Archive for May, 2009

Audience-participation time! Submit questions for Rick Sund!

Dear readers:

I plan to speak with Hawks general manager Rick Sund tomorrow morning. (He’s a fine fellow, by the way, and a great conversationalist. Not that you asked. But I thought I’d throw that in.) And I kind of know what I want to ask: What’s he going to do this offseason? Keep Bibby? Keep Marvin? Trade for Kobe?

But I’m only one person, and a flawed one at that, and I might miss something. So I’m asking for your help. If you have a question for Mr. Sund, please submit it below. I’m not promising I’ll get around to all of them, but I’ll try to work in a few. So have at it, and please keep them clean.

Thanks in advance.

M. Bradley, interactive hack

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Tim Hudson: The hidden key to the whole Braves’ season?

The Braves have played a bit more than one-fifth of the season, and they’re a game below .500. That’s where they should be, give or take. They’ve looked like an average team: They’re eighth among 16 National League clubs in hitting, seventh in pitching, ninth in fielding.

Being average over the long haul doesn’t seem such an appetizing proposition, but there’s no guarantee these guys will stay that way. They could get worse, sure. But they could, if they can just hang around for a couple of more months, get a lot better in a hurry.

The Braves entered Monday night’s game 2 ½ games out of first place, which is a major blessing. (Then they mustered five singles and one run — that on a double-play grounder — against Jason Marquis and Huston Street and lost to the Rockies.) Neither the Mets nor the Phillies caught a rolling start, and the Marlins have already nose-dived. There’s no reason to think this pitch-and-putt offense can subsist over the full six months, but what if this …

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Bradley’s Buzz: Another young arm for the Atlanta Braves?

Baseball 101: You can’t have enough pitching

Kris Medlen is on his way and Tommy Hanson will be here soon enough, and if Keith Law of ESPN.com’s Scouts Inc. is correct, the Braves could add another prized young arm (link requires registration) in the June draft.

Writes Law: “Consensus has Atlanta taking local prep star Zack Wheeler, but the Braves had a huge contingent in to see him during arguably his only bad start of the spring [last week]. They would love to find a bat at No. 7, but that player isn’t there this year.”

Wheeler plays for the East Paulding Raiders, who face Lowndes in the Class AAAAA quarterfinals Tuesday. According to the Scouts Inc. report (requires registration), he’s a “tall, loosed-armed right-handed pitcher who’s a lock to go in the first round.” He stands 6-foot-4 and throws as hard as 96 mph and has a “slurve” (combo slider/curveball).

Here’s a Law post that contains video of Wheeler working (requires registration), and if you listen close you can …

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Former Tech QB Donnie Davis is finishing what he started

Donnie Davis hated Georgia Tech. He wouldn’t go to a game, wouldn’t set foot on campus. Whenever he drove past – and living in Atlanta, he did often – he’d feel sick to his stomach.

On this spring day in 2009, Donnie Davis sits in the Edge Center, headquarters for Tech sports. He has come from a class in business law. At his feet is a backpack bearing the embroidered letters “GT.”

He’s talking about the future – he’ll graduate with a degree in business management in December – and also the past. Donnie Davis was once the biggest name on the campus he came to despise, but now he’s back, and he’s older (age 36) and wiser and far more forgiving.

“I don’t want to present the case that I was the victim and Georgia Tech was the villain,” he says. “I wholeheartedly believe that nothing was directed at Donnie Davis. I just happened to be the guy in Locker No. 13.”

He arrived at Tech in 1991, a Parade All-American from Burlington, N.C. Recruited by Bobby Ross, Davis was seen as the …

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If the Thrashers left Atlanta, would anyone care? Oh, yes.

The Hamilton Spectator reported last week that a Vancouver-based group wanted to buy the Thrashers and move them to Ontario. Don Waddell, the team’s general manager, insists that cannot and will not happen, and there’s no reason we shouldn’t believe him.

Still, that got me to thinking: If the Thrashers left, would anybody miss them? (They ranked next-to-last among NHL teams in attendance, averaging 14,626 per home date.) So, via Twitter, I asked. And of 50 respondents, only four said they wouldn’t care if the Thrash went the way of the migratory Flames. A selected sampling:

John Bragg: “Aside from family, friends, and the basic necessities in life, there’s not much I wouldn’t trade to see Ilya [Kovalchuk] hoist the Cup in Philips.”

Chad Bryant: “This is like asking, ‘Would you miss your dog if it ran away?’ – except in this case, the dog is being stolen from you from rich and crazy Canadians.”

Catherine Olson: “I was born at Georgia Baptist Hospital in 1964. The myth that …

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Bradley’s Buzz: Is UGA’s recruiting hold getting slippery?

Fasten those seat belts; we’re going recruitin’!

