Archive for May, 2012

The Hawks move to keep Larry Drew, and more hope fades

"Run the play where we shoot a jump shot. That'll work." (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

"Run the play where we shoot a jump shot. That'll work." (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

The Atlanta Hawks could have changed a lot this offseason without doing very much. They could have said goodbye to both general manager Rick Sund and coach Larry Drew without having to buy either out. By announcing Friday that they’ve chosen to keep Drew another season, the Hawks have again sent the message that they regard being pretty good as good enough.

Sund’s fate — his contract expires June 30 — is still unknown, but it seemed rather significant that he was the only one quoted in the we’re-keeping-Drew release. (Would a GM who’s actually leaving be allowed to vote yea or nay on a coach? These being the Hawks, maybe.) And if you wondered how long Sund would wait to invoke injuries as an excuse for remaining status quo, the answer was 25 words.

Then this: “The Hawks have reached the postseason in each of his years on the bench, and we feel Larry’s experience, expertise and dedication …

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How the Hawks might get it right: Find a coach for Josh Smith

(AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

"Good luck in your next job, Larry." "Same to you, Rick." (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

As sometimes happens in the fast-paced world of 21st Century sportswriting, events have intervened. The Hawks announced at 1:59 p.m. Friday that they have exercised their option to keep Larry Drew as head coach. A new post will be forthcoming, but I’m leaving this up as a reminder that … well, that it wasn’t MY idea.

The other day, someone who follows the Atlanta Hawks in a journalistic capacity asked: “Do you think Josh Smith really wants to be coached?” That’s not just a great metaphysical question — it’s the key to this offseason and the seasons to come.

After thinking a bit, I said: “I think he does.” And right there I had my blueprint. At this moment in their strange history, what do the Hawks need to do?

Keep Josh Smith but find him a coach.

There are three major variables: Smith has one season remaining on his contract and has made noises about wanting out of here; the club holds an …

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What do the Braves do with Minor? There aren’t many options

Mike Minor in a start at Colorado. It wasn't good, either. (AP photo)

Mike Minor in a start at Colorado earlier this month. It wasn't good, either. (AP photo)

Fredi Gonzalez said Wednesday night that he thought Mike Minor threw very well — for three innings. Which he did. Minor carried a no-hitter into the fourth. He was gone five outs later, having yielded seven base runners in the span of 10 Miami batters. For the fourth consecutive start, Minor was charged with at least six earned runs. His ERA rose to 7.09.

It’s clear that Minor is becoming a bit of a mess. After Wednesday’s game he said he let down his teammates, the organization and the fans. He said he didn’t want the other Braves looking at him wondering if this start was going to be as bad as last week’s, didn’t want them thinking they’d have to score a lot of runs to win — which had happened both at Colorado and St. Louis — just because Minor is pitching.

Minor is hard on himself, and you can see why. Last month he worked 7 1/3 one-hit innings against Milwaukee, which can hit, and …

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The Braves were leading the NL East. They aren’t anymore

"First place is over that way, I do believe." (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

"First place is over that way, I do believe." (AJC photo by Jason Getz)

(Updated to reflect Wednesday’s rather shabby outcome.)

Not so long ago, some believed the National League East had grown too tough for the local nine. Sports Illustrated even picked this club to finish fourth in a five-team division. And yet, with almost one-fourth of the six-month season gone, who awoke Wednesday holding first place?

Said Brian McCann, smiling: “Bravos.”

Yep. The team that didn’t spend big on free agents — unless you count paying Derek Lowe $10 million to leave — stood atop the division that has stamped itself as the NL’s best. OK, so it was only by a half-game over Washington, and so the skinny lead didn’t last the night. (The Nationals won at home and the Braves played horribly and lost to Miami here.) Still, let’s focus on the bigger picture:

The Braves were rather easy to forget amid the winter Eastern movement, and through 37 games they’d looked pretty darn good.

Granted, the 38th …

Continue reading The Braves were leading the NL East. They aren’t anymore »

We say it again: The Hawks really did flub a big fat chance

This is Chris Bosh. He's hurt. (AP photo)

This is Miami's Chris Bosh. Guess what? He's hurt. (AP photo)

As noted, the Hawks tripped over a splendid opportunity to reach the Eastern Conference finals. But, even had they gotten there, they wouldn’t have been expected to win the Eastern Conference finals. You had to figure Miami’s Big Three would have been too big.

Update: Miami’s Big Three is down to two, and the Heat just lost Game 2 at home to the Indiana Pacers. Meaning: The Hawks might have had a better chance in the ECF than we’d have thought.

