Archive for April, 2009

Game 5: The Hawks prove they’re too good for these guys

The wonder isn’t that the Hawks have again taken a series lead. The wonder is that they were ever behind. They’re so much better than the Heat it isn’t funny. And they won’t be laughing if Sunday arrives and they’re back here trying to close this out in a Game 7. This one should end Friday night in Miami.

We know the Hawks can play. What we need is for them to prove they can finish, that they can actually win a best-of-seven series, that they can dispose of a demonstrably lesser opponent and commence with the serious business of chasing LeBron.

The Hawks showed their steel in a first half Wednesday of hard fouls and key injuries, and when intermission arrived they led by 23 points. (They would win by 15.) Said Flip Murray, who scored 23 points and steered the Hawks through the choppy second half: “The game got physical, but I liked the way we kept our composure.”

A year ago in Boston, the Hawks couldn’t do that. Four times the Celtics hit them in the collective mouth, and four …

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Live from Game 5: We’ve got Spirit … uh, no, we don’t

Weird series. The Hawks win by 26 and lose by 29. The Heat win by 15 on the road but lose by 10 at home. Joe Johnson underwhelms. Dwyane Wade hurts his back. Marvin Williams hurts his wrist. Zaza Pachulia cements his reputation as the greatest playoff performer since Jim Leyritz. James Jones has two four-point plays in the span of 11 seconds, and still his team loses by double figures.

And me, I’m corresponding with a bird.

As some of you know, Spirit the Hawk, who went rogue at the start of Game 2, has pecked out a presence on Twitter. (He’s SpirittheHawk, if you care to follow.) Via this online mechanism, he and I — I’m told Spirit is indeed a “he” — have established a dialogue.

It began Friday. Spirit tweeted me at 9:43 a.m. — that’s verb of choice for Twitter — saying, “Keep hope alive. Look for me in Game 5.”

Given that Spirit’s pregame flights have been grounded by Hawks management, I wasn’t exactly where and when I should look. So I tried, politely, to dig. On Monday I …

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Bradley’s Buzz: “The Falcons select Terrence Cody”

After the draft, more draft!

Before we take our leave of the 2009 NFL draft, we look ahead to the 2010 edition. Andrew Perloff of SI.com has been kind enough to do a mock for next year and, while it’s way too soon to take such things overly seriously, a mock draft is always fun to scan. And Perloff has the Falcons, who just took a big defensive tackle from the SEC West in Round 1, taking an even bigger one 12 months hence.

He’s Terrence Cody of Alabama, also known as Mount Cody. (He weighs 365 pounds, or thereabouts.) It’s also interesting that Perloff has the Falcons, who drafted 24th overall this time, picking 16th in 2010, which would seem to indicate he foresees some slippage in the 2009 season. Feel free to disagree. But, as you’re griping, take note of these names:

  • Sam Bradford, the Heisman holder from Oklahoma, goes No. 1 overall;
  • Eric Berry, the Tennessee safety, goes No. 2;
  • Tim Tebow, who plays for some school (I forget which) goes 13th;
  • Jonathan Dwyer, the Georgia …

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Bradley’s Buzz: Post-draft grades show B’s for TD the GM

Draft grades! Get your draft grades right here!

They’re as much a part of the NFL draft as Chris Berman’s forced jocularity and Mel Kiper’s gelled follicles — the post-draft grades, I mean. And here, without further ado, we go.

On CBSsports.com, Pete Prisco gives the Falcons a B-plus. He likes the Peria Jerry pick — hey, who didn’t? — and thinks defensive end Lawrence Sidbury could be a Round 4 sleeper. Prisco does, however, wonder about the choice of William Moore in Round 2.

Writing for USA Today, Larry Weisman bestows a solid B on the Birds. Weisman applauds the Tony Gonzalez trade, the selections of Jerry and Sidbury but wonders if third-rounder Chris Owens will be any more than a nickel back. And you’ll never guess what grade Clifton Brown of Sporting News Today assesses this Falcons’ draft class. Or how Charles Robinson of Yahoo! Sports rates this crop.

More Prisco? You got it. He called Jerry’s selection “a great pick,” likening him to Warren Sapp, and gave the choice …

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The new Falcons: They’re real simple and really smart

Say this for the newfangled Falcons: They don’t lie. They tell you what they plan to do, and then they do it. On the day Mike Smith became their coach, he said he wanted to run the ball and to stop the run. Last season his team managed half that. Round 1 of the 2009 draft was the first step toward getting the other half right.

“You want someone who can create double-teams and unblocked situations,” Smith said Saturday, and in Peria – pronounced Per-RAY – Jerry, they believe they’ve found a newer and better and (slightly) sleeker Grady Jackson. And we on the periphery have no reason to doubt them. They’ve gotten pretty good at this talent-identification thing.

Already the Falcons are better than they were when they walked off in the field in Glendale, Ariz. They have a Pro Bowl tight end who will make a good offense better still, and now they have a defensive anchor.

