Archive for April, 2011

Report: UGA’s Justin Houston tested positive for marijuana

Justin Houston at the combine. (AP photo)

Justin Houston at the combine. (AP photo)

Citing NFL sources, FoxSports is reporting that Georgia linebacker Justin Houston tested positive for marijuana at the combine in February. Given that the draft is two days away, such news could have broken at no worse time — for Houston, if not for the teams that might have been interested in him.

Such news could also have an impact on the local NFL team’s first choice. It’s widely believed the Falcons are in need of a defensive end, and there’s thought that Houston could be as effective as a down lineman in a 4-3 as at outside linebacker in a 3-4. (Houston played in both spots under both alignments at Georgia.) But the Falcons under Dimitroff have made it a practice to minimize draft risks.

Drafting Justin Houston just got riskier. I can’t see the Falcons picking him now, at least not in Round 1, and I’d be surprised if he’s taken by any team before Round 2. Which would be a shame. He’s a big-time talent with a huge upside. (Sorry to …

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Tressel’s in trouble at Ohio State; Urban Meyer to the rescue?

"Urban, you'd look swell in a sweater vest." (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

"Urban, you'd look swell in one of those sweater vests." (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

The NCAA has just accused Jim Tressel, who oversees the football program at The Ohio State University, of lying. Generally speaking, it doesn’t pay to lie to the NCAA. (Ask Bruce Pearl, who used to coach basketball at Tennessee.) There are those who believe Tressel, his stellar record notwithstanding, isn’t long for his job.

And then there’s Beano Cook, who believes Urban Meyer will coach Ohio State in 2012.

Beano Cook, who used to be a big man in college football circles, went on ESPN Radio last week and averred: “I’ve said on my Podcast. . .  Urban Meyer will be the coach at Ohio State in 2012. That was my prediction and I stick by that prediction.”

Corporate synergy note: You can find Beano’s podcast, also on ESPN, by clicking here. And Urban Meyer, who once coached the Florida Gators, works for ESPN. At least he does until he decides to end his latest retirement.

A couple of things: …

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Are the Hawks playing better, or is this the right opponent?

It's called wrong-footing the opposition. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

This can serve as a textbook example of wrong-footing the opposition. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

At issue is whether the Hawks lead 3-1 because they’re playing better or because they’re playing the Magic. Asked that question before Sunday’s Game 4, Hawks coach Larry Drew said: “I’d say it’s a combination of both.”

The Hawks were 6-18 in the regular season against teams that won 50-plus games. Half of those six victories came against Orlando, which became the only team that mattered once the playoffs commenced. Even if almost nobody else felt good about the 82 games they’d played, the Hawks felt good about their chances against Orlando.

The Hawks accomplished little from October through mid-April, but they did manage this: They learned to play the team that humiliated them. “Whatever we were trying to do against them hadn’t worked,” Drew said, and here we come to a key point: If it had worked, Drew wouldn’t be the head coach.

Mike Woodson presided over a team that went from …

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Confounding Hawks are a game from making Magic disappear

Joe Johnson: A big game at a big time. (AP photo)

Joe Johnson: A big game at a big time. (AP photo)

Say what you will about these Hawks, and by now we’ve said it all, usually with a few choice words interspersed. That they’re sloppy with a lead. That they often act as if basketball was a sport scored on degree of difficulty. That they lead the world in keeping both teams in the game.

But here’s something we haven’t been able to say about any Hawks team since 1970: That it leads a best-of-seven series 3-1.

Also this: That it’s one game from winning a playoff series in which it didn’t hold the homecourt edge for the first time since 1996.

Also this: That in taking Game 4 on Sunday it made you want to tear out your hair.

The Hawks are so much better than the Magic that the wonder isn’t that Orlando is facing elimination; the wonder is that the Magic still have a game to play. The Hawks have led by double figures four times running, and in Game 4 they jumped ahead by 16 points on a night when Jason Richardson, Orlando’s …

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Live from Game 4: The Hawks have it going but can’t let up

It'd be nice if the Hawks didn't need another shot quite this outrageous. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It'd be nice if the Hawks didn't need another shot quite so outrageous. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Let’s not get ahead our ourselves. The Hawks must beat Orlando twice more to reach the Eastern Conference semifinals, and it’s possible the MRI on Derrick Rose’s ankle could show nothing beyond a sprain. But, as we speak, the playoff prospects of these Hawks are looking somewhat better than they did nine days ago.

Ten ESPN analysts picked the Magic to win Round 1. Four SI.com writers likewise tabbed Orlando. None of the watchers on either site took a flier on the Hawks, who are, let’s note, the No. 5 seed. The 4-against-5 series is usually a toss-up thing. (The Hawks needed seven games to beat Miami in one of those two springs back.) But the Hawks were playoff-picking poison when this postseason commenced, and now they’re halfway to a Round 1 victory.

Before tonight’s Game 4, Hawks coach Larry Drew was asked if his team’s sudden success was a function of playing better than …

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Zaza and Richardson to miss Game 4: Advantage, Hawks

"My head's harder than yours!" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

"'My head's harder than yours! Want me to prove it again?'" (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Losing Zaza Pachulia hurts the Hawks. Losing Jason Richardson hurts the Magic more. It’s pretty simple why.

