Archive for January, 2012

Dwight Howard’s diva tendencies are not a good sign

The Orlando Magic have lost for straight and Dwight Howard looks like he already has checked out. (AP photo)

Orlando has lost four straight and Dwight Howard looks like he has checked out, which can't please coach Stan Van Gundy. (AP photo)

Dwight Howard is good. Really good. He is one of the five best players in the world. He is the best center in the world. He is so good that he is in that special I-only-need-one-damn-name-because-THAT’S-how-good-I-am category. (Others: LeBron, Kobe, Dwyane.)

But here’s another thing about Dwight Howard, superstar, Olympian, Atlanta native, solid citizen, blahblahblah: He has jumped the rails. He can – and almost certainly will – opt out of his contract with the Orlando Magic following this season, assuming the team doesn’t trade him before that happens.

The Magic should have dealt Howard before the season. They have not handled this situation well, and now the Magic appear in the midst of an early-season crumble, having lost four straight and six of eight. But there’s one person who looks worse than anybody in the Orlando front office …

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Countdown: Super ads, PETA’s wings, Saban’s job offer?

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Now on Stage 3, at the Super Bowl . . .

If this was Pledge of Allegiance, Janet would have right hand over her heart, not left hand over … you know.

Like most people in the regular and underworlds, The Count likes the Super Bowl, not for the game but for the food and the commercials, and that rare occasion when the the NFL halftime show morphs into a night at the “Club Hubba Hubba,” less for the split-second look at part of one of Janet Jackson’s breastacles (I saw it! I saw it!) but because it looked like somebody had just connected jumper cables to the toes of then-commissioner Paul Tagliabue, who said, “We were extremely disappointed by the MTV-produced halftime show. The show was offensive, inappropriate and embarrassing to us and our fans.” After which the league showed more commercials to help you get drunk and correct erectile dysfunction. (”Daddy, why did mommy laugh at the Viagra commercial?”) Any way, this is Super Bowl week, and that means more new commercials and hopefully nothing to surprising at …

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Fredi Gonzalez says Braves’ autopsy over — he’s moving on

It took a while for Fredi Gonzalez to let go of last season's collapse. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

It took a while for Fredi Gonzalez to let go of last season's collapse. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Four months after the last game, the last loss, the 20th loss in 30 games, it still doesn’t make sense. Players get hurt. Players slump. But does one get one’s mind around the worst collapse in franchise history and one of the worst ever in sports?

“You go over it in your mind a million times. You ask yourself, ‘Is there something I could have done better?’” Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez said. “After a while, it drives you crazy. This is really the first time I’ve talked about this, although I’m sure I’ll be asked 200 times at spring training. But we tried things. We had meetings. We had meetings for everything. We had meetings to decide about meetings. After a while it’s like, ‘How many times can I perform an autopsy?’”

Four months after the last game, the last loss, the spiral that crushed a team and its fan base, Gonzalez is going to struggle to convince …

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Board of Regents can’t alter immigration policy for one Bulldog

Chester Brown (left) showed up at "Dawg Night," a summer camp for elite prospects and was offered a scholarship on the spot. But his dream has been derailed by the state's immigration policy regarding undocumented students.

Georgia recruit Chester Brown (left) had scholarship hopes derailed by the state's policy on illegal immigrants and undocumented students. (Photo by 247Sports.com)

Don Balfour picked up the phone and said the first thing that you would expect when a Georgia state senator gets a phone call from a sportswriter.

“I don’t normally talk to sportswriters,” he said.

To which I responded that I don’t normally talk to politicians, unless you count commissioners, owners, general managers, coaches, some athletes, their agents, public-relations directors … on second thought, never mind.

Sports and politics overlapped this week. Chester Brown, a 6-foot-5, 340-pound mountain of a teenager, was forced to withdraw his  commitment to the Georgia football team because of an immigration issue.

This is where things get kind of screwy. Brown is the son of Samoan immigrants. His mother says Brown was born in the United States, not Samoa, and is a citizen, but the family apparently …

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Falcons questions: Fixing five mistakes starts with Sam Baker

(Curtis Compton/AJC)

Thomas Dimitroff, Arthur Blank and Mike Smith face tough decisions. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

(This is the second in a series of blogs on some Falcons’ high-profile veterans and their uncertain futures with the team.)

Last week in the opener of this cyber mini-series, I looked at the possibility of the Falcons parting ways with Michael Turner, who despite finishing third in the NFL in rushing this season was showing signs of wear and might not be worth the $5 million in salary he is due next season. It stirred a lot of debate and, honestly, I was surprised by how many folks wanted him traded or cut.

Today, I’m focusing on five mistakes (or generally perceived ones). Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff hasn’t made a lot of them, but there are five high-profile ones (actually, four by Dimitroff and one by then-general manager Rich McKay). Dimitroff didn’t ask for my advice, but hey, I’m not charging or anything. This time, I’ll have a series of polls so you can weigh in with …

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This wasn’t the time for Georgia to face No. 1 Kentucky

The Bulldogs had no answer for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 points, 11 rebounds) and No. 1 Kentucky, losing 57-44. (AP photo)

The Bulldogs had no answer for Michael Kidd-Gilchrist (14 points, 11 rebounds) and No. 1 Kentucky, losing 57-44. (AP photo)

(UPDATED: 11:20 p.m.)

