Friday, November 12, 2010

Bracketology: Georgia Bulldogs Aren't the First Team in Or the Last Team Out...Or Something

Can you find the first team out?
Joe Lunardi (I wonder how many times he was called Joe Lu-nerdy growing up) has come out with his preseason bracketology standings, in which the Georgia Bulldogs are a No. 8 seed in the East and have a first-round match up with Murray State.

But that's not the point of this post. My reason for bringing this up is because I have a problem with the terminology surrounding which teams get into the NCAA tournament and which teams are left out.

When a team is on the bubble and it's projected to make the tournament, it's referred to as one of "the last teams in." That's fine. A finite number of teams reach the tournament, and the at-large teams (or, in some cases, surprise teams who win their tornado delayed conference tournament by playing two games in one day in the mostly empty arena of one of their greatest rivals) are the last ones added.  The terminology makes sense.

But when a team is on the bubble and it's projected to not make the field, it's referred to as one of "the first teams out." This is where I have a problem. Correct me if I'm wrong, but aren't the first teams out of the tournament the ones who go 2-26 in the Atlantic Sun and don't even make the conference tournament? Shouldn't the 18-14 team from the ACC be referred to as the "last team out"?

This is a huge pet peeve of mine, and I'm glad I finally got it off my chest.

You may now proceed with your normal bracketology studies.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Georgia-Auburn Prediction: A.J. Green Will Feast on Verbiage Come Saturday

Green will do plenty of this on Saturday, but...
A.J. Green didn't eat crow after last week's game against Idaho State, but he put prepped it and put it in the freezer for later consumption.

Honestly, you can't blame A.J. Green for feeling like he can beat anybody, anytime. He can. The problem is that A.J. Green can't play defense against Cam Newton and the Auburn offense. Actually, nobody can (except maybe the rumor mill at Mississippi State).

Unless Newton and Auburn are completely befuddled by this week's steady stream of unsubstantiated rumors, Georgia is in big trouble.

The Georgia defense gives up big plays against standard offenses. How confused do you think they're going to be against the elite option scoring machine that Auburn fires up ever Saturday? Unless Todd Grantham becomes the first man to figure out how to hide 13 players on the field without getting caught, it's going to be a complete laugher. When's the last time an SEC team scored 100 against another SEC team?

Okay, 100 points is ridiculous (I think), but based on the past two seasons, what has been Georgia's biggest nemesis? Dual-threat quarterbacks. Actually, not even dual-threat quarterbacks. The quarterbacks don't even have to be able to pass that well. Just watch tape of the Florida game from two weeks ago. Any time anyone other John Brantley lined up at quarterback the Georgia defenders looked like Ponce de Leon's expedition crew. (Clearing a path through the Florida swamp. Stay with me.)

Hell, they made Chris Relf look like Tim Tebow. They made Tim Tebow look like the love child of Herschel Walker and Graham Harrell.

So don't get too excited, Georgia fans. A.J. Green is confident because he's A.J. Green. And he'll definitely put up his numbers against Auburn. But it'll be little more than a footnote in the context of the final outcome of the game, which will be a celebration of an SEC West title for the Tigers.

Auburn 45, Georgia 31

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Trey Thompkins' Ankle Sprain Destroys Georgia's Season

Thompkins, back when he had two healthy ankles.
Yes, that headline is hyperbolic.

And, yes, it's a bummer that crap like this always seems to happen just when things appear to be going well and gaining momentum.

(In case you didn't click on the link, or don't know what this is all about, Trey Thompkins, who is the best basketball player at Georgia at least since Jarvis Hayes, wrecked his ankle in practice and could be out for awhile.)

But here's one reason (with a few pluses tacked on) for why this isn't doomsday:

• I had a high ankle sprain back in August, and not only has it not completely healed, I think it has spread to my knee. But I'm not a 20-year-old world-class athlete who trains against Olympians. So Thompkins has that going for him.