Zaza is a sub splitting minutes at center, where the Hawks have other choices: Jason Collins is the starter in this lineup, and Al Horford has had some success at the position, having twice made the All-Star team. Richardson is a starter and was, at least during the regular season, the second-leading scorer on a team starving for options beyond Dwight Howard and Jameer Nelson

Howard has averaged 33.3 points in this series, up nearly 10 over his regular-season yield. Of Orlando’s 92 baskets, he has 33. Nelson has 19. That means 56.5 percent of the Magic’s offense is coming from two players. That’s why the Hawks lead 2-1. The rest of the Magic men have been, in a word, lousy.

The trades the Magic made in December were bold in the sense general manager Otis Smith acknowledged his team …

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The Hawks win a wild Game 3: They’re the better team, folks

That's how it's spelled: H-A-W-K-S. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

That's how it's spelled: H-A-W-K-S. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

It’s not easy being an Atlanta Hawk. The whole wide world expects you to fail. Because you lost a playoff series by 101 points last spring. Because you spent much of this regular season getting blown out at home. Because your ownership promoted an assistant coach who was supposed to make you better and instead saw you slide from 53 wins to 44 with the same personnel.

But then the new season began, the one that matters, and you went to Orlando and took Game 1. Heck, you almost took Game 2. And what did the Magic’s Ryan Anderson tell reporters after those two games?

Why, this: “Atlanta’s a team that if things aren’t really going their way, they’re going to struggle a little bit. We’re different in a sense where if we’re down, we kind of know how to fight our way back into it.”

You’re an Atlanta Hawk, and you essentially got called heartless by Ryan Anderson. (Ryan Anderson, for Pete’s sake.) But it’s not just …

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Live from Game 3: It’s a prove-it night for the Atlanta Hawks

It's a white-out/Dwight-out night at Philips Arena. Free T-shirts! (Photo by M. Bradley)

It's a white-out/Dwight-out night at Philips Arena. Meaning: Free T-shirts! (Photo by M. Bradley)

How big is Game 3? Said Orlando coach Stan Van Gundy, speaking minutes ago: “You win and you’re up 2-1.”

Well, yes. More from Van Gundy: “People want it to mean something psychologically. Heck, it means something mathematically.”

Well, yes. But the psychic dimensions of this game for the home team are immense. Win and the Hawks will go some distance toward proving Game 1 was no fluke. Lose and they’ll travel just as far in the wrong direction.

The belief here is that Game 1 was no fluke. It’s a belief buttressed in reality: The Hawks beat the Magic three times of four in the regular season, and then they went to Orlando and won once and nearly won again.

Said Larry Drew, the Hawks’ coach: “We feel very confident.”

They should. They’re better than Orlando. They have the better starting five — you’d give Orlando the nod at center and point guard — and the better subs. And I’m not …

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ESPN’s Hollinger: Larry Drew blew Game 2 for the Hawks

The Hawks have rattled the Magic. But they missed a chance to lead 2-0. (AP photo)

The Hawks have rattled the Magic. But they missed a chance in Game 2. (AP photo)

The Hawks had a chance to come home leading 2-0. They failed. According to John Hollinger, the ESPN Insider, they failed because Larry Drew failed.

To recap: Al Horford was called for two fouls in the game’s first 131 seconds. This prompted Drew to sit him for the rest of the first half. This is not a new Drew policy, nor is it peculiar to him. Other coaches have the same two-and-you’re-out rule. But there are times for rules to be bent, and a night when you’re seeking to take a 2-0 lead would seem to be such a time.

But no. With Horford playing not at all in the second quarter, the Hawks went from 10 points ahead to six behind. They would never again lead. An opportunity had gone a-wasting.

Writes Hollinger (link requires registration):

I’ve ripped coaches for extreme conservatism with foul trouble before, but what Larry Drew did Tuesday night in Orlando takes the cake. It may very well cost …

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Korey McCray: From the AAU Atlanta Celtics to regal UCLA?

Two Atlanta Celtics stage an alumni reunion. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

An Atlanta Celtics alumni chapter. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

The college basketball world is a-twitter with word, first reported by Jeff Goodman of FoxSports, that the proudest program in the land stands ready to offer an assistant coach’s job to someone known for his work in AAU circles. The program is UCLA. The AAU man is Korey McCray, the 32-year-old CEO of the Atlanta Celtics.

“I’m right there in the running,” said McCray, speaking of the UCLA post. “I’m probably the favorite right now.”

McCray played college basketball at Mercer and served as assistant there under Mark Slonaker. He was a graduate assistant under Leonard Hamilton at Florida State and also worked at Chipola (Fla.) College. Today McCray coaches the sophomore boys’ team for the summer-league Celtics — he once played for them; his father Karl helped found the club in 1990 with the late Wallace Prather and remains its president — and runs a basketball training program called Fundamentals.

You might never have …

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