Archive for June, 2010

SI.com’s Hughes calls the Hawks cheap for hiring Drew

Rick Sund to Larry Drew: "Don't be asking for a raise." (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Rick Sund to Larry Drew: "I wouldn't go asking for a raise." (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This time a week ago, a guy I know — i.e., me — suggested that the Hawks had chosen Larry Drew as their coach for no compelling reason other than that he was the cheapest option. Now comes this, from Frank Hughes of SI.com, with the fairly damning headline: “Drew hiring all about saving money.”

Sometimes when a national writer takes on one of our clubs, I’ll feel the urge to defend the locals. Not so against this harangue from Mr. Hughes, who writes: “What took place in Atlanta … left little doubt that more than a few of David Stern’s exclusive membership group care less about winning and more about their bottom line — and that usually never leads to good thing.”

I asked Rick Sund last Monday if Drew had been his recommendation to ownership as head coach. He said he didn’t want to broach the sanctity of the process, or words to that effect, but insisted that if he weren’t completely …

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The 2010 Falcons: They’ll win 12 and play for the NFC title

Dunta Robinson: You wanted a cornerback, and they got a cornerback. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Dunta Robinson: You wanted a cornerback, and here he is. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

For football, June is the silly season. Nothing much is happening, but everybody has an idea what will happen. Here’s where I add to the silliness. Here’s where I tell you why the Falcons will play for the NFC title on Jan. 23, 2011.

1. The NFC South is the league’s most fluid division. Not once in eight tries has it yielded consecutive division winners, not even when the reigning NFC South champ was also the Super Bowl winner. (Tampa Bay went from lifting the Lombardi Trophy in February 2003 to finishing 7-9 ten months later.) This is noteworthy because the New Orleans Saints, as we know, somehow won Super Bowl XLIV.

2. The Saints are vulnerable. They’ve had the usual post-Super round of controversy and then some. A lawsuit (since withdrawn and sent to arbitration) by the team’s former security director accusing Saints staffers of misusing Vicodin. Tight end Jeremy Shockey fainting in the …

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Great minds agree: Oklahoma could have been SEC-bound

Joe Simpson and I were talking last night at the ol’ ballpark, and we’re of like minds on one salient notion: We both believe Oklahoma could well have landed in the SEC. (What, you expected us to discuss baseball?)

Joe, as you doubtless know, is both an Oklahoma native and an OU alum. And he was saying the e-mails were already flying toward Norman — some of them written by him — asking the burning question: “Why should we follow Texas to the Pac-10?” And I’m guessing that enough other OU backers felt the same, and that the much-rumored Big 12 westward exodus might not have included the Sooner Schooner.

Yes, it’s a moot point now. The Big 12 renegotiated its TV package and Texas agreed to stay put and what one highly placed collegiate athletics administrator foresaw as “chaos” never actually occurred. But I’m still thinking a Texas move to the Pac-10 would not have induced Oklahoma to follow meekly along. I’m thinking the Sooners would have questioned the wisdom of joining a …

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Chipper Jones on his non-announcement: ‘In good time’

Chipper Jones cheeses it up with Matt Ryan before the game. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Chipper cheeses it up with Matt Ryan before the game. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Chipper Jones met the media after the Braves beat Tampa Bay on Wednesday, and the man who prides himself on making statements of substance was apologetic about his inability to provide more clarity about the state of his retirement. “The only thing that’s frustrating,” he said, “is that y’all are asking questions I’m not ready to answer.”

Then this: “Everybody knows I’ve been contemplating this for a long time, but I’m not ready to commit. And, pardon my French, but I’ll wait until I’m damn good and ready to answer questions.”

Negotiations with the Braves remain ongoing, though it’s unclear about exactly what. Said Jones: “I hold the cards. That’s what any player wants — to go out on his own terms. I’d like to be given the courtesy to talk out things with the organization, and when I get those answers I’ll be able to answer your questions.”

Why the holdup? “We’re on this,” Jones said. “We’re …

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Live from the ballpark, pondering life without Cox and Chipper

It’s a reflex: Something happens with the Braves, you ask the man in charge. So I sought out Bobby Cox on Wednesday afternoon, and I said: “If Chipper does quit, what do you do for a third baseman next year?”

Cox smiled. Then he said: “Not my problem.”

And that’s when it hit. For all the changes undergone by this organization these past two decades, nothing has or could prepare us for what’s surely coming next spring. We’ve seen the Braves without Tom Glavine and Greg Maddux; without John Smoltz and David Justice; without Terry Pendleton at third base and without Andruw Jones in center field … and we’ve heard them without Skip Caray and Pete Van Wieren … but we’ve never encountered anything like what’s apparently at hand.

No Bobby Cox in the dugout. No Chipper Jones batting third. No remaining touchstones to the era of baseball that made us care about the Braves in the first place.

