Archive for January, 2010

Top 25 for 2010: Tech fans won’t like this; UGA fans might

The Crimson Tide will be high again, but dynastic? (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

The Crimson Tide will be high again in 2010, but dynastic? (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Some folks crank out a preseason Top 25 during the fourth quarter of the BCS title game. I didn’t, for two reasons: First, I was still too astonished by Mack Brown’s shovel-pass-before-the-half to have a coherent thought; second, I wanted to wait and see which juniors were leaving. The shovel pass rankles still, but we now have clarity regarding the NFL early entrants. And here we go:

1. Alabama: Sports Illustrated just proclaimed the Tide a dynasty, which is cart-before-the-horse stuff. Wasn’t it this time a year ago that we were saying Florida was unbeatable?

2. Iowa: Football, as with all things in life, is cyclical. And we saw in the bowl season that teams from the slow and boring Big Ten looked neither slow nor boring.

3. Oregon: Football is cyclical. (Am I repeating myself?) There’s room at the top of the Pac-10, and coming off one Rose Bowl the fleet Ducks — is that an oxymoron? — are …

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The Falcons’ GM: ‘Sniffing the pits’ and seeking consistency

Here's Thomas Dimitroff, close enough to sniff Jerious Norwood. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Here's Thomas Dimitroff, within sniffing distance of Jerious Norwood during a scrimmage at Brookwood last summer. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Thomas Dimitroff was calling from a car parked outside Orlando’s Citrus Bowl, site of this weekend’s East-West Shrine Game. He was about to watch a practice, and he was looking forward, as scouts say, to “sniffing the pits.” Once a scout, always a scout.

But there’s a philosopher inside the Falcons’ general manager as well, and before he got around to discussing where his team is headed he recalled where it had been. Dimitroff arrived in January 2008 with franchise fortunes at an all-time nadir. “There was definitely uncertainty,” he said, understating, and then the 2008 Birds unaccountably began to win.

Continuing the narrative: “Along the way we had an evolving confidence. It wasn’t a swagger yet. And this year there was a lot of optimism and legitimate expectation, but inconsistency tugged at our success.”

Note the “in-” word …

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Grading our GMs: Dimitroff’s at the top, but where’s Wren?

The "D" also stands for "Don" and "dean of Atlanta GMs. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

The "D" also stands for "Don" and "dean of Atlanta GMs. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Two are in their offseasons. Two are approaching their midseasons, one with a monumental decision to make. Three of the four are relatively new to their positions; the other is Teflon Don Waddell. Today’s assignment: Assess and grade the general managers of Atlanta’s four major sports teams. We start at the top.

Thomas Dimitroff, Falcons

Start date: January 2008. Recap: Two winning seasons in two tries, one playoff appearance, no playoff victories. Major achievements: Hired Mike Smith, the 2008 NFL coach of the year; drafted Matt Ryan, the 2008 offensive rookie of the year; signed Michael Turner, who rushed for 1,699 yards in 2008.

Assessment: Has brought precision and professional calm to a franchise roiled by the abrupt departures of Michael Vick and Bobby Petrino; made the absolute most of his first NFL draft, landing three starters — Ryan, Sam Baker and Curtis Lofton — with his first …

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5 things about the first-place Hawks that are bugging me

An older Mike Bibby isn't the Mike Bibby of old. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

An older Mike Bibby isn't quite the Mike Bibby of old, is he? (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

1. Mike Bibby is in decline. We all praised Rick Sund for retaining three of the Hawks’ four key free agents, but the Bibby retention, while a boon to continuity, hasn’t paid off in production. Bibby is averaging 9.4 points, down from 14.9 last season. Granted, he’s also playing seven fewer minutes a game — that’s the Jamal Crawford effect — but seems older than 31. He has clearly lost a step and a half, and when a little man loses his quickness there’s not a lot left.

2. Crawford doesn’t mesh with Joe Johnson quite the way Bibby does. While technically the point guard, Bibby doesn’t control the ball all that much. He gives it to Joe and spots up for three-pointers. (I’m betting half of Bibby’s treys last season came off Johnson’s feeds.) Crawford needs the ball more. He’ll shoot but he’ll also penetrate. Bibby almost never ventures into the lane. And when it’s Crawford and Johnson …

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Denial of the Hawks’ protest is instead justice denied

OK, it's official. He DOES get all the calls. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

OK, it's official. LeBron James DOES get all the calls. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

OK, now we know. The NBA does play favorites. Some folks have claimed as much for decades, but we in Atlanta have just been handed a heapin’ helpin’ of proof.

The NBA denied the Hawks’ protest of their Dec. 30th loss in Cleveland. According to the league’s official release, “Commissioner [David] Stern determined that the shot clock error did not have a clear impact on the game’s outcome and therefore did not justify the extraordinary remedy of granting the protest and overturning the game’s result.”

To which we say: Is he serious? The Hawks were mistakenly given 14 seconds, down from the customary 24, to shoot when they led by a point inside the final two minutes. That’s not a judgment call. That’s a fact easily determined by watching the replay or checking the play-by-play.