• Plus, Georgia head coach Mark Fox said that Thompkins could be out for up to a month. If that's the case, a glance a Georgia's schedule says he should be back no later than the December 7 game against Georgia Tech.

• Plus, Georgia actually has some depth this year, so they'll have the players to pick up some of the slack.

• Plus, even if the Bulldogs fall flat on their faces without Thompkins, the NCAA selection committee will take Thompkins' absence into account if the Dawgs are on the bubble at the end of the season.

This is not the greatest thing that could have happened, but unless the high ankle sprain spreads to his knee and his hip and his shooting elbow, it's not a devastating blow.

Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Josh Smith Trade Scenarios

Josh could make adobe bricks in Phoenix.
So ESPN's Chad Ford thinks that the next step in the progression of the Hawks after the Al Horford signing is to trade Josh Smith. Granted this isn’t even a rumor. It’s an educated speculation. But he throws out the Knicks, Nets, Suns and Pistons as teams that have shown interest in the past.

So I turned to ESPN’s handy trade machine to find out what those teams have to offer in potential Josh Smith trades.

I had a few criteria:

1. The trades had to be somewhat realistic. We’re not unloading Smith and Jamal Crawford for Amare Stoudemire. It’s not happening.

2. Money is a consideration. The impetus for trading Smith would be to get rid of his salary, so anyone coming back would almost have to have a matching contract that expires at the end of the year.

3. Ideally the Hawks would get something useful for the remainder of the season. You would think that they wouldn’t completely sacrifice their standing in the East just to save a few bucks. The Hawks brass has a reputation for being cheap, but they did just make Joe Johnson the highest paid player in the NBA.

So here are the four teams that Ford mentions and what they have to offer.


Dream trade: Smith and Jeff Teague to the Nets for Brooke Lopez and Troy Murphy

Murphy’s contract expires after this season, so he's the essential piece. Lopez would finally fill the Hawks' eternal void at center and create a bad-ass front court alongside Horford. Plus Lopez's rookie deal doesn't end until after next season.

But obviously, this would be an extremely one-sided trade. And there's no way that the re-building Nets are going to give up a potential top-5 center that could anchor their lineup for the next decade. The Hawks would gladly part with Teague if Lopez were in the deal, but he's a part of their plans right now too.

But while we're fantasizing, how cool would a Mike Bibby, Joe Johnson, Murphy, Horford, Lopez starting lineup be? With Marvin, Pachulia, Crawford, Evans and Powell coming off the bench? That's a pretty significant upgrade.

More realistic: Smith for Troy Murphy, straight up. The Nets get Smith. The Hawks get Murphy for half a season and money off their books. Everyone wins, even if Murphy isn't healthy.


Dream trade: Smith to the Knicks for Eddie Curry’s expiring contract and Danilo Gallinari

More realistic: Smith for Curry and a pick

The Knicks don’t really have a lot of enviable pieces, but all Smith does is shoot jump shots nowadays, so the Hawks could replace Smith’s bricks with Gallinari’s smooth stroke and make themselves better on the perimeter. Plus Gallinari is cheap at $3.3 million for the next two seasons.

(And remember how when Brian McCann and Jeff Francoeur first came up and some Braves fans dressed up as McCann’s Cans and Francoeur’s Franks? How great would it be if a group of Atlanta Hawks fans went to Phillips dressed up as bricks and called themselves “Smith’s Bricks”? Is it cool to taunt your own player for being a hardheaded horrible shooter?)

We'd need those arms in any trade for Smith's bricks.

Sensible trade: Smith and Marvin Williams to Detroit for Tayshaun Prince and Charlie Villanueva

Realistic trade: Smith for Prince and a pick

There is no dream trade with the Pistons because they don’t have anyone who would be a significant upgrade over who the Hawks already have.