ATHENS – In his second season on the campus-that-doesn’t-hold-bonfires-for-basketball, Mark Fox led Georgia to a winning conference record, an NCAA tournament berth and its first 20-plus win season in nine years – or 15 years, depending on if you factor in the grease stain left by Jim Harrick (NCAA probation, vacated victories, shame).

Fox has been, by any measure, an immediate success. The fact that Georgia was struggling this season entering Tuesday night’s game against No. 1 Kentucky should not have led to some catastrophic conclusion. Like, say, “Agggh! Ron Jirsa!”

“I think the educated fans and media members can look at us and know what we’ve lost,” Fox said. “But I have no issues with the way we’re going about things on the court. We have no academic issues. We have no social [off court] issues. When I …

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Countdown: Blank scoreboards, Bear’s plot, lingerie football! (UPDATED)

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The Count knows about budget cutbacks.

The Count hates budget cutbacks.

(11:40 a.m. Updated below with comments from Bob Williams about plans for new scoreboards after the season.)

Hello. With football season about over, our resident mathematician and mocker, Count Von Count, has returned to this cyber-page for periodic appearances. (Periodic is defined as: “Are there enough items this week? Am I hungry? Is there something else to do? What’s on TV? Oh look, the couch.) Anyway, We’re trying to spiff up these page a little bit — note, the Chalkboard borrowed from Weekend Predictions, Inc. — but we’ve been given a limited budget. Everybody is cutting back. Employees. Payroll. Fat grams. The Count hates cutbacks. Mrs. Count keeps trying to get him to switch to low-cholesterol plasma, but, sorry, it just doesn’t taste the same. More cutbacks: The Count has been to a few Hawks games this season and noticed something: Several scoreboards at Philips Arena are turned off. Did somebody pull a plug? Did something break? Was …

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Poll time: Whom do you hate less, Giants or Patriots?

Tom Brady (3 Super Bowl rings). Eli Manning (one Super Bowl ring, better guy).

Tom Brady (3 Super Bowl rings). Eli Manning (one Super Bowl ring, better guy).

The fact the New York Giants and New England Patriots will meet in the Super Bowl has one obvious bright side for the rest of the sports world: In two weeks, either New York or Boston sports fans are going to be miserable.

Giants vs. Patriots. Really? We have to pick?

Is there a sentimental favorite here?

OK, here’s my list of factors. And there’s a poll to the left and space below for you to weigh in on your choice.

Which team are you pulling for in the Super Bowl?

  • New York Giants.
  • New England Patriots.
  • I can’t stomach either winning

View Results

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• Fans: New York is tied for having the most obnoxious pro sports fans in the nation. It is tied with Boston. But for some reason when Boston teams go down, it’s just funnier. I mean, not that the Red Sox going down in flames last season made up for the Braves doing the same. But it was close. Likeability edge: …

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Scholarship guarantees, early signing would curb oversigning

An early-signing period would've prevented Justin Taylor's disappearing scholarship. (AP photo)

An early signing period would've prevented Justin Taylor's disappearing scholarship. (AP photo)

One week after leading Alabama to its second BCS title in three seasons, Nick Saban reaffirmed that his commitment to winning isn’t necessarily rooted in a commitment to doing things the right way.

Saban informed Justin Taylor,  a North Atlanta High School running back, that he was yanking his scholarship offer from 11 months ago. Eleven months ago. Never mind that Taylor was the seventh oral commitment for Alabama’s 2012 class. Nor that he was a good kid, a terrific player and hadn’t once screamed, “War Eagle!” This is the ugly side of college football that coaches hide between the disingenuous, “Don’t worry, momma, I’ll take care of your boy,” speeches.

The substance of a coach’s word morphs from oak to oatmeal when he finds a faster, stronger player.

This is a form of “oversigning” (or in this case overcommitting) in recruiting, a reprehensible practice we’ve banged on several …

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Falcons’ question No. 1: Should Michael Turner be kept? (UPDATED)

Falcons may need to sacrifice Michael Turner to fill other needs. (AP photo)

The Falcons may need to sacrifice running back Michael Turner to fill other needs. (AP photo)

(UPDATED)

(This is the first in a series of blogs in which I’ll  focus on some high-profile Falcons’ veterans and their respective uncertain future with the team.)

The Falcons need some fixes. They’re not a wreck. (Wrecks don’t make the playoffs in three out of four seasons.) But they have problems — offensive line, secondary and defensive line, for starters. They may need to fill holes during free agency, and that means they’ll need to create salary space. Some players will have to go.

Which brings me to Michael Turner.

This should not be taken as the start of a “Dump Michael Turner” movement. The guy finished third in the NFL in rushing with 1,340 yards. But the question of whether to keep him, cut him or trade him (if possible) for a mid-round draft pick is a legitimate one.

Because the Falcons don’t have first- or fourth-round picks this year (see: Julio Jones trade), they …

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