I’m not Max Emfinger or Tom Lemming. I’m not Michael Carvell or Darryl Maxie. I am not the world’s greatest source on football recruiting. But I can, contrary to popular belief, read. And here’s what my reading of Brian McLaughlin’s exhaustively annotated list in Sporting News Today of the top 100 prospects for 2010 tells me:

Other schools are coming at Georgia hard — in Georgia!

From Page 1 of McLaughlin’s report, we learn the white-limo crowd at Auburn is in on three of the nation’s top 15 prospects.

On Page 2 it gets more intriguing, as we find that running back Mack Brown (ranked No. 32 overall) of Lithonia’s MLK has declared the hated Gators as his leader in the ol’ clubhouse, and also that receiver Markeith Ambles (No. 39) of Henry County is assessing West Coast schools as well as Alabama, Florida, Tennessee and Georgia.

From Page 3: Georgia is tracking running back Brannan Clay (No. 40) of San Diego and defensive linemen …

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This just in! The 2008-2009 Hawks did OK for themselves!

We’ve kicked around the Hawks, sometimes pretty hard, these past few days, but amid all the discussions regarding who’s to blame — Woody? Joe? Red Auerbach? — a greater truth has been obscured if not missed entirely. So here goes:

The Hawks won more games than they should’ve and lost exactly when they should’ve.

They were 37-45 in 2007-2008. They improved 10 games without adding a starter. (And despite losing the Grecian earner Josh Childress.) They moved from the No. 8 seed in the East to the No. 4 seed. They won a first-round series over the No. 5 seed. They lost in Round 2 to the top seed. I’ve been a harsh critic of this franchise over the past quarter-century, but I’d say these Hawks gave good value for what they had.

And what exactly did they have? Well, according to the All-NBA team released Wednesday, not all that much. Joe Johnson finished 19th in the voting, which placed him among the honorable mentions, and no other Hawk received even a single vote. (Heck, Jermaine …

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Johnson needs to step back for the Hawks to step forward

Much has to happen. The Hawks need to re-sign Mike Bibby, to work a sign-and-trade with Marvin Williams and to draft a guard, preferably Eric Maynor of VCU, in Round 1. But for this team to climb from pretty good to really good, something more must be done.

The Hawks must wean themselves from their reliance on Joe Johnson.

Almost every bit of the Hawks’ offense since 2005 has run through Johnson, and it’s past time for an adjustment. It’s not that he isn’t a fine player; it’s that this team has two younger players who require room to grow.

Come 2011, Josh Smith and Al Horford should be the Hawks’ best players. (And this assumes Johnson re-ups next summer.) Together, Smith and Horford took 1,443 shots this regular season. By himself, Johnson took 1,420. Save the occasional lob, the team doesn’t run many plays for Smith. It runs almost none for Horford.

Johnson isn’t a ball hog – he led the team in assists, ahead of Bibby – but he’s the focal point. You can be a focal point if …

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Bradley’s Buzz: Is there hope for the Hawks? Next question

How to stop LeBron James

Here, from ESPN.com, is the most fascinating nugget from a series so devoid of fascination that some bloggers have taken to writing about me: In Game 3, the Hawks fared best against LeBron when they didn’t guard him.

According to ESPN, LBJ made five of six shots against Mo Evans, five of seven against Joe Johnson, three of four against Mike Bibby … but only one of five when uncovered! So there’s your answer, Woody. Forget matchups. Forget double-teams. Just let him go. Really, how many more points can he score that way? Didn’t he just get 47 of his team’s 97?

From Paul Newberry’s Associated Press game story — I’ve said it before, but here it is again: Newberry, based in Atlanta, is the best AP writer in the country — is this priceless quote from LBJ: “There’s only a few guys in this league that can get into a zone like that, and I’m blessed to be one of those guys.”

For the record, LeBron is not the best player I’ve ever seen. But he is the second-best …

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Matt Ryan on 2009: “We want to win our division”

Flowery Branch – A year ago minicamp for Matt Ryan was about Matt Ryan, who was just trying to show he belonged in the NFL. This one was different. The world now knows Matty Ice belongs, and the Iceman himself is focused on his team.

“Last year you were just trying to keep your head above water,” Ryan said Sunday, the Falcons having completed their weekend drills. “I certainly don’t want to sound like I have it all figured out — because I don’t — but this year it’s more about fine-tuning.”

A quick way to get Ryan to try and change the subject: Ask about last season. The greatest rookie quarterback in NFL history doesn’t care to revisit his rookie year — at least not yet. “It’ll be be nice to look back on when you’re done playing,” he said. “But right now it was just a good start. It’s something to have in the bank.”

When he does recall 2008 — hey, writers are paid to be persistent — does he think first about successes or failures? “A little bit of both. You have to learn from …

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