Run the (depleted) numbers: In Round 1 the Hawks had the homecourt edge over Boston, which was without Ray Allen for Games 1 and 2 and Rajon Rondo for Game 2 and which saw Paul Pierce hurt himself in a shootaround before Game 4; in Round 2 they’d have faced eighth-seeded Philadelphia, which beat Chicago after Derrick Rose and Joakim Noah got hurt, and if they’d won Round 2 they would have faced either Miami, suddenly without Chris Bosh, or Indiana, which nobody really …

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Video: On the Atlanta Braves, Scott Boras and Michael Bourn

Continue reading Video: On the Atlanta Braves, Scott Boras and Michael Bourn »

Bourn-again Braves: The leadoff man is now the leading man

Sabermetric discussions sometimes turn heated. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Sabermetric discussions can sometimes turn heated. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

“Show me a good offense,” Chipper Jones said Monday, “and I’ll show you a good leadoff hitter.”

For a change, the Atlanta Braves have a very good offense. For an even bigger change, they have a terrific leadoff hitter. We’ll get around to Michael Bourn’s non-numerical contributions in a bit — not to be confused with BABIP, one of those categories stat geeks love — but first a little fun with numbers.

If you’re a sabermetrician, you believe WAR is good for absolutely everything. (Say it again!)  It stands for “wins above replacement.” It’s a complicated measure that fuses offense and defense and purports to reflect how many wins Player X is worth when measured against a garden-variety big-leaguer. There are two recognized WAR formulae — one by Baseball-Reference.com, the other by FanGraphs – and if you go by the former, the Braves’ leadoff hitter has been the best everyday WARrior in the National …

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The Hawks had a great chance. Being the Hawks, they blew it

Yet again, the Hawks' reach exceeded their grasp. More's the pity. (AP photo)

Yet again, the Hawks' reach exceeded their collective grasp. More's the pity. (AP photo)

For all the lip service that will be paid to the Hawks’ perseverance through injury and their rousing efforts in Games 5 and 6, let’s call this what it was: a massive missed opportunity. These NBA playoffs weren’t 34 hours old when the team that has never reached the Eastern Conference finals had been graced with two strokes of fortune: Derrick Rose hurt his knee and Rajon Rondo misplaced his marbles.

With Rondo suspended for Game 2, the Atlanta Hawks were staring at the likelihood of a 2-0 lead with the reality of either a weakened No. 1 seed or, better still, an unimpressive No. 8 awaiting in Round 2. Being the Hawks, they tossed their gifts in the trash can. They lost Game 2 here after leading by 11 points with 15 minutes left. They were outscored 18-15 the rest of the way by the 34-year-old Paul Pierce.

This series was lost in Game 2. In NBA history, teams taking a 2-0 lead have won …

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Kiper lists UGA’s Jarvis Jones No. 2 among NFL prospects

Jarvis Jones blows up, figureatively speaking, a Big Blue ballcarrier. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Jarvis Jones imparts a big bruise on the Big Blue. (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Jarvis Jones, Georgia Bulldog. Second-best player in the land?

The inescapable Mel Kiper of ESPN Insider rates Jones the No. 2 player on his Big Board for the 2013 NFL draft, which is only 50 weeks away. He slots Jones behind Matt Barkley, the Southern Cal quarterback, and ahead of Barkevious Mingo, the LSU defensive end. Here’s Mel on Jones (all links requires registration):

Explosive, relentless edge rusher, profiles well as a 3-4 OLB. Great first step, violent hands, extremely good burst off the snap, tackles well, closes fast. Could improve against run, but coaches there also tell me people don’t realize how well he can cover.

More UGA-related Mel: He rates Bacarri Rambo second among senior safeties; Jonathan Jenkins second among senior defensive tackles; Aaron Murray fifth among junior quarterbacks (behind both Tyler Bray of Tennessee and AJ McCarron of Alabama); Kwame Geathers fifth …

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Me, I think the Hawks have a real chance to steal Game 6

Philips Arena might not have seen its last NBA game of the season. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Philips Arena might not have seen its last NBA game of the season. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Not wanting to be a jinx or anything, I’ll refrain from making an actual prediction. But I do think the Hawks have a real chance in Game 6, and here’s why:

1. Al Horford changes the dynamics at both ends. You’ll notice that Boston, which prides itself on playing D, couldn’t stop Horford in the final 2 1/2 minutes of the fourth quarter of Game 5. He scored the go-ahead-for-good hoop off a pick-and-roll with Jeff Teague — surely a called play out of a timeout — and made a tough hook over Kevin Garnett and Brandon Bass to put the Hawks up four. And you had to notice that Horford’s slipping of Garnett’s screen forced Rajon Rondo to dribble into the corner on the final sequence, whereupon he lost the ball. Would all the folks who picked the Celtics to win this series have made the same choice if they’d known Horfy would be back?

2. A personal rule: A team only gets so many opportunities …

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