Archive for February, 2010

Now I’m in for it: John Smoltz, United States Congressman?

Well, there go any aspirations I had — not that I had many — of having a real “in” with someone in power in our nation’s capital. Because John Smoltz and I, as I’ve noted before, have been on the outs since 1997.

The AJC’s political insider Jim Galloway is  reporting that some Republicans are interested in drafting my favorite pitcher to run for the House seat John Linder announced Saturday he’ll be leaving. I don’t live in the Seventh Congressional District, so I guess even if Smoltz got elected he couldn’t exert too much influence over, say, my subdivision. But you never know. Smoltz has a way of getting what he wants, and he’d have one bully pulpit at his disposal.

And really, would it be a huge jump from one end of Pennsylvania Avenue to the other? Today he’s Citizen Smoltz. Come November, he could be Congressman Smoltz. From there, who knows? Governor Smoltz? Senator Smoltz? President Smoltz?

From pitching against the White Sox — which he has done, if only twice — to …

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The Hawks lose on a night when losing seemed impossible

Mike Woodson and Jason Kidd after the bumping. (AP photo by Gregory Smith)

Mike Woodson and Jason Kidd after the bizarre bumping. (AP photo by Gregory Smith)

I kept asking the question, and nobody really had an answer. How do you lose this game? How do you lose on a night when you led by 13 points with 5 1/2 minutes left? How do you lose on the night you had played some of your best basketball in two months if not 20 years?

Said Al Horford: “We were at home. All the factors were lined up. I don’t think we’re the kind of team that blows a lead, even though we blew one at Golden State [on Sunday].”

They blew this 13-point lead even worse than they blew that 18-point lead. They blew this one as bad as a good team ever blows a game. They blew this because Dallas coach Rick Carlisle waited until the end to throw up a zone defense, and the Hawks’ coach waited until the final two minutes of regulation to get called for a personal foul.

OK, so technically it was a technical foul, but it involved a collision with a player. Mike Woodson bumped Jason Kidd while …

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Live from Hawks-Mavericks, and Big Z’s not in the house

Big game tonight. Fourth-best team in the West against the team tied for third in the East. ESPN on hand. Nice little midseason test for the Hawks. And we’ll get around to it momentarily. But first …

A few words about Big Z.

Michael Gearon Jr. admitted to Charles Odum of the Associated Press that the Hawks are “definitely interested” in Zydrunas Ilgauskas and plan to be “very competitive” in the pursuit. But Eddie Sefko of the Dallas Morning News wrote yesterday that “almost everyone in the league expects [Big Z] to return to Cleveland.” (The Mavericks likewise have an interest.)

Having spoken with some folks in the Hawks’ locker room, there’s no question the team would welcome the Z-man. “I hope we get him,” Josh Smith said. And there’s even a thought the addition of Ilgauskas might — I said “might” — lead Mike Woodson to change his longstanding starting five to make Big Z the center, Al Horford the power forward and Smith the 3-man.

Me, I wouldn’t. Ilgauskas is basically a …

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If Joe Johnson exits the Hawks, would you be OK with that?

Would Joe follow the bouncing ball out of town? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Would Joe Johnson follow the bouncing ball out of town? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

I’m going to the Hawks game with Dallas tonight — and we’ll have our usual live chat, so please join in! – but I wanted to broach this topic. I keep hearing that, of all the big-name free agents who come on the market this summer, Joe Johnson is the most apt to change clubs. (Everyone seems to think JJ has interest in going to Chicago to become the new MJ.) And I’m wondering: How would you feel if he did?

There has been, I submit, something of a Joe Backlash this season. (I’ve contributed to it, I’ll admit.) The Hawks’ best player has been scrutinized in a way he hasn’t before, which is what happens when a bad team gets good: First you see the promise, and then you start picking nits. But he’s still their best player, and there’s really no way, at least as I see it, to fill his spot if he takes some other team’s money.

LeBron James isn’t coming here. Neither is Kobe Bryant. Neither is Dwyane …

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If Spiller’s there on April 22, should the Falcons draft him?

You tell me: How would the guy in blue look in red? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

You tell me: How would the guy in purple look in red? (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

In his latest mock draft, Don Banks of SI.com still has the Falcons taking the same cornerback with the 19th pick in Round 1 – Kyle Wilson of Boise State. But that’s not the intriguing part. The intriguing part is the player Banks has slotted to go 20th overall.

C.J. Spiller, running back, Clemson.

In every draft, for every team, there’s a name that assumes outsize importance. (”Wouldn’t it be great if our team got that guy?”) For Falcons fans, Spiller is that name this time. He played up the road. He played against Georgia Tech every season. He made spectacular plays. His drafting would excite a constituency in a way no offensive tackle ever could. That said …

The Falcons have a great running back in Michael Turner and someone who approximates Spiller in Jerious Norwood. (Although Norwood has worked under three coaching staffs, none of which has been able to unlock his potential.) The …

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Rx for Hewitt: Coach more, Tweet less (new Tweets added)

GTCoachHewitt, shown pondering his next Tweet. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Here's "GTCoachHewitt", perhaps pondering his next Tweet. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

I understand what Paul Hewitt is trying to do. He’s trying to foment belief in a team that, after losing four times in six games, has cause to doubt. But I’m not sure Twitter is the vehicle for that. I’m not sure a coach who’s under .500 in a diluted ACC with three McDonald’s All-Americans in his first five needs to be daring Georgia Tech fans to prove their fanhood.

