Today we offer the (long-deferred if not necessarily long-awaited) return of the Monday Heat Check, in which we take the figurative temperature of our local sporting entities. And, in keeping with climatic conditions, I must note that every team is HOT!HOT!HOT!
BRAVES: They haven’t lost in a week, and the week ahead looks most inviting. They’re home for four games against the Marlins, who have given up, and three against the Astros, who snapped a 12-game losing slide Sunday and are the worst team in baseball by some distance.
And there’s every chance the Braves will make a trade by 4 p.m. Tuesday. Zack Greinke is gone to Anaheim, and the Braves claim to have moved on from their pursuit of reluctant Ryan Dempster, but I’m not convinced that ship has sailed. There’s no reason for the Cubs to keep Dempster — they’re not going to re-sign him — and the Dodgers’ offer hasn’t been convincing. (If it had, he’d be gone by now.) And if his preferred destination isn’t an option, mightn’t Dempster be tempted to say, “I could live out of a hotel in Buckhead for three months if it means pitching in the World Series”?
As noted earlier, the Braves can and should qualify for the playoffs as is. If they get Dempster — who’s the only starting pitcher good enough to make a difference who’s apt to be available at a non-Teixeira price — they’d be good enough to win a postseason series. Heat Index: Hot, with a real opportunity to get hotter still.
FALCONS: They haven’t lost since Jan. 8. They’re in training camp with new coordinators and a new O-line coach, and they’re making all the happy noises teams in training camp, be it with or without new coordinators, make.
The big news so far has been that Lofa Tatupu, imported as insurance at middle linebacker, got hurt and got cut without playing a down. Some have taken this development as cause for hand-wringing. Please. The Falcons’ Plan A was always to give young Akeem Dent every chance to seize the job, and that hasn’t changed. Save your real concern for something that really matters, like left tackle. Heat Index: The belief here is that Hotlanta’s NFL franchise is primed to have its hottest season since 1998.
HAWKS: They haven’t lost since May 10. They’ve excised two of the Core Four. They’re starting anew under general manager Danny Ferry, which isn’t to stay they’re starting over. You can make a little something of a roster that includes Josh Smith, Al Horford, Jeff Teague, Lou Williams, DeShawn Stevenson, Kyle Korver, Devin Harris and John Jenkins. (You mightn’t be able to make the playoffs, but you shouldn’t stink on ice.)
Unless they trade for Dwight Howard, whatever the Hawks do over the next 11 months won’t much matter. Come July 2013, they’ll have money to spend and free agency to explore/exploit. Heat Index: The season ahead mightn’t be warm and fuzzy, but the future of this franchise looks rather toasty.
GEORGIA TECH: The Jackets haven’t lost since Dec. 31. They’re picked to finish second in the ACC Coastal Division. They play Virginia Tech, which is picked to finish first, on Labor Day night. If they win that game, they should take the Coastal. I like this team’s chances. Heat Index: Well, how hot would a division title be?
GEORGIA: The Bulldogs haven’t lost since Jan. 2. They’re picked to win the SEC East. They’ve lost Isaiah Crowell, but they should be able to fill out a backfield this season. Crowell or no Crowell, I like this team’s chances. Heat Index: Well, how hot would a BCS title game berth against the Men of Kiffin be?
By Mark Bradley