Archive for June, 2011

Good news for Tech’s Shumpert: SI has him going in Round 1

The path to Round 1 might not be barred after all. (AJC photo by Vino Wong)

Iman Shumpert's path to Round 1 might not be barred after all. (AJC photo by Vino Wong)

Well, here’s a surprise. (To me, if not to Iman Shumpert.) Ian Thomsen of Sports Illustrated has the Georgia Tech guard, whom I feared might not get drafted, going to the Boston Celtics with the 25th pick of Round 1.

(Let the record reflect that Mr. Thomsen — good writer, good guy — lives in Boston and knows the workings of the Celtics well.)

Also surprising: Thomsen has neither of Georgia’s early entries — Trey Thompkins and Travis Leslie — being taken in the first round. (The draft is June 23, FYI.)

If you’ve watched the mock drafts, you’ve noted that Thompkins, considered a lottery pick not long ago, has been sliding. NBAdraft.net still has him going in Round 1 — to the Celtics with the 25th pick, which I guess means Shumpert won’t be — and Matt Moore of CBS Sports makes Thompkins the final pick of the first round.

But Chad Ford of ESPN Insiders omits Thompkins and Leslie and Shumpert

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Enough about LeBron. What’s up with this Roberto Luongo?

Roberto Luongo after being benched in Game 6. (AP photo)

Roberto Luongo after being benched. (AP photo)

Roberto Luongo plays goalie for the Vancouver Canucks. These are his numbers in the Stanley Cup finals, which remain ongoing largely because of him:

Games 1, 2 and 5: Faces 97 Boston shots, stops 95 of them, wins two games 1-0 and the third 3-2 in overtime.

Games 3,4 and 6: Faces 64 Boston shots, fails to stop 15 of them, loses all three games (one 8-0) and gets pulled twice.

To recap: For the three games in Vancouver, Luongo stood, as they say approvingly in hockey, on his head; for the three games in Boston, he shoulda stood in bed.

Hockey can be an odd game, but this is beyond odd. A world-class goalie — he was Canada’s man between the pipes when it won Olympic gold last year — has been world-class on his sport’s biggest stage only half the time. But it’s not as if Canucks fans weren’t expecting it. Writing in Sports Illustrated last month, Brian Cazeneuve sketched the can’t-bear-to-look feeling the locals had toward their …

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NBA East in 2012: The Heat will rise; the Hawks might, too

That's Al Horford on the right. Don't recognize the guy on the left. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

That's Al Horford on the right. Don't recognize the guy on the left. (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

As we take our leave of pro basketball, we look beyond the impending lockout — hey, every sport has one — to the next season, assuming there is one. With much pending, here’s a snapshot of the NBA East, which is the half of the league that concerns us:

1. Miami Heat (58-24): They lost in the finals as millions cheered, but next season could be a long one for us Heat-bashers. Half the Miami roster figures to be gone, and good riddance. Beyond the Big Three, who’s worth keeping? Udonis Haslem? Mario Chalmers? Mike Miller? Whenever the NBA hammers out a new collective bargaining agreement with its players, South Beach will remain a powerful lure for mid-level free agents: No state tax, no snow and the chance to win a title. And the Heat, as we know, don’t need more superstars. Just better complements. Stock: Still rising, darn it.

1A. Chicago Bulls (62-20): The team that missed on the …

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Lessons from the NBA finals for LeBron – and the Hawks, too

Those weren't the days: Jason Terry as a Hawk. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Jason Terry as a Hawk. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

The most fascinating NBA finals since 2004 (when the starless Detroit Pistons beat Shaq and Kobe) if not 1977 (when the clockwork Portland Trail Blazers stunned the high-wire 76ers of Dr. J and Darryl Dawkins and World B. Free) have imparted some lessons. We’ll see if the Atlanta Hawks take note.

Lesson No. 1: Mesh matters more than manpower. This is the NBA, where talent is supposed to count above all. But talent didn’t. If you were drafting from the two finalists’ rosters, you’d have picked one Maverick in the top four. Of Dallas’ four leading playoff scorers, the youngest is Dirk Nowitzki, who turns 33 next week. Yet the Mavs had a clear understanding of what they could and couldn’t do, and the Heat had no idea. Miami’s biggest shot in Game 6 — a 3-pointer (that missed) with Dallas up by 10 and 2:16 remaining — was taken not by LeBron James or Dwyane Wade but by Eddie House, who hadn’t played in the first four games of …

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Bradley’s grid picks: Tech wins eight; UGA wins the SEC East

My personal credo. (AJC photo by Ben Gray, as doctored by Ms. Mandi Albright)

My credo. (AJC photo by Ben Gray, doctored by Mandi Albright)

Six months ago I wouldn’t have imagined this pick, but here it is: Georgia will go 10-2 and win the SEC East. And how’s that for a snappy beginning to our annual long-range look at college football?

What changed my mind about Georgia? The Dream Team. I’m not the biggest believer in recruiting rankings, but this class rekindled a fire that, after 8-5 followed by 6-7, was down to embers.

Six months ago I saw a program that had run out of ideas. (How do you not score a touchdown against Central Florida?) Today I see a team primed to seize its opportunity. The SEC East is as rickety as it has ever been: Urban Meyer is gone from Florida, Tennessee is in flux and South Carolina’s breakthrough season — the Gamecocks finally won the division — fizzled at its end.

