Archive for June, 2011

Q: Should the Braves trade Jair Jurrjens? A: Are you NUTS?

Better trade this guy before he breaks too many records. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Better trade this guy before he messes up and breaks too many records. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Usually Braves fans posit trades in this fanciful way: “Greg Norton for Albert Pujols — that’d be a great move!” But here, courtesy of Buster Olney and his ESPN Insider blog, we have something different. We have baseball people asking if the Braves would consider trading Jair Jurrjens.

Writes Olney (link requires registration):

Some rival executives have wondered if that pitching depth would allow Atlanta to consider a very bold move with a pitcher whose stock has reached its zenith — Jair Jurrjens, who is 10-3 with a 2.07 ERA and a midseason candidate for the Cy Young Award. If the Braves actually dangled Jurrjens in the market, they could put themselves in position to get an impact offensive position player in return.

Just to reiterate: All the discussion among rival evaluators about Jurrjens is pure speculation.

Well, thank heavens. The Braves have had many good …

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Mixed AAU message: McCray to UCLA, UGA players in trouble

Jarvis Jones when he was at Carver-Columbus and one of our Super 11. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Jarvis Jones, then at Carver-Columbus, was one of our Super 11. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Who says you can’t get an education while school’s out of session? This summer, we in Georgia are seeing both the power and the peril of AAU basketball.

The power: UCLA, the school of Wooden and Abdul-Jabbar and Walton and 11 NCAA titles, hired Korey McCray away from the Atlanta Celtics to become an assistant coach. Why? Because UCLA believes McCray can be an effective recruiter.

The peril: The collegiate eligibility of two Georgia players — Jarvis Jones, projected as a starting linebacker, and Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, the biggest Bulldog hoops recruit in nearly two decades — has been jeopardized by their ties to the Georgia Blazers, an AAU team based in Columbus.

Speaking in April, Korey McCray said: “AAU guys get such a bad rap.” And it’s true that AAU ball has come to be seen as too powerful. AAU teams can and do hammer out their own shoe deals: The Atlanta Celtics are sponsored by …

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So who’s the Hawks’ mystery buyer? Why, it could be …

This is a beluga whale. It can't shoot jumpers very well, either. (AJC photo by John Spink)

This is a beluga whale. It can't shoot jumpers very well, either. (AJC photo by John Spink)

Respected journalists Ian Thomsen of SI.com and David Aldridge of NBA.com have reported that the Atlanta Hawks are about to be sold to a mystery buyer. Bruce Levenson, one of the Hawks’ many owners, said Thomsen’s initial report was “not true.”

Still, whenever the words “mystery buyer” arise, it’s human nature to try and affix a name and face. Consider me human. Possible buyers for the Hawks could – could, I said — include:

Who: Bernie Marcus. Why him? The Home Depot co-founder and Georgia Aquarium patriarch might be weary of seeing Arthur Blank get all the civic kudos. Possible complication: If Marcus thought beluga whales could be intransigent creatures, wait until he tries to get Josh Smith to stop hoisting jump shots.

Who: Mike Woodson. Why him? He used to coach the Hawks but always claimed, due to outside business interests, he didn’t need the money. Possible complication: First …

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Former N.C. State QB Wilson picks Wisconsin over Auburn

Russell Wilson: He'll be wearing red for the Badgers, too. (AP photo)

Russell Wilson: He'll be wearing red as a Badger, too. (AP photo)

Well, here’s one one-year quarterback Auburn didn’t get. Russell Wilson, formerly of North Carolina State, committed Monday to Wisconsin, which was big news, since the last Immediate Impact Free Agent in college football landed at Auburn, where he stayed a few months and left with a BCS title and a Heisman Trophy.

This isn’t to say Russell Wilson will make the same splash as Cam Newton. (I say again: Cam Newton was the second-best collegiate player I’ve ever seen, trailing only Herschel Walker.) But Russell Wilson has already done far more as a collegian than Newton had upon his Auburn arrival, and he could have been the difference between the post-Cam Tigers falling from 14-0 to, say, 7-5.

But Wilson, who visited Auburn, opted to go elsewhere,  and there’s now a chance the Badgers will enter the season as Big Ten favorites. Michigan has a new coach, and so does Ohio State, and Nebraska is still in relocation …

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Lorenzo Charles made more than just one basket, you know

"They won it! On the dunk!" (Sports Illustrated photo by Rich Clarkson)

"They won it! On the dunk!" (Sports Illustrated photo by Rich Clarkson)

Lorenzo Charles made the most famous basket in the history of college basketball. What people forget is that he made a few — more than a few, actually — other baskets. He wasn’t just the guy who got lucky and dunked home an air ball to fell mighty Houston. He was a very good player who was drafted by the wrong NBA team.

That team was the Atlanta Hawks. The year was 1985. He was the Round 2 pick (41st overall) of what would become a famous rookie class. The Round 1 pick was Jon Koncak; the Round 4 pick was John Battle. And there was a rookie free agent by the name of Spud Webb whose claim to fame at that time was that he’d played college ball with Lorenzo Charles.

