Archive for May, 2012

Rick Sund shouldn’t be making decisions for Hawks

Rick Sund will decide on his future soon, but Hawks should be hiring another decision-maker. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Rick Sund will decide on his future soon, but Hawks should be hiring another decision-maker. (Jason Getz/AJC)

As early as next week, the Hawks will make an announcement on the status of Rick Sund. Maybe he comes back as general manager. Maybe he comes back as team president. Maybe he comes back as consultant, spiritual adviser, GM Emeritus and VP of Deflecting Blame for the Joe Johnson Contract.

Doesn’t really matter what he decides. It’s a problem.

Sund is considering retirement. Do you know what some say when an athlete is considering retirement? He already has checked out. The same belief should apply to coaches and team executives.

In all likelihood, no matter what Sund chooses to do, he will remain with the Hawks through the draft. He still has the downtown office on Marietta Street. He will attend an NBA draft combine this weekend. He will be the Hawks’ executive talking to other general managers about players who potentially might be available in trade.

Sund goes …

Continue reading Rick Sund shouldn’t be making decisions for Hawks »

Braves crumbling at first sign of adversity, just like 2011

Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez may have problems with their team beyond injuries. (Jason Getz/AJC)

Frank Wren and Fredi Gonzalez may have problems beyond team injuries. (Jason Getz/AJC)

The Braves hope this is just about injuries. They hope it’s just about a ground ball freakishly caroming off Chipper Jones’ calf and the fact none of their starting pitchers suddenly can make it through three innings without getting hit on the head with a mallet.

But when a team seemingly crumbles whenever adversity hits, there’s something wrong.

The Braves have gone from the third-best record in baseball (26-16) to losing eight consecutive games, the past five by a combined score of 36-15. Stay calm, say the eternal optimists. It’s a mere hiccup. Maybe. But if this spiral is being magnified, it’s justified.

The slide comes with the backdrop of last season’s unraveling. General manager Frank Wren brought back the same team that went 10-20 in the final stretch in 2011 because he viewed the drain-circling as an aberration. But here we are again, watching players do dumb things in the field, …

Continue reading Braves crumbling at first sign of adversity, just like 2011 »

Braves suddenly lack pitching, defense and a clue

Michael Bourn misplayed this fly ball into a run-scoring triple by Rick Ankiel, one of several lowlights in Braves' loss (AP photo)

Michael Bourn misplayed this fly ball into a run-scoring triple by Rick Ankiel, one of the Braves' several lowlights. (AP photo)

If for a moment we can get past that the Braves currently have too many players who either can’t stand without wobbling (flu) or can’t see straight (blurred vision) or can’t walk without pain from a strained groin or a bruised leg (or “hematoma,” to use Chipper Jones’ new word), this isn’t a difficult problem to figure out.

If the Braves hope to survive this problematic intersection of injuries and batting slumps, they’re going to need two things: pitching and defense.

They received neither Saturday.

For the second game in a row the Braves spotted the Washington Nationals an early 4-0 lead. They scrambled back to tie, but ultimately spontaneously combusted again — like no perceived pennant contender should.

They lost 8-4. That makes six straight. They’ve suddenly tumbled into fourth in the National League East (not that standings are …

Continue reading Braves suddenly lack pitching, defense and a clue »

LIVE: Ailing Braves try to end skid against Strasburg

The Braves will go against Nationals' 23-year-old fireballer Stephen Strasburg today.

The Braves hope to break out of a slump today but will face Washington's young fireballer, Stephen Strasburg (AP photo).

The Braves are not completely devoid of positive signs these days. It’s just that after starting the season 22-13 and beginning to take the form of a wrecking ball, there has been a market correction.

And the question is: How ugly will this get?

Losers of five straight games and faced with the prospects of missing Chipper Jones for another several games, the Braves face the Washington Nationals today (4 p.m.).

Mike Minor (2-4, 6.96) — who allowed four home runs in his last start and generally has been a mess for the past month — will be opposed by Stephen Strasburg (4-1, 2.21). So much for positive foreshadowing.

It’s only late May. The Braves are two games out of first place, and trail

Mike Minor has allowed 31 runs and 11 homers in his last five starts. (Curtis Compton/AJC)

Mike Minor has allowed 31 runs and 11 homers in his last five starts. (Curtis Compton/ccompton@ajc.com)

a team (Nationals) who don’t exactly have a resume of Octobers behind …

Continue reading LIVE: Ailing Braves try to end skid against Strasburg »

Chipper Jones goes on DL — can Braves win without him?

Chipper Jones has missed six starts since getting by a ground ball. (AP photo)

Chipper Jones missed his seventh straight start with calf injury suffered at Tampa Bay.

(Updated: 11:31 p.m.)

When the Braves returned home Friday night, they didn’t have the usual look of a team just one game out of first place.

Their egos: dented from being swept in a four-game series for the first time in three years. Chipper Jones’ left calf: a blistered-and-blood-engorged mess from taking a missile of a grounder just above the ankle. Freddie Freeman: still unsure whether to go with the new prescription goggles or new contacts for the dry eyes that caused blurry vision. Brian McCann and Matt Diaz: fluish (although Diaz strangely felt comforted that he was now coughing up “red and green” mucus).