Georgia’s schedule sets up beautifully. The Bulldogs open against a team that figures to be ranked among the nation’s top five, but the team is Boise State …

Continue reading Bradley’s grid picks: Tech wins eight; UGA wins the SEC East »

Tomorrow: Bradley’s annual long-range college football picks

I predict one of these teams will win on Nov. 26. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

I boldly predict one of these teams will win on Nov. 26. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

UPDATE: As threatened, here are my picks. Read them and wail.

I am, I’m afraid, about to do it again. I’m about to offer up my annual long-range college football picks, for which I apologize in advance.

I do this every year, and every year somebody gets really mad. If I pick Georgia to do well, Tech fans hate it. If I pick Tech to do well, Georgia fans hate it. If I pick anybody to do well, fans of that school hate it — because I am, as you’re aware, often wrong.

But I do it anyway for a simple reason: It’s fun. And when I miraculously get one right — like picking Georgia to go 11-1 and win the SEC East in 2002, or picking Tech to go 10-2 and win the ACC in 2008 — I get to crow a little. (Though I’m not much for crowing, if I do say so myself.)

Consider this tiny post a preview, or a tease, or whatever you want to call it. And for the next few hours, I invite you to share in the fun by — …

Continue reading Tomorrow: Bradley’s annual long-range college football picks »

How Joe Johnson (unwittingly) ran the Thrashers out of town

Here's where it all began: In August 2005, Billy Knight snubs Steve Belkin. (AP photo)

Here's where it all began: On Aug. 9, 2005, Billy Knight snubs Steve Belkin. (AP photo)

If I can return to the Thrashers, who as we know won’t be returning …

I don’t blame Atlanta as a city. I don’t blame hockey as a sport. I don’t blame Gary Bettman as a commissioner. I blame the Atlanta Spirit for buying a product that none among their membership really wanted and neglecting it.

In a weird way, I also blame Joe Johnson.

The Spirit took ownership of the Thrashers, the Hawks and Philips Arena in March 2004. In the summer of 2005 Billy Knight, then the Hawks’ general manager, sought to work a sign-and-trade with Phoenix for the restricted free agent Joe Johnson. Knight offered Boris Diaw, who’d been the Hawks’ No. 1 draftee in 2003, and two future No. 1 pick. Steve Belkin, whom the Spirit had installed as the team’s NBA governor, thought the price was too high.

The many other Spirit members moved to overthrow Belkin as governor so that the trade — described by one of the …

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I thought I’d hate LeBron. Turns out I’m feeling sorry for him

Okay, I surrender. LeBron James and Co. have won me over. (AP photo)

Okay, I surrender. I have no idea what it is LeBron James is trying to do. (AP photo)

I thought this would be easy, pulling against LeBron James. Eleven months ago I’d worked up a disdain I figured would carry me through 2011 and probably 2021. But here Miami is, playing for the NBA title, and I have a confession:

I’m actually starting to feel sorry for LeBron.

He’s the best player in the world. He’s on the sport’s biggest stage. He’s hiding in the corner.

He scored 17 points in Game 3 of the NBA finals, which prompted Gregg Doyel of CBS Sports to dub him an “incredibly shrinking superstar.” Bristling at a Doyel question, James took pains to extol the virtues of all-around excellence,  and in his defense he did feed Chris Bosh for the jumper that won Game 3, and when your team wins you can say whatever you want.

There can, however, be no defending Game 4. James scored eight points, a personal playoff low. He took one fourth-quarter shot. The Heat blew a sizable lead for the …

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Clarett didn’t sink Ohio State and Jim Tressel, but Pryor did

Maurice Clarett after snatching back a Miami interception in the Fiesta Bowl. (AP photo)

Maurice Clarett after snatching back a Miami interception. (AP photo)

Ohio State got away with one high-profile recruit who was trouble. Maurice Clarett won the Buckeyes a BCS title and stamped Jim Tressel, two years removed from Youngstown State, as the hottest coach in the land. Ohio State upset Miami in overtime in January 2003 — the freshman Clarett scored the winning touchdown — and the program of Woody Hayes and Hopalong Cassady and Archie Griffin was again No. 1.

Clarett never played another collegiate down. He wound up leaving school after filing a false police report. (It involved a car he’d borrowed from a Columbus dealership.) In 2006 he landed in jail after pleading guilty to charges including armed robbery.

Clarett was trouble, but from an OSU standpoint he was worth it: He lifted the Buckeyes to a championship and didn’t get the program on NCAA probation in the process. In the merciless world of big-money football, that constitutes a victory. And if he went on to …

Continue reading Clarett didn’t sink Ohio State and Jim Tressel, but Pryor did »

Tennessee’s inept AD quits. Will Radakovich get a Vol call?

From left: Dan Radakovich, hoops coach Brian Gregory and SID Dean Buchan. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Dan Radakovich, Brian Gregory and Tech SID Dean Buchan. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Mike Hamilton hired Lane Kiffin to coach Tennessee football. Mike Hamilton hired Bruce Pearl to coach Tennessee basketball.

In a not-so-shocking development, Mike Hamilton announced today he is resigning as Tennessee’s athletic director.

Tennessee is about to appear before the NCAA committee on infractions, which is what happens when you hire Lane Kiffin to coach football and Bruce Pearl to coach basketball. (Tennessee baseball is also under scrutiny, too.)

Hamilton said today he wanted the Vols to be able to plead their case to the NCAA with a “clean slate,” which seemed an odd choice of words. But the football coach, the basketball coach, the baseball coach and the AD who presided over this mischief-making are all gone or going, which might mitigate things a bit. (And Tennessee always gets away with everything. Right, Bama fans?)

A couple of thoughts: Derek Dooley’s job, which was never …

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