Tech folks have been patient with Hewitt. He hasn’t won an NCAA tournament game since 2005. He has had four losing seasons in his first nine years on the job. He has a losing record against Georgia. Since Tech played for the national championship in April 2004, his record is 96-86 overall and 35-58 in ACC regular-season play. At a place that cared deeply about the sport, he’d have been gone long ago, his $7 million golden parachute  absorbed as the cost of doing business in big-time basketball.

But he’s still here. Does he …

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Mel Kiper raves about Tech’s Bay-Bay, broken foot aside

Demaryius Thomas turns a short pass into six points. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Thomas turns a short pass into points. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Say this for Mel Kiper: When he likes a guy, he really likes a guy. (Think of Mel as the Sally Field of draftniks.) And Mel really likes Demaryius Thomas, the Georgia Tech product who had the seeming misfortune of breaking a bone in his foot last week while readying for the NFL draft.

You’d think a broken foot might give a draft-tracker cause for pause, but not our Mel. (Actually, he’s ESPN’s Mel. But I like to think he belongs to us all.) And here, in a mailbag just released on the Worldwide Leader’s Insiders site — all Mel links require registration — is a question from a reader regarding Thomas, who’s known fondly as Bay-Bay, and Mel’s cogent answer:

Q: I’m excited about the possibility of D. Thomas out of Ga. Tech, but he’s not from a passing offense! Isn’t this a guy who might not help the team at all early in his career because he’s still learning? Why don’t the Bengals get more of a sure thing? – …

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Question: Should the Falcons pursue CB Dunta Robinson?

We all — I’m as guilty as anyone — get excited about the NFL draft, but football  is different from, say, basketball. In the NBA the draft comes before free agency. In the NFL free agency comes first. A team’s draft needs can change depending on its signees (or lack thereof).

I mention this because a big-name cornerback with Georgia ties is about to come available. Dunta Robinson was born in Athens; he played at Clarke Central and then at South Carolina. Houston drafted him with the 10th pick of Round 1 in 2004 and he has been a Texan for six seasons. The club, however, has declined to place the “franchise player” tag on him this winter, which essentially means he’ll be a free agent.

The Falcons, as mentioned yesterday, are perceived as needing a CB. Robinson is a good — not great — cornerback who’s only 27 and who might have interest in playing for a Georgia-based team. But here’s the thing: Robinson places a high value on his worth.

When tagged a franchise player last …

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The Falcons have to take a cornerback, right? Er, maybe not

Brent Grimes makes a play -- overruled by penalty, alas. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Brent Grimes makes a deft play — overruled by penalty, alas. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Cornerback, cornerback, cornerback. Most every mock draft has the Falcons spending their first pick on one. Thomas Dimitroff, who’ll do the picking, went to a function Tuesday night and the conversation turned to … well, guess.

The speculation makes some sense. The Falcons couldn’t stop the pass last season — they were 28th-best in a 32-team league — and they’ll own either the draft’s 19th or 20th overall pick. (Depends on a coin flip with Houston, upcoming at this weekend’s combine in Indianapolis.) And the sight of the Falcons’ young defensive backs being undone in most every game is burned, so to speak, in every fan’s memory. That said …

Dimitroff has the reputation of being picky, pun intended, about cornerbacks. “I get a kick out of that,” he said Wednesday, meaning his professional image. But there’s truth therein. He played cornerback for the Guelph Gryphons . (Guelph is a …

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Sporting News sees a Round 1 Tech windfall in its mock draft

Are two of these three Tech juniors first-rounders? (AJC photo by Vino Wong)

Jonathan Dwyer, Morgan Burnett and Derrick Morgan announce they're leaving Georgia Tech. Will two of them wind up being NFL first-rounders? (AJC photo by Vino Wong)

It’s just a mock draft, OK? It might not pan out. Still, if you’re a proud Georgia Tech fan, this is one to clip and save. (Or, seeing as how Sporting News Today is an online-only publication, to print, clip and save.)

Here’s the Sporting News Today pre-combine mock draft: The No. 2 overall pick (going to Detroit)  is Derrick Morgan, the defensive end from Tech; the No. 12 overall pick (going to Miami) is Demaryius Thomas, the wide receiver from Tech. And now you’re asking: How long since we saw a local school produce two players in the draft’s top dozen?

Answer: Ten months. Matthew Stafford went No. 1 overall last April to Detroit, and Knowshon Moreno went 12th to Denver.

But wait!  Sporting News also has Tech’s Jonathan Dwyer going to San Diego with the 28th pick in Round 1. (As you might have heard, the …

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