Prince has dollar for dollar trade value for Smith and his contract expires at the end of the season. Villanueva (which, incidentally, is Spanish for “new town”) is a less-expensive ($7 million), less talented version of Smith. The only reason the Hawks would want him is because he’s serviceable and so is his contract for the next two seasons. Plus you’d get Prince’s championship experience and freakishly long arms on defense for half a season. He could help out in the playoffs this season for sure.


Dream trade: Smith, Mo Evans and Jeff Teague for Jason Richardson’s expiring contract, Robin Lopez and Goran Dragic. 

We'll take either one of these guys.
The Suns get a young speedy point guard to play behind Nash and they get the high flying Smith, who would absolutely thrive in their open court game. The Hawks get Richardson for half a season. But they could potentially sign Robin Lopez to an extension and have a starting center for the foreseeable future.

(I'd take either one of the Lopez twins. They're athletic, solid post players that seem like good long-term solutions to the center position.)

More realistic: Smith and Jordan Crawford for Richardson and a draft pick

The Suns are allergic to draft picks, so getting a late first rounder from them shouldn’t be a problem. Giving up Crawford so soon would be kind of a bummer, but the Hawks could use the money that they clear from the cap to re-sign Jamal Crawford and keep the team essentially intact.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Dominique Wilkins, Color Commentator: ‘Nique Speaks 10/27

Dominique and a microphone: a match made in heaven.
For two seasons I have watched Hawks broadcasts and listened as Dominique Wilkins talked and talked and never really said anything. I can pretty much guarantee you that the most preparation that Nique does for his role as color analyst for Hawks broadcasts is put on his pants before he leaves the house.

He was the Hawks’ king of everything as a player, but listening to him as an announcer really reveals how ridiculous it was that he seriously wanted consideration as a coach when the Hawks eventually hired Mike Woodson.

He offers virtually no insight into the game and generally rambles about how well someone is playing or how nice a move was.

Because ‘Nique is our namesake and unofficial mascot here at DDW, I felt it was necessary to devote my evening to the man named after a highlight film, but who can’t narrate a highlight to save his life.

8:02 – Nique gets his first cliché of the night out of the way early. He calls the start of the Larry Drew coaching era a “breath of fresh air.”

Nique then starts to talk about who the offense is going to benefit the most as a graphic pops up on the screen. The pre-planned graphic features the words “movement” “commitment” and “conditioning” which I’m pretty sure ‘Nique just said were the greatest beneficiaries of the new offense.

8:14 – Nique’s keys to the game: A good start to “set the tone,” and control Zach Randolph, who is the second best player on the team. The first one is an old staple for Nique, who loves tossing out generic keys to the game. Others that we can look forward to this season: Shoot the ball well, Rebound the basketball, Take care of the basketball and Don’t give up easy shots.

Who's that at the door? It's an opportunity type of opportunity.
8:16 – Joe Johnson is the Hawks’ franchise player and has played well for the last four years. Thanks, Nique. He then turns his attention to Marvin Williams. Direct quote: “If you look at the last couple years Marvin really hasn’t gotten the ball in the offense in opportunity type of opportunities for Marvin.”

8:41 – Cliché-fest when during a timeout Nique and Rathbun start talking about last year’s playoff win over Milwaukee. Let’s go to the tape: “You know you’ve got to give that Milwaukee team a lot of credit. They took the Hawks to the limit. But the Hawks showed a lot of character and it came to the surface. When crunch time was there, those guys did what they had to do to hold on.”

8:46 – After Hasheem Thabeet leaves an eight-footer short, gets the rebound then bricks a 2-footer off the backboard about as bad as you can brick a two-footer: “Well, the big fella has no touch around the basket.”

8:52 – Nique goes to the cliché slot machine, pulls the handle and wins a “making his presence felt” for Zaza Pachulia.

9:00 – An almost analysis from ‘Nique, saying that Rudy Gay hasn’t played well against the Hawks in the past few games between the teams. But he stops right there leaving Rathbun to finish the analysis by pointing out that Joe Johnson has been the defensive culprit for Gay’s struggles.

