Archive for March, 2009

Bradley’s Buzz: Would Evander be the real deal for Falcons?

Gettin’ Ziggy with it?

Having monitored mock drafts closely the past few months, I can report that not much surprises me. I know most of the names, and I have some notion as to where they’re supposed to go. But Pat Kirwan of NFL.com stumped the Buzz band in his latest mock by throwing out a name — and it’s a good name — as the Falcons’ No. 1 pick.

He’s Evander Hood, a defensive tackle from Missouri. His nickname is Ziggy. (Me, I don’t know why a guy named Evander would need a nickname, but that’s just me.) As NFL.com’s scouting report notes, Ziggy had a tepid senior season. But he had a good Senior Bowl and an even better pro day, according to Frank Cooney’s NFL Draft Scout, and of such things are 24th overall picks sometimes made.

OK, so you’re asking: Why Ziggy? Dave Henry of Amarillo.com — Hood is from Amarillo, which rhymes with “pillow,” sort of — writes that Hood’s grandmother dubbed him that because he reminded her of the pillowy comic-strip character. This apparently …

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Caution: There’s a dangerous basketball team at work

This isn’t a great team, but we’ve known that all along. What we now know is that it’s again a dangerous team. Indeed, these Hawks are more dangerous than they were a year ago, when all they did was force the champs-to-be to a Game 7.

You wouldn’t bet on the Hawks to win the NBA title, but you wouldn’t want to face them, either. All the elements that fueled last spring’s run are still in place, with this bonus: They now know what the postseason entails, whereas last season’s team was flying blind.

“We’re more dangerous now,” Josh Smith said Sunday. “We have more experience. We’ve been in the playoffs.”

Smith spoke after a game in which he, Joe Johnson and Al Horford combined to score eight baskets, and still he wore a winner’s glow. The Hawks had beaten the NBA’s second-best team by 10 points, and beating the Lakers to close a nine-day stretch that included losses to Cleveland, San Antonio and those infernal Celtics was more than a tonic. It was a signal flare.

There’s a …

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Georgia-Florida in the Dome? Great idea. Won’t happen.

The Atlanta Sports Council wants to move the world’s largest outdoor cocktail party indoors. Once every four years, the Georgia Dome would play host to the Georgia-Florida game. It’s a great idea. It’ll never happen.

It’ll never happen for a reason that might sound downright weird to those on the periphery: Georgia fans love going to Jacksonville. Even when the Bulldogs are losing – and they’ve lost to Florida 16 of the past 19 seasons – it’s a bigger event for Georgia folks than for Florida people. Not a bigger game, but a bigger event.

Gator supporters can drive into town on that given Saturday and don’t even require a hotel with its jacked-up rates and two-night minimum. Georgia fans will pay whatever it costs because it’s simply part of being a Georgia fan. Said Jeff Dantzler, who hosts a talk show in Athens: “It’s like a bowl game in the middle of the year.”

When word of the Sports Council’s interest in bidding for the game began to circulate last weekend (via a report in …

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The Braves are springing forward, but does it matter?

They’re exhibitions. They don’t really count. Except sometimes they do, kind of, and the Braves are hoping this is such a time.

“It makes for a good camp when you’re winning games,” Bobby Cox said Sunday, speaking on the bus ride back from Port St. Lucie, where his team had lost to the Mets. It marked only fifth time in 21 games the 2009 Braves had been beaten, and the first time all spring, according to Cox, his guys hadn’t pitched well. “One bad inning,” he said, sounding in midseason form.

Even Cox, who could find a rainbow in a sump pump, wouldn’t try to overstate the value of exhibition games. “Spring training is to get everyone in shape,” he said, not ready to take 16-5 as a predictor of impending majesty. And it didn’t matter whether the old Braves were 16-5 or 5-16 in Florida — they knew they knew how to win. But these are not the old Braves.

The old Braves never lost 90 for-real games. (We have to go back to the really old Braves of 1990 for …

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Bradley’s Buzz: Making a mock(ery) of the NFL draft

I shouldn’t complain, given that Buzz in the spring would be a 50-word weekly brief if it weren’t for the NFL draft. But you know matters have gotten a little squirrelly, as we say along Pit Road, when CBSsports.com gives us four mocks for a draft that’s still a month away.

But this doesn’t give CBSsports.com sole possession of first place in the heated race for most mocks. NFL.com also has four, including one from esteemed former colleague Steve Wyche and another from semi-esteemed — I’m kidding; he’s a fine fellow — former Falcon Jamie Dukes. And here’s a video top 10 from Charles Davis.

All this blather would be a tad more intriguing if the draft hadn’t crystallized last Thursday, when Georgia held its pro day in Athens. As Charles Robinson writes on Yahoo! Sports, Matthew Stafford is the clear favorite to go No. 1 overall. And the aforementioned EFC Steve Wyche believes Detroit’s choice is now obvious. (Pat Kirwan of NFL.com disagrees, putting Stafford No. 4 in his mock, …

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Enough already, Bulldogs: Hire Anthony Grant now!