But near the end of May, despite a five-game losing streak, the arrow still generally points north for a team that played 29 of its first 46 games on the road — except for one significant area. They’re not giving much of an impression they can win without Chipper …

Continue reading Chipper Jones goes on DL — can Braves win without him? »

Mark Richt’s pay tied to incentives, as it should be

Mark Richt will need to have a high degree of success to increase his paycheck at Georgia. (AP photo)

Mark Richt will need to have a high degree of success to increase his paycheck at Georgia. (AP photo)

Mark Richt won 10 straight games last season, brought Georgia to the SEC championship for the first time in six years and generally allayed fears that the football program was starting to circle the drain.

But he is not going to get a raise, and that pretty much indicates where the bar has been set in Athens.

Richt’s contract extension is still not finalized. It unofficially has been stuck on “almost finished” longer than any document in American history.

The most intriguing part of the new deal won’t be contract length but the amount of Richt’s buyout, which is the best indicator of somebody’s job security. (It’s much easier to fire a coach with a $2 million buyout than a $10 million buyout.)  But athletic director Greg McGarity confirmed Thursday that Richt won’t be receiving a raise in the new deal.

Speaking to the UGA’s athletic board at annual meetings in Greensboro, …

Continue reading Mark Richt’s pay tied to incentives, as it should be »

Betting windows open: Nevada says Falcons miss playoffs

These two quarterbacks had far different fates in the playoffs last season. (AP photo)

These two quarterbacks had far different fates in the playoffs last season. (AP photo)

When the betting windows opened Wednesday morning, it was clear the wise guys didn’t think much of the Falcons.

Cantor Gaming was the first Nevada bookmaker to release over/under win totals for the upcoming NFL season (via Covers.com). Neither the leaders (Green Bay and New England at 12 wins) nor the bottom-feeders (Cleveland, Indianapolis and Jacksonville at 5.5 wins) were surprising.

The Falcons’ over/under opened at nine wins, which equates to a 9-7 record (barring ties). If you’re wondering how that breaks down with the rest of Cantor’s projections, that means they would miss the playoffs, finishing behind New Orleans (10 wins) in the NFC South, and the New York Giants and Detroit (9.5) in the wild card race.

Now, this is where we remind you that betting lines aren’t meant to be predictions but rather enticements to get an even amount of money wagered on both sides. So it’s basically a …

Continue reading Betting windows open: Nevada says Falcons miss playoffs »

Goodell not fazed by Vilma’s lawsuit, Saints’ blather

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell isn't concerned about Jonathan Vilma's lawsuit. (AP photo)

NFL commissioner Roger Goodell isn't concerned about Jonathan Vilma's lawsuit. (AP photo)

Troy Vincent heard it from coaches since his days in youth football.

“Tough it out! Get up! Suck it up!’ — but those days are over,” the former NFL safety said Tuesday. “Was that the right thing to do? No. But that’s the way we were taught.”

The NFL, facing player-safety issues and a blur of concussion-litigation lawsuits, potentially could be on the verge of sweeping changes. But the biggest obstacle may be changing mindsets. Players, coaches and owners are driven to win, CAT-scans and EEGs be damned. This is a $9 billion league. A team’s season: 16 games. Evidence of possible post-career brain damage notwithstanding, does anybody really believe a player is not going to stumble back to the huddle even if he feels a little loopy?

Does it seem fathomable that players, not the most stable bunch when it comes to job security, would be willing to sit out games?

“That’s the …

Continue reading Goodell not fazed by Vilma’s lawsuit, Saints’ blather »

Does Dwight Howard’s baggage outweigh his talent?

Howard (AP photo)

When it came to survival, Stan Van Gundy should've known he wasn't going to win a battle with Dwight Howard. (AP photo)

Last November, I proposed a trade for the Hawks: Deal any two players on their roster for Dwight Howard.

Joe Johnson and Josh Smith. Josh Smith and Al Horford. Johnson and Al Horford. Marvin Williams, several Mediterranean islands and the undying gratitude of every Atlanta resident.

But given what just occurred, I’m wondering how much better off the Hawks would be in the long run with such a diva on the roster.

The Orlando Magic, in an expected move, fired coach Stan Van Gundy, ostensibly because Howard wanted him out. Even before Van Gundy went public late in the season that Howard was trying to get him fired, it was clear the two were in an unworkable situation.

Ownership knows firing their coach and general manager (Otis Smith) won’t lose them any ticket sales. Losing Howard would. So this was an easy choice. Of course, if Howard leaves any way, they will …

Continue reading Does Dwight Howard’s baggage outweigh his talent? »

Ex-players more worried about concussions than current ones

Jamal Anderson never was opposed to physical contact as a running back. (AP photo)

Jamal Anderson never was opposed to physical contact as a running back. (AP photo)

If football were all about the foot and the ball, we wouldn’t be here.

Defensive ends wouldn’t resemble 18-wheelers on the road to mayhem. Offensive linemen wouldn’t look for somebody to pancake on a screen play. Borderline psychos wouldn’t dangle $10,000 bounties as a means of motivation.

We’re here because football isn’t about merely the foot and the ball. It’s about collisions and who wins them. It’s about blocking and tackling and the ugliness, pain and too often the tragedy that goes with it. The NFL is facing 76 concussion-related lawsuits involving more than 2,150 former players. The numbers will continue to go up, and it’s not a stretch to suggest that how all of the cases are resolved could impact the league and the game like no issue before it.

The avalanche of litigation was a long time coming. We, the viewing public, have tended to minimize or completely ignore the …

Continue reading Ex-players more worried about concussions than current ones »