Posts Tagged ‘Atlanta’

The Hot Button: Why the Hawks still must pluck a PG

It became clear the moment Mike Bibby arrived from Sacramento: This is how it’s done. You find a point guard and put the ball in his hands and live happily ever after. And that’s why, in a draft deep in nothing except point guards, the Hawks should take one with the 19th pick tonight.

Let’s assume the Jamal Crawford trade is consummated, and let’s even assume the Hawks re-sign Bibby: Even then, there’d always be a need for a distributor, and no team knows it better than the one that passed on Chris Paul and Deron Williams in 2004. It took the Hawks until February 2008 to find a real point guard, and once they did they were never the same.

With Bibby on the floor, they were transformed. They were creative. They were properly positioned. They were, for lack of a better word, good. They took the Celtics to Game 7 that spring, and they were even better in 2008-2009, winning 47 games and a Round 1 series. They know now what they should have known all along: Unless you have a …

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Why the Yankees and not the Braves? Mariano Rivera

We forget it now, but they ran neck-and-neck for a while in the ’90s, each trying to outspend the other, each making the playoffs every year, but it wasn’t until 1998 that the Yankees became imperial and the Braves began to recede. It wasn’t until Mariano Rivera settled in as closer that the Pinstripe People lapped the field.

Watching last night at Turner Field, watching Rivera work a four-out save with all four outs being strikeouts, I was reminded of how much difference one man can make. The Yankees found their Rivera and have been winning ever since. (No, not always titles, but winning nonetheless.) The Braves never quite found theirs, and they paid the price.

Postseason baseball comes down to bullpens, and the Yankees always out-bullpenned everyone else. First Rivera was the set-up man to John Wetteland in the 1996 championship run, and the next year he became the closer. That was 12 years ago, and he’s still as great as he ever was, which means he’s still the all-time …

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A great move by Sund, another step upward for the Hawks

Are we believing this? The Atlanta Hawks, acting boldly? Acting smartly?

We should be believing. Because this long-tormented franchise just took another step up in class.

They won 47 games and a playoff series last season. They should break 50 next time. Trading for Jamal Crawford — assuming the deal goes through, and there seems no reason it shouldn’t — gives them more flexibility than the Hawks have had … well, since Bob Pettit and Cliff Hagan were hoisting hook shots back in St. Louis.

Crawford doesn’t mean Mike Bibby is necessarily a gone goose — obviously the Hawks can’t keep both him and Flip Murray now — but it means the Hawks enter the 2009 draft and the even-more-important summer free agency bazaar knowing they have cover. Crawford isn’t a true point, but he can play the point. And he can score.

He has averaged 15.7 points over the nine seasons since he left Michigan, and he averaged 19.7 for Golden State last season. Think of him as an upgrade on Flip, and think of …

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Live from the ballyard: A flip-flop explained, A-Rod eyed

It was only a week ago I suggested the Braves’ season could be finished, at least as a vibrant entity, by the Fourth of July. Today I wrote there’s a way they can win the NL East. And now you’re saying, “There Bradley goes again, flip-flopping like a flounder on the dock at Fisherman’s Wharf.”

And I say, in my fishy defense: Things change.

The Braves are playing better. The Phillies lost six in a row. The Mets are hurting. Winning the division seems infinitely more do-able today than it did June 17. But — and you knew there was a “but” coming, didn’t you? — they can’t stop playing.

They’ve split their first four games against the Red Sox and Yankees. They have five to go, and then three against the Phillies. These eight games will determine the course of July and beyond.

Go 5-3 or better and the Braves will have proved something to themselves and the watching world. Go 3-5 or worse and they’ll have given their doubters — which I, on occasion, have obviously been — further …

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Face Off: How the Braves can — repeat, can — win the East

They were 9 1/2 games back at the All-Star break in 1991, not even in second place. I know, it was a different time and a better Braves team, but still …

Can it happen? Sure it can.

The Braves are four games out of first place. They’re lucky to be that close, but sometimes you get lucky. They’ve played better these past six days, and there’s a chance they’ll play better in July than they did in June. Because they can pitch, and starting pitching has an aggregate effect. Good innings prop up a team, just as bad innings drag it down. Look what’s happening to the Phillies, who have almost no pitching.

Philadelphia is 27th among 30 big-league teams in ERA, and a team cannot win a division that way no matter how hard it hits. The Braves are sixth in ERA, which means they can. They’ll have to hit a little better and hope the Mets, who remain the most gifted team in the NL East, don’t get healthy. (Carlos Beltran just joined Jose Reyes and Carlos Delgado on the disabled list.) But …

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More kudos for the Falcons: Is it all too much too soon?