The 24-second timekeeper admitted his clock didn’t recycle after Mo Williams missed a jumper and Al Horford rebounded. …

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Bradley’s Buzz: Favors is down, but Georgia Tech’s up

Derrick Favors: Not yet on form. (AJC photo by Elissa Eubanks)

Derrick Favors against Indiana-PA. He has done less of this versus the ACC. (AJC photo by Elissa Eubanks)

According to the good folks at NBAdraft.net — the best site of its ilk, IMHO — Georgia Tech freshman Derrick Favors is now No. 6 in its 2010 mock. That’s down from No. 2 earlier this month, and that’s a rather significant drop.

There’s a reason. Given his hype, Favors isn’t having much of a freshman season. He’s averaging 11.1 points and 8.6 rebounds, and even those numbers mislead. Over the past eight games he’s averaging 9 points and 8.4 rebounds, with 22 turnovers and 20 fouls against seven assists. He has scored in double figures once in four ACC games.

In sum, he doesn’t resemble the player he was at South Atlanta High, where he was considered the nation’s top recruit by Scout.com. (John Wall, ranked No. 2, is not only the best freshman but the best player in the college game. And he’ll be the NBA’s No. 1 pick in June.)

Maybe we should have seen this coming. Favors …

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Bradley’s Buzz: Tech, UGA both among early-entry losers

Derrick Morgan and Morgan Burnett: Gonzo. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Derrick Morgan and Morgan Burnett: They're gonzo. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

This won’t be surprising to those among us who follow college football. Still, it’s jarring to see in megapixeled black and white. Both Georgia Tech and Georgia rank among the nation’s biggest losers regarding early entry to the NFL draft.

For the Bulldogs, there’s good news amid the bad. Tech is seen as having been hit harder, and Florida is the consensus choice as having been hit hardest.

Bruce Feldman of ESPN.com rates Tech the second-biggest loser, Georgia the fifth-biggest. His reasons:

Georgia Tech: I was tempted to make the Jackets No. 1 on this list because every player who realistically could consider declaring did. Tech says goodbye to its two best defenders in DE Derrick Morgan and safety Morgan Burnett as well as quarterback Josh Nesbitt’s top two weapons, running back Jonathan Dwyer and wide receiver Demaryius Thomas.

“I still think Nesbitt, RB Anthony Allen and RB Roddy Jones are …

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UGA’s Michael Adams as NCAA president? Could happen

Michael Adams keeps denying, sort of, that he’s interested in being the NCAA president. Funny thing, though. More than a few folks believe otherwise.

To the Associated Press back in September, Adams said this:  “I’d never talk publicly about two things, jobs or money. I love the University of Georgia. My plan is to be here until retirement.”

To the AP during the NCAA convention here last week: “We’re Georgians. We love it here. My family is happy here, and if the Regents will let me stay, I expect to be here. Is that clear enough?”

Uh, not really. Neither time did Adams say, “If nominated, I will not run. If elected, I will not serve.” He has left the door ajar just enough that nobody is counting him out.

Here, from Steve Wieberg of USA Today — I should note that Mr. Wieberg knows the inner workings of the NCAA better than any outsider — is this breakdown:

“Penn State president Graham Spanier, who once led the Division I board of directors and remains active in the NCAA, also …

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The Hawks gaze at the Thunder, see their younger selves

A rare sight: Marvin Williams gets assertive (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

A rare sight: Marvin gets assertive (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

Even in losing, the Hawks felt flattered. What they’ve done is what Oklahoma City is endeavoring to do. “A mirror of our team,” Mike Woodson said afterward, and when was the last time anyone else in the NBA regarded the local franchise as anything to be emulated?

Not many teams can match talent with the Hawks. The Thunder did it Monday and left a three-point winner. “That’s a great young team over there,” said the ancient Josh Smith, who’s all of 24 and who nearly generated a triple double. “They’ve been able to have a lottery pick and get a marquee guy every year.”

The past three Thunder drafts (the first coming when it was based in Seattle): Landed Kevin Durant with the second overall pick in 2007 and traded for Jeff Green, who was the fifth pick; drafted Russell Westbrook with the fourth overall pick in 2008; drafted James Harden with the third overall pick in 2009. They have 12 first-rounders on the roster, …

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Live from the Hawks’ MLK matinee: Alarms are sounding!

Josh Smith: An ascendant player on an ascendant squad. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Josh Smith: An ascendant player on a still-ascending squad. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Red alert! There’s a pretty good matchup on tap today. (And the Hawks, conveniently enough, are wearing red uniforms.)

The NBA South division leader faces the team that might, a year or two on, become to the Western Conference what the Hawks are to the East. Oklahoma City has thrown together a slew of good young players — Kevin Durant, Jeff Green, Russell Westbrook, James Harden — in what might be described in Hawks-like fashion.

We’ll discuss that at greater length in a bit, but for now I’ll relate a little anecdote. The fire alarm went off in the back corridor of Philips Arena when Mike Woodson was holding his pregame briefing. Everyone was advised to exit the premises via a recorded message, which played for no more than 10 minutes. Naturally, nobody did.

Joe Johnson, being conscientious, did stick his head into Woodson’s office and say, “What should I do?” Woodson looked at him and …

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