There can be no real quibbles with this pick. (Not even from this observer, who favored Evander …

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Live from Flowery Branch: Stafford, Ziggy and the NFL draft!

Flowery Branch — A declaration: I wouldn’t have taken Matthew Stafford No. 1 overall. I say this as someone who saw his first collegiate pass (against Western Kentucky) and his last (against Michigan State) and several hundred in between. He’s a great talent, but I don’t think he’ll be a great NFL quarterback.

I thought he was a very good college quarterback, and there’s no doubt he fits the NFL prototype as well as anyone ever has — he’s smart, he’s tall and he has, as the world knows, that big right arm. My reservations have nothing to do with anything physical. My reservations regard attitude.

I see Stafford as a guy who too often tried to get by on the strength of that big arm and who threw too many killing interceptions as a consequence. (See Florida, 2008.) I see a quarterback who wasn’t so much a team leader as a solo act. More to the point, I’ve never seen in Stafford the attention to detail that you get with Peyton Manning or Tom Brady or, yes, Matt Ryan.

Not long ago …

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Thomas Dimitroff: The man with the plan, at long last

In the way the best quarterbacks see the whole field, Thomas Dimitroff, who’s the son of a quarterback, grasps the big picture. And when have we been able to say that of the man charged with hiring players for the long-suffering Falcons?

At 4:42 p.m. Thursday, someone named Ray posted this on an ajc.com blog: “It sure feels good to know you’ve got one of the best GMs in the game. [It] kind of feels like the Braves’ moves of the ’90s. You always figured JS [John Schuerholz] would make the best moves for the Braves. Now we’ve got that for the Falcons.”

This came barely an hour after the Falcons consummated a trade with Kansas City for the Pro Bowl tight end Tony Gonzalez. At 33, Gonzalez isn’t what he was, but he’s way better than anything the Falcons had. And, by parting only with a Round 2 pick in next year’s draft, Dimitroff has cleared the path to do what he intended all along.

Since the 2008 draft was completed, 2009 had been earmarked for defense. …

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A special Bradley’s Buzz: All-draft edition with T. Gonzalez!

Late-breaking update: The Falcons have a tight end!

And he isn’t Brandon Pettigrew. He’s Tony Gonzalez, the 10-time Pro Bowler. Per esteemed AJC colleague D. Orlando Ledbetter, the Falcons have acquired Gonzalez from Kansas City for a second-round draft pick in 2010.

This does two things: First, it enables the Falcons to go hog-wild in the pursuit of defense over the weekend, and second, it pretty well cements the bond between Falcons general manager Thomas Dimitroff and his Kansas City counterpart Scott Pioli, who used to be Dimitroff’s boss in New England.

Me, I’d call it a win-win for the local club, which gets its tight end and still keeps all its picks in this draft. But maybe that’s just me.

“In Round 4, the Atlanta Falcons select …”

I said I wasn’t going to do it, but I did it anyway. And you know why I did it? For you, Buzz readers! So you’ll be able to feel clever come Sunday afternoon when the Falcons take the legendary Fenuki Tupou and your friends say, “Never heard …

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Bradley’s Buzz: Fire Woodson? Hey, only I get to write that!

Hands off my man Woody!

In my capacity as outside observer, I’ve fired Mike Woodson more often than George Steinbrenner canned Billy Martin. I count at least four times I’ve done the (theoretical) deed, including this rant of February 2008, and even after the epic Celtics series I offered this vote of non-confidence. But here’s where I rally to my punching bag’s defense.

Writing for SI.com, Chris Mannix contends Woodson remains on the ol’ hot seat even after leading the Hawks to the East’s No. 4 seed, and I don’t believe that’s the case. Rick Sund, the general manager these past 11 months, has said repeatedly that his goal for his new team was to return to the playoffs with a better record, and Woodson has more than managed that. The Hawks improved 10 games without adding a starter. (Indeed, they lost sixth man Josh Childress to Greece.)

There were many times over Woodson’s first four seasons when I didn’t feel he was the man for this team, but I don’t feel that way now. Yes, …

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Game 1: The Hawks defend their floor, use Miami as a mop

If Mike Woodson said it once this regular season, he said it 82 times: “We want to get back to the playoffs and have the homecourt this time.” Having worked six months to accomplish one mission, Woodson’s Hawks embarked on another Sunday night.

They didn’t just defend their floor. They overwhelmed Miami in a way a No. 5 seed isn’t often overwhelmed. They led by 20 points at the half and 26 at the end. They reduced Dwyane Wade’s team to D-Wade and the Nobodies. The Hawks had 59 points after two quarters. The Heat were stuck on 59 with three minutes to play.

If we weren’t still acclimatizing ourselves to the notion of the Hawks being good, we’d be getting really excited right about now. But we’re Atlantans, and it takes us a while. There were empty seats at Philips Arena for Game 1, and while there are easy explanations – it was a school night, and the economy isn’t in the pink – it still seemed a shame. This is a good-looking and hard-working and …

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