The Hawks were the wrong team for Charles — known as “Lo” or “Zo,” FYI — because he played forward. These were the forwards ahead of him: Dominique Wilkins, Kevin Willis, Cliff Levingston and Antoine Carr. Charles played in 36 games as a rookie …

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Why the Atlanta Hawks’ future is, in a word, questionable

Kirk Hinrich waves goodbye to a first-round pick. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Kirk Hinrich waves goodbye to the first-round draft pick that became Chris Singleton. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The NBA draft is behind us, and all the Hawks have to show for it is Keith Benson, a skinny center of some promise who might not play a significant minute next season. But there are greater issues facing this team. To wit:

1. Having all but admitted they’d like to trade Josh Smith, don’t the Hawks  now HAVE to trade Josh Smith?

Yes. Some players could  shrug off being shopped as the price of business. Smith isn’t so thick-skinned. He really wants to be appreciated as a great player, and he can’t understand why Atlanta fans cringe when he rises to shoot a 20-footer. If the Hawks were willing to dangle Smith in the attempt to land the draft’s No. 2 pick and the Turkish center Enes Kanter, they shouldn’t pull back now. A disgruntled Smoove would be a greater distraction than he already is.

2. Does the Kirk Hinrich trade look even worse with time?

Yes. It’s one thing …

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The Monday Heat Check: Braves are warm, Hawks not so hot

Eric Hinske scores the Braves' lone run against San Diego on Sunday. (AP photo)

Eric Hinske scores the Braves' lone run against San Diego on Sunday. (AP photo)

What you see here is new weekly feature. We call it the Monday Morning Heat Check, and its intent is to measure the warmth, or the absence thereof, of Atlanta’s sports entries. And what qualifies me to determine such things? Well, I buy my eyeglasses at the same posh establishment frequented by Jim Cantore of The Weather Channel. Need I say more?

The Braves: Went 4-2 on the week, sweeping a pretty good opponent in Toronto before losing a series to the last-place Padres. On Saturday the Braves scored 10 runs and you thought, not for the first time, that maybe they’d gotten it going. On Sunday they managed two hits, and you thought, not for the first time, “Nah.” They’re still five games back of Philadelphia in the East, and Jonny Venters just proved he’s human after all.  Heat index: Warm, but not nearly sizzling.

The Hawks: For a couple of hours Thursday, the Hawks were the center of the NBA …

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Fredi Gonzalez: The new manager gets a surpassing grade

If Fredi can get Nate McLouth going, we'll name him valedictorian. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

If Fredi can get Nate McLouth going, we'll name him valedictorian. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

Bobby Cox said this week he’d give his successor “an A-plus,” but Cox has always been given to bouts of irrational exuberance when it comes to the Braves. Still, we thank the former manager for broaching the topic, and we welcome this opportunity to cast a cold eye on Fredi Gonzalez’s job performance and award him a totally rational …

A-minus.

The new man has been really good. The numbers are one powerful indication — the Braves awoke Friday with the fourth-best record and the best ERA in baseball — but the numbers don’t tell the entire tale. To say everything has broken right for Fredi’s club would be to ignore a run of injuries that sent the starting outfield to the disabled list and the ongoing flailings of Dan Uggla, whose batting average hasn’t topped .200 since May 16.

Uggla didn’t arrive as just another in a series of Frank Wren’s impulse buys: He was a calculated acquisition …

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Will tonight’s NBA draft be a snooze-fest or a Smoove-fest?

Game 6 against the Bulls: Was it Josh's last night as a Hawk? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Game 6 against the Bulls: Was it his last night as a Hawk? (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

And here we thought tonight’s NBA draft would be a snooze-fest for Hawks fans. Turns out it could become … pardon the expression … a Smoove-fest.

Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports reports that the Hawks, who currently hold only the 18th pick of the second round, are trying to trade Josh Smith to the Minnesota Timberwolves for the second pick in the draft. With this pick, Wojnarowski writes, the Hawks would take Enes Kanter, the center from Turkey who was ruled ineligible to play for Kentucky this season by the NCAA.

Smith rumors have been running rampant the past 36 hours, and it’s not clear of any of them will come to fruition ever, let alone before the draft is done. (Me, I’m skeptical. But that’s just me.) But all among us who figured we’d skip the draft because the Hawks didn’t have a Round 1 pick might want to rethink.

The Kanter deal makes some sense, at least from the Hawks’ …

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The Josh Smith trade rumors: I’m not buying any of them – yet

Once and future teammates? Not so fast, my friend. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Once and future teammates? Not so fast, my friend. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The volume on the Josh Smith trade rumors has been cranked up to 11 — “Spinal Tap” joke — and somebody needs to dial it down. I nominate … myself.

It has been reported that the Hawks are gauging interest in Smith ahead of tonight’s NBA draft, which only makes sense. It has also been reported that Smith wants out of Atlanta, which I’m not sure is the case, and has even submitted a list of teams he wouldn’t mind joining. (The list, according to Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports, includes Boston, Houston, Orlando and New Jersey.)

Smoove-related speculation has been running the highest in Orlando, where Smith’s best friend (meaning Dwight Howard) plays, and Boston. Ken Berger of CBS Sports reports that discussions between the Hawks and the Magic are “totally legit.” But now we ask: Other than Howard himself, who among Magic men would the Hawks want?

Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel notes that, …

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