Archive for the ‘Hawks/NBA’ Category

If you’re looking for the Mark Bradley blog, it has moved

As of Friday, Jan. 11, this blog upped sticks (as they say in England) for a new locale. The new Web address is http://www.ajc.com/weblogs/mark-bradley/.

The new blog has, not surprisingly, some new features. Take it for a spin. If you like it, I’ll even throw in free undercoating.

And thanks, as ever, for your continued patronage.

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Heat Check: Will the Falcons again feel the January chill?

Here's how it was when last the Falcons were the No. 1 seed. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Here's how it was when last the Falcons were the No. 1 seed. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Fort Lauderdale – Owing to the national championship game, our weekly Heat Check emanates from warm environs. We begin, however, with professional football.

FALCONS: It has already started. The No. 1 seed hasn’t yet stuck its toe in playoff waters, and again we’re hearing that it’s out of its depth. The local franchise sits behind five other teams on the odds-to-win-the-Super-Bowl tote board, and it’s even with Seattle, which has to play in the Georgia Dome on Sunday. Technically the Falcons are a two-point favorite over the Seahawks, which is the same tepid betting line the 13-3 Birds faced when playing host to Green Bay two years ago. And they lost that one 48-21. Atmospheric reading: I’ve been saying since August that these Falcons are different. Here’s where they prove me right.

GEORGIA: Won the Capital One Bowl, lost Jarvis Jones and Alec Ogletree to the NFL, kept Aaron Murray. That …

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Heat Check: History says 14-2 Falcons would be Super lock

Go 14-2 and it's a lock! (AJC photo by Marlene Karas)

How the last 14-2 Falcons fared. (AJC photo by Marlene Karas)

Our weekly Heat Check commences with a team that just aced its final regular-season exam.

FALCONS: Beat the reigning Super Bowl champion 34-0, which, according to Elias, is the worst shutout loss ever suffered by a reigning Super Bowl champion (Elias also notes that only three previous teams in NFL history had been shut out the week after scoring 50 points. You mightn’t be surprised that the Falcons, who beat the Saints 62-7 in 1973 and then lost to the Rams 31-0, made that list.) Atmospheric reading: The Falcons can finish the regular season 14-2. Every single Falcons team to finish a regular season 14-2 has reached the Super Bowl. (OK, so that’s a grand total of one.)

HAWKS: Were briefly tied for first place in the NBA Southeast before losing here to Golden State by 22 points. Atmospheric reading: At hand is a case of extremes — tonight the Hawks play in Washington, owner of the league’s worst record, and …

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Heat Check: Division-winning Falcons are in cold storage

Carolina coach Ron Rivera is peeved, while Mike Smith is perplexed. (AP photo)

Carolina coach Ron Rivera is apparently peeved, while Mike Smith is perplexed. (AP photo)

Our weekly Heat Check arrives, perhaps inappropriately, on a chilly morning.

FALCONS: The good news — well, to some ears — is that they’re getting a new stadium. The bad news is that they stunk out Bank of America Stadium on Sunday, losing by 10 points to the last-place Carolina Panthers. Atmospheric reading: The Falcons are in a really weird place, and by this we don’t mean Flowery Branch or the doomed Georgia Dome. They clinched the NFC South with a month to spare, which essentially thrusts them into another preseason. They know they’re going to the playoffs and they know they’ll need to play well once there, but the reality is that these final regular-season games mean next to nothing.

HAWKS: Had a chance to nose ahead of the Miami Heat in the NBA Southeast. Didn’t do it, losing by nine after a pretty stout first half. This came two days after an eye-opening road victory at Memphis. …

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Heat Check: Destiny’s Dogs? No-bowl Jackets? Whoa, Nelly

Surrounded by the enemy: Tech's band in Athens. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Surrounded by the enemy: The Georgia Tech band in Sanford Stadium. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Our Heat Check arrives just in time to warm what promises to be a chilly week. Face facts, folks: There’s not much happening in local sports.

Kidding.

GEORGIA: Will play for the BCS title — some guy I know predicted they would — with a victory over Alabama on Saturday. Barometric reading: Three weeks ago, people were saying the Bulldogs would have no chance against the mighty Tide. A lot of those same people seem to have changed their minds, and I’m not just talking about Georgia fans. I’m talking about neutrals who see the Dogs as no less talented as Bama. Just as Bacarri Rambo said.

GEORGIA TECH: Paul Johnson now believes his Jackets didn’t give much of an effort in Athens. (Who knew, huh?) But if Tech can rouse itself to topple Florida State — maybe the nation’s most overrated team — in Charlotte on Saturday, the Jackets will be headed for what Dennis Dodd of CBS Sports calls

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Heat Check: Hot ‘Dogs face a warm swarm of Yellow Jackets

This was the one time the Richt-coached Bulldogs didn't beat Tech. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

This was the one time the Mark Richt-coached Bulldogs didn't beat Tech. (AJC photo by Johnny Crawford)

Given that this is Thanksgiving week, our Heat Check begins about where you’d expect.