If I’m Damon Evans, I’ve seen enough. I’m on a plane to Richmond today, and I’m scheduling the news conference for Monday, wherein I will introduce Anthony Grant as Georgia’s new basketball coach.

Do I think it will work that way? Nope. I’m guessing the athletics director will feel obliged to conduct what he deems a more “thorough” search. But Evans has had two months now to assess the field, and he’ll not find anyone better suited.

Anthony Grant knows the SEC, having worked under Billy Donovan at Florida. He knows how to recruit, having helped land the signing class — the “Oh-Fours,” those Gators called themselves — that would win consecutive national championships. And he knows how to win on his own, having gone off and done just that.

At Virginia Commonwealth, Grant has taken two Colonial titles and reached the NCAA tournament twice in three seasons. The time he missed, his team was the top seed and lost in the conference semis by two points. If …

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Live from Vinings Estates: The 2009 NCAA tournament!

My view of the proceedings. Note handsome pedicure. (Amateur photo by M. Bradley)

My view of the proceedings. Note handsome pedicure. (Amateur photo by M. Bradley)

Yes, it feels strange. Every year since 1980, I’ve either been covering first-round games or en route to cover first-round games on this Thursday, and this time I’m not. Due to budgetary considerations — me, I blame it all on AIG — I won’t be attending the 2009 NCAA tournament. On the one hand, I’m a tad sad. On the other, I’m sort of excited because …

I get to do what normal folks do, which is sit around watching games all day. I’ve totally forgotten how that works. I can tell you about my cruddy motel (yes, motel) in Evansville, Ind., or how it feels to commute between first-round sites, which I’ve done a half-dozen times, or the ice storm in Syracuse or the time Billy Packer snapped at me — he called me “fella” — at the Georgia Dome, but I have no real memory of how it feels to stay home in front of the TV.

Being all about interactivity, I will share my personal observations — at an NCAA …

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Gwinnett’s hopes for Hanson are tempered by reality

A relocated minor-league team is about to open in a major-league market at a time of economic uncertainty. Does that team, Bruce Baldwin was asked, spend its days and nights praying the ballyhooed pitcher Tommy Hanson winds up the 26th guy on the Atlanta Braves’ 25-man roster?

“No,” said Baldwin, the general manager of the brand new Gwinnett Braves. “I read what a great talent and a great young man he is, and I hope he is able to serve the Braves and himself in the way that will be best for them and for his career.”

OK. Enough boilerplate. Baldwin again: “Would I like to see him [in Gwinnett]? Absolutely.”

The G-Braves will start their inaugural season with eight road dates. They’ll christen their new stadium April 17. (Baldwin: “First pitch is at 7 p.m. Gates open at 4:30.”) Having the most heralded Braves pitching prospect since Steve Avery on the hill that Friday would be the sweetest reality possible, but Baldwin, who spent 22 seasons as GM of the …

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Bradley’s Buzz: Hewitt delivers least bang for big bucks

Big contract, smallish results

It has been this correspondent’s contention that Georgia Tech coach Paul Hewitt has underperformed for five consecutive seasons. In three of those he has finished with a losing record, and in the other two — 2004-2005, when the Jackets returned four starters from a Final Four team, and 2006-2007, when Tech had four future NBA players on the squad — he manged to lose 12 games each time. But now Matthew Futterman of the Wall Street Journal has gotten all analytical and determined that, lo and behold, Hewitt is the most overpaid coach in college basketball.

Futterman measures a coach’s contract — Hewitt makes $1.3 million — against his team’s annual RPI to ascertain that the Institute is paying its coach $288,888 for what he calls “each [rating] point beyond the threshold of mediocrity.” Futterman writes that Hewitt declined a request to comment, but Tech publicist Mike Stamus writes in an e-mail that,”Matthew asked to speak either to Dan …

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The 2009 Final Four Fiasco: Mark the writer marks the Cards

The 22nd annual Final Four Fiasco begins with a declaration: Even though I myself am a Kentucky alum, I grew up a Louisville fan because my dad was a graduate of U of L’s dental school. Since there were a grand total of four Louisville backers in Maysville, Ky. — Dad and Mom and my brother and me — we learned to keep a low profile. But we rooted in our own stealthy way.

There were times early in my professional life, such as it is, that adhering to the rule of no cheering in the press box came harder, but in this past decade I can honestly say I’ve gotten so old and jaded I really don’t pull for anything except fast games. So please believe me when I say this is coming from the head and not the heart:

Louisville’s going to win it all.

When this season began I never thought I’d be picking anyone but North Carolina. I figured these Heels would be the greatest team since (another Bluegrass reference) the 1996 Kentucky Wildcats if not the 1976 Indiana Hoosiers. But they haven’t …

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