general manager Frank Wren said Tuesday, “For most of the season we had the third or fourth best record in baseball, and one of the best pitching staffs.” And that may be true. But there never has been a sense of rhythm to the season. It seems like something always has gone wrong, whether it was Dan Uggla’s half season of whiffs, or Heyward’s post-injury mutant swing, or Martin Prado devolving from all-everything to everything’s-a-struggle, to Derek Lowe — well, let’s not even get started on Derek Lowe — to the injuries to the suddenly mortal …

Continue reading Braves are fizzling in a season that has never felt right »

Braves collapsing, may need another last-day miracle

Dan Uggla consoles closer Craig Kimbrel after the Braves blew a game to Florida.

Dan Uggla consoles closer Craig Kimbrel after the Braves blew a game to Florida.

As much as last season was filled with positive memories for the Braves, their preference was that this year not turn into a repeat.

They didn’t want to have to scramble again to make it in as a wild card. They didn’t want their postseason chances to come down to the final series of the regular season again. They didn’t want to be in a position of having to beat Philadelphia, the best team in baseball, in game No. 162 to make the playoffs. But it may come to that.

The Braves lost at Florida 6-5 Monday night. This time, Omar Infante hit a two-run homer off suddenly fallible closer Craig Kimbrel, as the Braves lost for the eighth time in 11 games. Their National League wild card lead is down to 2½ games lead over St. Louis and 3½ over San Francisco — neither of whom are falling apart like Atlanta (numbers below).

Much like last season, the Braves are dropping engine parts down the stretch and all of …

Continue reading Braves collapsing, may need another last-day miracle »

Ryan leads Falcons and finally takes center stage over Vick

Matt Ryan threw four touchdown passes and led the Falcons to win over Michael Vick and the Eagles. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Matt Ryan threw four touchdown passes and led the Falcons to one of their biggest wins with him as their starting quarterback — over Michael Vick and the Eagles. (Jason Getz/AJC)

When Matt Ryan became a Falcon on draft day in 2008, Michael Vick was sitting in a prison cell at Leavenworth. So there was no ceremonial passing of the torch. Maybe just an easing of Arthur Blank’s headache.

To Ryan, Vick has been only a shadow, a ghost, a name he hears in press conferences. But the reminders have been constant, particularly with Vick’s remarkable rebirth in Philadelphia, and the biggest question going into Sunday night was how Ryan would handle his predecessor’s return.

“To me, having not been here and having not played with him and understanding how difficult it is to play regardless of what the circumstances are in this league, I wouldn’t allow myself to get caught up in it,” Ryan said late Sunday night.

Was it really that easy? Or is this just one of those things where we’ll …

Continue reading Ryan leads Falcons and finally takes center stage over Vick »

LIVE BLOG: It’s Falcons vs. Vick (and the rest of Eagles)

Vick: first start vs. Falcons.

Michael Vick: His first start vs. Falcons.

Ryan: first start vs. Vick

Matt Ryan: His first start opposite Vick.

If I could just make one request before we get started: Let’s be civil. Please.

I don’t like deleting comments. I don’t like banning people from commenting. I certainly don’t like preventing readers from cheering or yelling or venting about their team, the opponent or something that just happened in the game. That’s what having a live blog is all about. But too often in blogs and columns — particularly those involving Michael Vick – emotions cause some readers to jump the rails and I’m forced to take action.

So let’s go over two simple and obvious rules:

1) No profanity. Not even profanity cleverly disguised with asterisks and missing letters or spelled out phonetically. (And, yes, I notice it; and, no, it’s not cute.)

2) No commenting that addresses — even remotely — anything about race. I’m forced to draw a clear line on this because I know from past experience that giving an inch allows …

Continue reading LIVE BLOG: It’s Falcons vs. Vick (and the rest of Eagles) »

Pitt, Syracuse move ACC ahead in college hypocrisy derby

That's the SEC's Mike Slive to left and ACC's John Swofford in middle, as they plot to take over world.

That's SEC's Mike Slive to left and ACC's John Swofford in middle. Each plot to take over world.

Congratulations ACC: You just killed a conference.

Funny. That never was mentioned in the ACC-Syracuse-Pittsburgh teleconference Sunday morning. It was all about patting each other on the back and — let me quote John Swofford directly: “This is a monumental day in the history of our league.”

The Big East? Collateral damage.

The ACC confirmed this morning what had been speculated for a few days: It walked through the back door of the Big East when nobody was looking and the lights were turned out and heisted Syracuse and Pitt from the Big East. And the buildings in college sports Armageddon continue to crumble.

Wake me when college presidents hold their next press conference on the virtues of amateur athletics and academic reform.

After Pacific 10 expansion (with more to come), and impending SEC expansion with Texas A&M (with more to come) and Big Ten expansion (with more to come), …

Continue reading Pitt, Syracuse move ACC ahead in college hypocrisy derby »

Georgia shows signs of life (for those still paying attention)

Tavarres King's second touchdown catch made it 35-0 in second quarter, and rout was on.

Tavarres King's second touchdown catch made the score 35-0, and the rout was on. (Brant Sanderlin/AJC)

ATHENS – It’s best to not get lost in the blur of “what-ifs.”

What if the first opponent was 1-AA roadkill and not a ranked team? What if Georgia had a week to work out flaws before playing Boise State? Or an easy game to prep for South Carolina? Then would they be leading the SEC East today? What if Marcus Lattimore had suddenly declared before last week’s game, “On second thought, I’m going to save my legs for equestrian. Away with you, Mr. Spurrier”?

It’s just not worth it.

Georgia dug a deep hole, and it’s going to be a while before anybody will be able to see light again. The hole didn’t get any deeper Saturday. But otherwise, we saw what we already knew: The Bulldogs are physically superior to Coastal Carolina. They rule over all Chanticleers. Say it loud, say it proud. They led 21-0 after roughly 17 seconds and 38-0 one series into the second half, when all starters …

Continue reading Georgia shows signs of life (for those still paying attention) »