GEORGIA: Will play for the SEC title. Could play for the BCS title. First, however, the Bulldogs must win the state title. This hasn’t been much of an issue for Mark Richt — he’s 10-1 against the North Avenue crew — but the one blip (in 2008, in case you’ve forgotten) was monumental. Barometric reading: Remember when we wondered if things would ever again get really good for this coach at this school? Richt’s team has a chance to finish all drills.

GEORGIA TECH: Will play for the ACC title, thanks to Miami’s decision to remove itself from postseason play. For a team that wasn’t sure it could wangle even a trip to Shreveport, that’s a nice bit of rallying. Barometric reading: Chances are, Tech will be an underdog — the opening line for this weekend favors Georgia by 14 points — in every …

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Heat Check: Was cutting Ray Edwards a message sent?

"So, Brian, how's this Auburn gig working out?" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

"So, former colleague Brian VanGorder, how's this Auburn gig working out?" (AJC photo by Brant Sanderlin)

Our weekly Heat Check appears a day late but, one hopes, not quite a dollar short.

FALCONS: Lost for the first time this season against the rival that has become an abject nemesis and, in losing, saw their biggest weaknesses – can’t run the ball, can’t stop the run — exposed. And what were the two things Mike Smith, after taking this job in January 2008, said a good team had to do? Run the ball and stop the run. Barometric reading: Barely 24 hours later, the Falcons cut defensive end Ray Edwards, who had little to do with Sunday’s loss but who did little after signing as a big-ticket free agent. Students of Falcons history will note that, after the first loss of the 1998 season, Dan Reeves cut cornerback Juran Bolden for messing up a coverage in San Francisco. Those Falcons would go 14-2 and make the Super Bowl.

(Please see my video chat with Brian Clark of CineSport, …

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Heat Check: Falcons and Bulldogs and Hawks, oh my!!!

Michael Turner is pumped after scoring on Big D. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Michael Turner, who can still play a bit, is pumped after scoring against Big D. (AJC photo by Curtis Compton)

Our weekly Heat Check begins with the hottest team around. No, not Georgia State.

FALCONS: Made it to 8-0, disappointing Al Michaels and especially Cris Collinsworth in the process. Stacked 453 yards on Rob Ryan’s star-spangled Dallas defense. Next up is New Orleans in the Superdome, site of last December’s Drew Brees rub-it-in record-breaking. Barometer reading: Some in the national keep saying none of this matters if the Falcons don’t win a playoff game. When last I checked, there are no playoff games scheduled until January. Bradley’s Rule: Can’t win in January unless you qualify for the postseason, and being 8-0 makes qualification one less thing to sweat.

GEORGIA: That wobble at South Carolina aside, the Bulldogs are almost exactly where we figured they’d be. Picked to win the SEC East, they’re in position to do just that. Ranked No. 6 nationally in preseason, …

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A bravura debut? Nope. The new-look Hawks fall to 0-1

DeShawn Stevenson tries, and fails, to stop James Harden. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

DeShawn Stevenson tries, and fails, to stop James Harden. (AP photo by John Bazemore)

Let the record reflect that a new Atlanta Hawks’ era — if we can call what could be a six-month experiment an “era” — began with a fast-break basket, which is kind of the idea. Josh Smith blocked James Harden’s shot, and Kyle Korver flipped the rebound ahead to Jeff Teague, whose layup made it 2-nil 44 seconds into the season, and if Opening Night had ended right there, we’d have called it a smashing success.

But NBA games, as you may know, last 48 minutes, not 44 seconds, and the longer this went the less smashing it was. In the course of the final 47:16 we saw the new Hawks for both better and worse, and worse prevailed.

In their Opening Night opponent, the Hawks surely saw a bit of their new selves. The Houston Rockets are likewise new and backcourt-driven. Their guards are the famous Jeremy Lin, imported off a brief-but-scintillating turn in New York, and Harden, who’s the NBA’s reigning …

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The new Atlanta Hawks: They’ll run, and it should be fun

Lou Williams puts the ball in the air, as is his wont. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Lou Williams shoots, as is his wont. (AJC photo by Hyosub Shin)

Draftees of high risk/reward are described as “boom or bust” picks. The 2012-13 Atlanta Hawks will be a boom AND bust team. They’ll have nights when the pace is fast and the shots drop and they win by 30. They’ll have others when those shots get rerouted to Brick City USA and nobody guards anybody and they lose by that much.

In sum, this will be a scary team in both senses — scary to play because of its firepower, scary to coach because of its defensive liabilities. For those of us who have only to sit and watch, these Hawks should be tons of fun.

“Clearly our strength is our speed and shooting,” said Danny Ferry, the general manager who arrived in June and redid a stagnant roster in the course of a coffee break. “We have three shooters (Kyle Korver, Anthony Morrow and rookie John Jenkins) who are as strong as any team’s.”

You could argue all day as to which of the three shooters is the sharpest, and this doesn’t …

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