Cox has announced his retirement. Chipper stands to announce his any day now. (After Wednesday’s …

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Does Joe Johnson want to share? Does he want to win?

Might this be Joe's response to the concept of sharing? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Might this be Joe's response to the concept of sharing? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Larry Drew wants Joe Johnson to remain a Hawk and share the ball. At issue now:

1. Was iso-Joe the plan, or did it reflect the absence of a plan? It was tough to tell if isolations became the Hawks’ default mechanism by design or … well, default. Was the offense designed that way from Day 1 of Johnson’s first season (2005-2006) as a Hawk, or was it just Mike Woodson’s convenient way of getting the ball in his best player’s hands with the game on the line? And will Drew, who is known as a more sophisticated offensive coach than his predecessor, be able to implement a system that gives Joe the big shots but not all the dribbles?

2. Will Johnson want to remain a Hawk if he’s no longer THE Hawk? Johnson wasn’t a selfish player at Arkansas or with Phoenix. (Indeed, he was the Suns’ fourth option.) He didn’t seem selfish as a Hawk until this season, when it became apparent he and Jamal Crawford …

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Tech’s Hewitt finds a seasoned assistant, and that’s good

Paul Hewitt has done something right. Yes, Paul Hewitt.

Georgia Tech announced Tuesday that Hewitt had hired Robert McCullum as an assistant basketball coach. You might never have heard of Robert McCullum, but that’s OK. He’s not a household name. He is, however, a basketball coach of long standing, and the Jackets need all the coaching they can find.

McCullum is 55. He has been a Division I head coach, but not a successful one. (He had losing records at both Western Michigan and South Florida.) That’s OK, too. What he brings is experience. He has worked with Lon Kruger (at Kansas State, Florida and Illinois) and Eddie Sutton (at San Francisco). He has actually had to call a timeout.

Since Dean Keener left the Jackets after the 2004 Final Four and Cliff Warren departed a year later, Hewitt has had to do too much. Last season’s staff included Peter Zaharis and John O’Connor, both of whom came to the Institute as directors of basketball operations, and the former Jacket Darryl …

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Is Chipper Jones a Hall of Famer? Need you even ask?

More than just the people's choice, he'll be Cooperstown's, too. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

More than just the people's choice, he'll be Cooperstown's, too. (AJC photo by Phil Skinner)

He helped win a World Series as a rookie, and not just as a ride-along — as a starting third baseman who drove in seven runs in his first seven postseason games. He carried a team that was minus Javy Lopez and Andres Galarraga to a division title four years later and was named National League MVP for his heavy lifting. He hit .364 and won a batting title when he was 36.

Yeah, Chipper Jones is a Hall of Famer.

And not just a get-in-on-his-eighth-year-of-eligibility Hall of Famer — a first-ballot lead-pipe cinch.

Steve Phillips, who used to be the Mets’ general manager and used to work for ESPN, said it best a while back: “Chipper Jones is the Derek Jeter of the National League.” It took our man Larry 12 full big-league seasons to play for a team that finished somewhere other than in first place, and a massive reason those Braves kept finishing first was No. 10.

The run of excellence was …

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Are y’all watching the World Cup? If not, why not?

I’m watching the World Cup. Many of you, I know, are not. I’m watching because international soccer is the one sport I follow for pleasure. (As opposed to following something so I can, you know, write about it.)

I’m not trying to convert anybody to anything here. You’re free to hate/ignore/lampoon the sport. But I am kind of curious: If you hate soccer, what is it you hate? The lack of scoring? The absence  of timeouts? The lack of shoulder pads? The vuvuzelas?

(A word about the latter: Vuvuzelas are plastic horns that are blown during soccer games in South Africa, which is the site of this World Cup. They make quite the racket. Indeed, vuvuzelas have become the dominant story of the event to date: TV viewers are reaching for the mute button; the BBC is pondering a vuvuzela filter and FIFA president Sepp Blatter has come out foursquare behind the vuvuzelas.

(I’m agnostic on the issue, but I can tell you this: If you think the noise is oppressive on TV, try listening on radio. …

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Texas stays put and saves college football as we know it

Texas is staying in the Big 12, which means there will still be a Big 12, though perhaps not with a dozen members and certainly not with the same dozen.  Texas staying means the biggest card in the Great Conference Shuffle hasn’t fallen and won’t fall, which means the Great Shuffle won’t be so great after all.

Texas staying put means that Oklahoma will, too, and Texas A&M surely will as well. The Associated Press and ESPN.com are reporting that all three stand to make at least $20 million per year from the reconfigured Big 12 television package, which is more than an SEC school earns in TV money. The Big 12 will be lessened by the loss of Nebraska to the Big 10 and Colorado to the Pac-10, but lessened isn’t devastated.

And the six big leagues — the SEC, the ACC, the Big 10, the Big 12, the Pac-10 and the Big East — should now emerge from the summer shaken but not truly stirred. College football in the next decade should resemble the college football we saw this past decade. …

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