It was just a year ago we weren’t sure the Falcons would win a game. Now they’re all the rage. From Mike Smith being ranked the league’s eighth-best coach by RealScouts to five Birds being listed among Peter Schrager’s top 99 NFL players on FoxSports.com to Roddy White being named the fourth-most indispensable player by Bill Barnwell of Football Outsiders

And now this: Pat Yasinskas of ESPN.com rates the Falcons’ coaches the best staff in the NFC South. Which, given that Sean Payton has taken New Orleans to the NFC title game and John Fox has led Carolina to the Super Bowl, is saying something.

And part of me thinks it’s great. It’s been a while since anybody had nice things to say about this franchise, and the folks in charge are good people. But another part of me — the part that says, “You know, this organization still hasn’t had consecutive winning seasons” — wonders if it’s too much too soon.

The 2008 Falcons were a delight because nothing, almost literally, was …

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A big idea: Hawks should take Augusta’s Siler in Round 2

I stand before you a weary man. I’m tired of hearing that Al Horford isn’t a center (because he is) and that the Hawks won’t amount to anything until they find a center. But being my dogged self, I wasn’t willing to sit idly by as the conversation raged on the ol’ blog. I actually went out — at the prodding of reader JSS, who put a bug in my tin ear — and found the Hawks a center.

Actually, Rick Sund and his crew beat me to it. They had Garret Siler of Augusta (Ga.) State in for a workout last week. But I’m not just giving him a look. I’m saying: Take him in Round 2! Make him the draft’s 49th pick! And then hire Tree Rollins, who helped groom Shaquille O’Neal in Orlando, as a special assistant and let him spend two years tutoring the big man.

Garret Siler is, as we say in the trade, a great story. He attended a fine arts school — he was a singer and played in the band — until moving to Richmond Academy as a senior. That’s where Dip Metress, the coach of Augusta State, saw him, …

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Rich McKay, genius? Well, he drafted indispensable Roddy

And here we’d been thinking Thomas Dimitroff was the real brains in Flowery Branch. Silly us. According to Bill Barnwell of the Football Outsiders on ESPN.com, the Falcons own the NFL’s fourth-most indispensable player. (Link requires registration.) And now you’re thinking …

Dimitroff signee Michael Turner? No.

Dimitroff draftee Matt Ryan? Nope.

Roddy White.

Color me surprised. I think of Roddy White as a fine wide receiver, but when I think of wideouts I think first of Larry Fitzgerald or Steve Smith or Randy Moss or even — pardon me for mentioning the name, lest ESPN the network do an hour-long special — Terrell Owens. But here’s Barnwell’s list of indispensables, and it’s an eye-opener:

  • 10. Kris Jenkins, DT, Jets.
  • 9. Michael Roos, OT, Titans.
  • 8. Ed Reed, S, Ravens.
  • 7. Andre Johnson, WR, Texans.
  • 6. Tommie Harris, DT, Bears.
  • 5. Ryan Clady, OT, Broncos.
  • 4. Roddy White, WR, Falcons.
  • 3. Nnamdi Asomugha, CB, Raiders.
  • 2. DeMarcus Ware, LB, Cowboys.
  • 1. Peyton Manning, QB, …

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Survey says: Bobby Cox has supporters. Who knew?

You dared me to pose the question in poll form. Being daring, I did. I asked last week, “Do the Braves need a new manager?” I was sure I knew what the majority would say, but it was a thinner majority than I expected.

Sixty percent of roughly 2,000 respondents said the Braves do in fact need a new manager. I figured it would be 70-30, maybe even 80-20. And why did I think that?

Because I read the comments on the ol’ blog.

And I’ve grown accustomed to the anti-Cox rants. How he blew all those World Series. How he’s 1-14 in the final game of the postseason. (Not, mind you, in the final game of a postseason series — let’s not give him any credit for winning the NLCS five times or an NLDS six times — or even in elimination games.) How he’s a terrible tactician. How he shouldn’t have brought in Leibrandt to face Puckett. (Even though Leibrandt had faced Puckett in that World Series twice already — and had twice struck him out.)

I’ve been called an idiot for my support of Bobby Cox …

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Hawks fans, don’t expect the moon and stars at No. 19

The 19th player taken in the 2008 NBA draft was J.J. Hickson. If you’ve heard of him, it’s doubtless because he played at Wheeler High in Marietta and spent a season at North Carolina State. It isn’t because he did much of anything as a professional rookie.

Hickson was the 11th man on the Cleveland Cavaliers, who won more regular-season games than any other. Come the playoffs, Hickson got to sit and cheer as LeBron James and the other nine guys did their work. This isn’t to derogate Hickson, who’s 20 and who could yet develop into a fine pro. This is to offer a sobering glimpse of NBA reality.

The Hawks hold the 19th pick in Round 1, and if they find someone capable of offering immediate assistance that late they’ll consider themselves outrageously fortunate. The 19th player drafted in 2007 was Javaris Crittenton of Georgia Tech, who’s already on his third NBA team and who has started a total of 10 games. The 19th player taken in 2006 was the legendary Quincy Douby, who hasn’t …

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