9:02 – Nique pulls off the rare cliché/malapropism double play: Hawks are “clicking on all cylinders.”

9:04 – After a timeout, Nique repeats his "clicking on all cylinders" analysis just for good measure.

9:07 - Sign of trouble on the Josh Smith attitude front. Smith picks up a foul and signals to Drew to keep him in the game. Drew takes Smith out anyway and Smith scowls and gripes all the way to the bench. No mention of this from Nique or Rathbun.

9:11 – Nique invents the word “execellent,” which is his interpretation of the word “excellent.” This is ironic because this is one of Nique’s go-to words. It would be like Mr. Spock stumbling over the word “logic." 

9:34 – Nique’s analysis of Sam Young’s botched breakaway dunk: “Sam Young tried to do a little bit too much right there.” Because trying to dunk when there’s no one within 8 feet of you in any direction and you’re flying toward the basket is too much for an NBA player to try to do.

9:44 – I find myself looking forward to replays and timeouts because that’s when Nique is at his best grasp-of-the-obvious self. Over the replay after Josh Smith blocks a Conley shot: “Terrific anticipation on the blocked shot. Stays with Conley to get a hand on the ball.”

"I don't know what he meant by that."
9:50 – This is the 5-star Nique quote of the night: “Gay’s got to be very careful. He’s doing a lot of reaching and touching down there.”

“Gay’s got to be very careful. He’s doing a lot of reaching and touching down there.”
9:54 – Jeff Teague hits a runner in the lane. Nique’s analysis: “When the offense breaks down, he has to create.” Except that the shot came after Atlanta rotated the ball from one side of the floor to the other, appeared to run the motion offense by the book and Teague got into the lane off of a ball screen by Pachulia. I don’t think the offense “broke down” there. I think it was humming at about 2500 RPMs. But I’m no NBA analyst.

9:56 – “I tell you, if it wasn’t for Conley, Gay and Arthur, I tell you what, this team would be in major trouble tonight.” So basically, a team is going to struggle without three of its starting five players. I tell you what.

9:59 – All kidding aside, the best analysis of the night by ‘Nique. Two straight possessions he keys on the fact that Memphis doesn’t have any scorers on the floor. Their five on the floor? Acie Law, Hasheem Thabeet, Tony Allen, Demarre Carroll and Xavier Henry.

10:18 – Hawks go up 20 and ‘Nique declares that the Hawks have “made a statement here tonight.” In game 1. Against Memphis. A statement. And that statement is, “Don't get excited, but we are a team that plays basketball in the NBA.”

10:26 – 3 minutes left in the game, but it’s never too late for a cliché. “You’ve got to take what the defense gives you.”

That's it for tonight. I'd give Nique a solid B-plus for his overall effort. He did work in one partially insightful basketball comment and gave us the word "execellent."  I'd say he took full advantage of his opportunity type of opportunities tonight.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

For the Atlanta Braves, Next Year Is Going to Be Weird

Neo knows what life without Bobby Cox will be like.
When Neo gets on board the spaceship after being abducted by Morpheus and his pals, he sits in a chair and has to be "plugged in" to the computer program in which Morpheus explains what the hell is going on.

(And if you don't know what movie I'm talking about, then go back to your Commodore 64 and forget about being a part of modern culture.)

When Morpheus gets ready to put the plug in Neo's head, he says, "This is going to feel...[pause for drama]...a little weird."

That's what life is going to be like for awhile on Planet Atlanta Brave now that Bobby Cox is no longer the team's manager.

When Cox took over the Braves for the second time I was in the eighth grade. I now have four children. That's a lot of life phases (puberty, college, realizing that a political science degree is useless) that have been accompanied by seeing Bobby limp up the stairs, put his hand on his elbow and wave to the bullpen, then limp out to the mound to retrieve the idiot who couldn't get three outs.

Next year, Fredi Gonzalez will be occupying that spot.

