Archive for April, 2010

As constituted, these Braves aren’t going to win anything

Not to say this team has gone to the dogs, but ... (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Not to say this team has gone to the dogs, but … you get the idea. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It isn’t just that the Braves aren’t hitting. It’s that they don’t look as if they’re ever going to hit.

Troy Glaus isn’t what he was. Nate McLouth isn’t what he was. Melky Cabrera was never anything special. Yunel Escobar seems to have regressed. Chipper Jones is 38. You tell me: Is that batting order ever apt to strike fear into the hearts of enemy hurlers?

Shed a tear here for Frank Wren. Presumably on orders from above, he keeps trying to put a team together on the cheap. But there aren’t many GMs who can bring that off — remember, John Schuerholz’s run of excellence was forged when the Braves and Yankees were trying to outspend each other — and Wren has evinced no signs of being a Billy Beane-counter.

What Wren did this offseason hasn’t worked. (Other than bringing up Jason Heyward, which was a no-brainer.) Javier Vazquez hasn’t pitched well for the Yankees, but wouldn’t you …

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‘It was like a bad dream’: Actually, Game 5 was even worse

The clock is close to striking 0.0 on the Atlanta Hawks. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

The clock is close to striking 0.0 on the Atlanta Hawks. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

With 2:44 left in the biggest game the Atlanta Hawks have played in the 21st Century, Brandon Jennings missed a free throw that would have cut the lead to two. And you thought, “Big break for the Hawks.”

Then you knew better. You saw Ersan Ilyasova, who has never been confused with Kevin McHale, running down the rebound because Josh Smith, who should have been an All-Star, didn’t block out. And then Marvin Williams fouled John Salmons, and the one-point possession tripled in value, and the Hawks’ lead was down to one.

And then Joe Johnson, on whom everything seems to ride, charged into Kurt Thomas and fouled out. And then Ilyasova scored underneath over Smith. And then the Bucks were ahead. And then Smith missed a three-pointer and Al Horford missed a follow and Jennings missed a runner at the other end but Ilyasova snagged another offensive rebound and fed Carlos Delfino, who fumbled the catch …

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The Hawks unleash one of the epic collapses in Atlanta annals

One picture. Worth several hundred million words. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Here's one picture. It's worth several hundred million words. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

This was the Falcons blowing the lead against Danny White and Dallas in January 1981. This was Mark Wohlers hanging the slider to Jim Leyritz in October 1996. Only it wasn’t. It was worse.

Those opponents were top-class. The Hawks just blew a 13-point lead and probably a playoff series to Milwaukee, which is a No. 6 seed missing its All-Star center. They trail 3-2 in a series they led 2-0. They face elimination on the road, a place they’ve won once in 11 tries over the past three postseasons.

Yeah, theoretically they could still pull this out, but how can you win in the Bradley Center when you can’t hold a nine-point lead inside the final four minutes with the series lead on the line? How can you put this colossal choke — I hate that word, but it applies here — behind you?

Up nine, and here’s what happened: Josh Smith missed a dunk by hitting the ball on the underside of the backboard; …

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Live from Game 5: Do the Hawks have an answer for Bango?

Joe Johnson practices shooting from the bench. Good trick, but not quite Bango-riffic.

Seeking to one-up a deer, Joe Johnson shoots from the bench. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Big game. Lots of pressure. If the Hawks lose tonight, they probably lose the series. But enough gloom and doom. Let’s talk about Bango.

Bango is the Milwaukee Bucks’ mascot. He — and I believe he’s a he — wears a deer costume. He’s not what you’d call intimidating. (When last did you see a scary deer?) But Bango did become the biggest Internet sensation of the NBA playoffs with a feat performed in Game 4 on Monday.

During a timeout, Bango climbed up a 20-foot ladder and, with his back to the basket, jumped off and dunked the ball. The Bradley Center crowd went Bango-ballistic, and even the Hawks took note. “That,” Joe Smith pronounced before tonight’s Game 5, “was sweet.”

And here’s my challenge to the Hawks: Last year Philips Arena produced a playoff star in Spirit the Hawk, who flew rampant before Game 2 of Round 1 against Miami and became so famous that he — the bird himself informed me in …

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A new coach for the Hawks? Be careful what you wish for

He's not the greatest coach in the history of hoops, but he's not the worst, either. (AP photo)

He might not be the greatest coach, but he's not the worst, either. (AP photo)

Mike Woodson is a free agent at season’s end. He says he wants to stay, but he has been nettled by Rick Sund’s refusal to offer an extension. And if the Hawks crash out in Round 1, Sund’s hesitance might turn out to be sagacious. For all the good work Woodson has done here, wouldn’t a loss to the understaffed Bucks suggest that this team and this coach have gone as far together as they’re going to go?

But know this: Woodson is respected around the league. He’ll be a head coach somewhere next season, and he might well get a better offer than a re-up from the Hawks. Already the annual Larry Brown rumors have commenced, the latest ticketing the nomad’s nomad for Philadelphia, where he’ll become team president and hire his buddy Woody to coach the 76ers.