Bobby Cox was not a brilliant tactician. Timing was not his thing. He was like the city council that waits until after a fatal accident to put up a traffic light at an intersection that everyone drives through thinking, "Someone is going to get killed there one day." (Cases in point: Brooks Conrad, Greg Norton, Mark Wohlers.)

Motivation was his thing. Not the rah-rah, poster board type of motivation, but the subtle, tacit variety that told a player that if he didn't do things right he was letting the team down.

We have a pretty good idea of how Gonzalez will do things. That's why he was hired. But it's going to be strange the first time a player speaks out in the media against him (or, worse, if he speaks out against a player – something Bobby never did).

Bobby Cox in the dugout was the last strand of the old golden guard – the final man in the ongoing curtain call that has now seen all the vital cogs of the glory days exit one by one. It was a cast that included Dave Justice, Tom Glavine, Greg Maddux, Leo Mazzone, John Smoltz, John Schuerholz, Skip Caray, Pete Van Wieren, Chipper Jones (if, in fact, his career is over) and now Bobby Cox.

And as anyone who has seen a stage performance can attest, the last man in the curtain call is always the biggest star.

Friday, October 8, 2010

If Mark Richt Goes, Where Does He End Up?

Is there a little similarity there?
I just got through reading a thought-provoking piece on by college football writer Andy Staples. He basically asks the question: Would you rather have Les Miles or Mark Richt? His stance is that they are polar opposites in that Richt is steady, stoic and likable. Kind of like a 1950's sit-com dad. And Miles is the coaching equivalent of a homeless man on a bus carrying on a conversation with the empty seat next him.

He then compares their resumes and basically says he'd take crazy and lucky and a national title over class and underachievement with the occasional conference championship.

That makes sense. I don't know if I agree, but it doesn't really matter what I think. Because the next logical question in this whole thought process is not whether Andy Staples or bunch of non-decision-makers would take Richt, but what football program would take him if he were available? Or to ask the question more generically, how hot of a commodity would Mark Richt be if he loses his job at Georgia?
I think maybe there is.

Of course, we're waaaaaay ahead of ourselves here. We don't even know for sure if Richt is out of a job. But if Georgia continues taking target practice at its feet every Saturday, the question raises an issue that will become very important in the Richt household sometime in February.

Frankly, I think he'd be very high on everyone's list. It's like the story we've heard over and over about the end of Bobby Cox's first go-round with the Braves. Ted Turner fired him then said he needed someone just like him.

I happen to think Georgia should seriously consider Jim Harbaugh. But if that happened where would Richt end up? Stanford? Have two schools ever swapped coaches? What other jobs are going to be available after this season? Well, let's take a look at one team from each BCS conference that A) could have an opening after the season and B) Richt would seriously consider based on a reasonable chance for success.

Here's the list:
• ACC – Clemson: They'd drop Dabo like bag of moldy tangerines if they could get Richt. It's in the south, so Richt wouldn't have to sever his recruiting ties. Makes some sense and it would certainly add some intrigue to the upcoming series between the Tigers and Georgia.

• Big 12 - Colorado: They just beat Georgia, but Dan Hawkins has been on the hot seat for the last two seasons. Plus they might want a big name to take them into the new Pac-12.

• Big 10 - Penn State: Just because Paterno could call it a career at any point and I don't see Richt trying to improve on Ron Zook's mess at Illinois.

• Big East - Pitt: Honestly I think he would have to take a hard look at a few schools in the Big East. As long as the conference is still an automatic qualifier for the BCS, a coach with Richt's resume might look at that league and see the clearest path to a national title. Dave Wannstedt has made the Pitt program relevant again, but we've been hearing whispers about his job security for awhile now.

•Pac 10 – Cal: Jeff Tedford has reached some peaks, but he's been inconsistent. They may start looking elsewhere and Richt seems like a California type of guy. He'd thrive just about anywhere on the west coast.

• SEC – None: The only job that might be open that would take him is at Ole Miss. But I have a hard time seeing him there.