So now, as the Hawks face a rather enormous Game 5 tonight, we must ask: If not Woodson, who? The drums will beat for the usual suspects — Avery …

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Fretting over UGA’s Logan Gray: Much ado about not much

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Logan Gray was OK on G-Day. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Georgia fans are of two minds: The majority of them didn’t want Logan Gray to be their No. 1 quarterback, but they don’t want him to leave, either. Because what would happen if Aaron Murray gets hurt?

This is, I submit, much ado about not very much. Whether or not Gray decides to transfer — he’s “weighing his options,” as we know — the fate of Georgia football in 2010 and beyond rests with Murray. Gray might be an OK backup, but how often does the backup quarterback play? (D.J. Shockley never started a game until he was a redshirt senior; once he became the starter, he missed one game — Florida — due to injury.)

There’s still one other quarterback on Georgia’s roster, or there soon will be. He’s Hutson Mason, incoming from Lassiter High. He wasn’t quite as big a recruit as Gray — Mason was a 3-star prospect, according to Scout.com, while Gray was a 4-star — but does that really matter?

What matters: Georgia’s coaches …

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A chilling thought: What happens if the Hawks DON’T win?

Dan Gadzuric exults after scoring. Josh Smith says, "Gadzooks." (AP photo)

The legendary Dan Gadzuric exults after scoring. Josh Smith says, "Gadzooks." (AP photo)

Milwaukee — I don’t think they’re going to lose, but you probably shouldn’t listen to me. I didn’t think the Bucks would win more than one game, and I believed the Hawks would answer the Game 3 embarrassment with Game 4 atonement. And they did play much better. But they lost again, and in many ways that’s more troubling than anything that happened in Game 3.

The Hawks should be at peak capacity. They’re young but playoff-seasoned. They have two All-Stars plus Josh Smith plus Jamal Crawford, who will be named the NBA’s sixth man of the year this afternoon. They spent last summer retaining and augmenting a core that reached Round 2 in 2009, and they won 53 games this season. They should be poised to go even further this time. But what if they lose to the Bucks?

“It’s a three-game series now,” Mike Bibby said late Monday night. “You never want to go to a Game 7. We let them back in it.”

The …

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The Hawks haven’t grown up, and now they’re in trouble

Turns out there is something to do in Milwaukee, Josh. Lose twice. (AP photo)

Turns out there is something to do in Milwaukee, Josh Smith. Lose twice. (AP photo)

Milwaukee – Remember the Hawks? Leading a playoff series 2-0 since 1970? They’re not leading anymore. They’re tied with a team minus its center. They’re tied and they’re reeling. They might still win this series, but there’s no longer a guarantee.

One misstep at Philips Arena and the East’s No. 3 seed will be relegated to the dustbin of playoff flops. Because we can’t really see these Hawks winning on the road in any round of any postseason, can we?

Give the Hawks a smidgen of credit. For a change, they made the home team work. They were down three after one quarter, down four at the half. They’d done what a road team needs to do: They’d given themselves a chance. Then they threw it away.

They threw it away in a wretched third quarter, in which the Milwaukee Bucks spread out the Hawks and sliced them to confetti. And let’s say it again: The Bucks have no center, and they have a rookie for a …

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Live from NASCAR … er, Game 4: Hawks look to drive safely

Milwaukee — You’d think this would be the last place to come for a traffic accident, there being little traffic downtown the Brew City. But by now you’re aware the Hawks’ bus was hit by a car leaving the Bradley Center after shootaround today at noon. We’re happy to report that nobody was hurt. Everybody, however, had a story.

The bus was struck by a driver who would later tell police her brakes failed, and the Hawks could believe it. Those seated in the front of the bus saw the car screeching around a curve. It hit side of the bus. The car’s front was crumpled. The bus was dented and suffered cracked — but not shattered — windows.

Mike Woodson was first off the bus — head coach sits up front — and reacted like an action hero. “I saw the smoke,” he said, speaking of the car, and he unbuckled a little boy from the back seat.

“He was about 3 or 4,” Woodson said. “He said, ‘I want my mommy.’ ” [The boy's mother had been driving the car.]

Then it got kind of funny. The Hawks …

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A sunny forecast: Bradley picks Hawks in the Bradley Center

Note the nicely named facility. Note the strange concept of sunshine. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Note the nicely named facility. Note also the alien concept of sunshine. (Photo by M. Bradley)

Milwaukee – Perhaps it’s because, for the first of the eight days I’ve spent in this windy city over the past 5 1/2 weeks, the sun is shining. Perhaps it’s because I’m just a raging rose-colored optimist. (Yeah, right.) Whatever the reason, I like the Hawks tonight.

I know, I know. They’re the world’s worst playoff road team. (I’ve noted as much myself.) But Mike Woodson noted yesterday that the good teams eventually figure out how to win in postseason in someone else’s building, and the Hawks are a good team.

Did they play like one in Game 3? No. Said Josh Smith, walking from the bus to the locker room for today’s shootaround: “We can’t play any worse. Anything we do has to be better than that.”

The Hawks knew the Bucks would start fast in Game 3. All teams coming home trailing 2-0 start fast in Game 3 — desperation at work. What no one could have suspected was that the Hawks would …

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