By "Hometeam" Brandon Leak
The Atlanta Falcons have a lot of work to do. Winning 10 games in two years means there's been a lack of execution and a lack of talent in key areas of the franchise. Most of the work needs to be done in the trenches and unfortunately cannot be fixed in one season.
New head coach Dan Quinn seems to be a man was prepared and has a vision of how to fix the team but the reality is he is coaching players primarily picked before his arrival proven not to comprise dominant units with their play.
The defensive line may be the quickest to yield better results with the Re'Shede Hageman looking to get more snaps this season. A good rotation may help the Falcons get after the quarterback as well.
However, the biggest issue will be offensive line which features a collection of guys who aren't necessarily athletic in a blocking scheme that requires such a dynamic. While it looks like the offense of line is picking up the zone-blocking scheme, it doesn't look like they have mastered it early in preseason.
Additionally, the O-line was often injured last season which could pose a problem not only protecting Matt Ryan this season but also in having a consistent and effective running game.
In short if the team can't block it means fewer points and more time on the field for the defense ... which is not good for now.
The team better block or the team won't be better.
Baseball should be done with Pete Rose. He’s been given a chance, a second chance and an even rarer third chance. All three times he was guilty of committing one of baseball’s ultimate sins-betting on baseball.
ESPN's Outside the Lines reported this week he actually gambled as a player and manager, proving him to be a great liar-again.
Major League Baseball’s RULE 21 (section d) is clear:
(d) BETTING ON BALL GAMES. Any player, umpire, or club official or
employee, who shall bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in
connection with which the bettor has no duty to perform shall be declared
ineligible for one year.
Any player, umpire, or club or league official or employee, who shall
bet any sum whatsoever upon any baseball game in connection with which
the bettor has a duty to perform shall be declared permanently ineligible.
What are we talking about with this guy? He bet on baseball, was thrown out of the game, allowed to return to the All-Star Game in 2000, apologized and then denied again. Pete Rose was a great hitter but not great at telling the truth.
LeBron Will Have to Win with the Worst but will People Care
Robert Horry beat me to the punch ... the 2015 Cavaliers are the 2001 Philadelphia 76ers. A perfect example of a team with a bona fide Hall of Famer surrounded by a cast of characters that will all have to pay $22.50 to get into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. While history has repeated itself to some degree, LeBron James' journey to win the NBA Finals - even with a win - may be a tougher tale to write facing the Golden State Warriors.
Losing All-Stars Kevin Love and Kyrie Irving to injury has put a tremendous amount of pressure on LeBron James to carry more of the work load for his team. A triple-double in Game 2, nearly getting one in Game 3, James is doing everything but act as team trainer.
Missing two All-Stars could be devastating but winning without them would be exhilarating for James and the Cavs. This country typically roots for underdogs, but not this time as Stephen Curry, Klay Thompson and the fast-paced, high-powered offense of the Golden State Warriors have captured the hearts of the Nation - not to mention Riley Curry the adorable 2-year-old daughter of her sharp-shooting father at the post-game press conferences.
Allen Iverson other All-Stars with him in his magical 2001 season in Theo Ratliff. Dikembe Mutombo was a big part of the Sixers' success so it could be argued that Iverson had much more than "King James."
Allen Iverson stopped an NBA powerhouse from having an unblemished mark by defeating the Lakers 111-110 in overtime in Game 1 of the 2001 Finals. Iverson scored 48 points in victory, stopping the Lakers from finishing a perfect 15-0 in postseason play. The memorable moment, draining a bug three late over a falling Tyronn Lue, then impishly stepping over him with a demonstrative big step. But Iverson wasn't as undermanned as many may remember:
Aaron McKie, NBA Sixth Man of the Year Award
Allen Iverson, All-NBA First Team
Allen Iverson, NBA Most Valuable Player Award
Dikembe Mutombo, All-NBA Second Team
Dikembe Mutombo, NBA All-Defensive First Team
Dikembe Mutombo, NBA Defensive Player of the Year Award
Larry Brown, NBA Coach of the Year Award
Not a bad bunch of accolades for a team that was supposed to be pitiful without "The Answer" on the floor.
LeBron James has none of that. J.R. Smith and Iman Shumpert were castoffs from New York, Matthew Dellavedova is now an undrafted icon and Mike Miller, Brendan Haywood, James Jones and Kendrick Perkins are close to drawing social security checks. James is putting this team on his back with no help at all.
Iverson will be remembered for a courageous battle against Shaquille O'Neal and Kobe Bryant, LeBron will be compared to Michael Jordan ... no matter what happens or what his roster looks like ... and that is not fair.
Let's Just Enjoy This
by Brandon Leak
The Atlanta Hawks have a successful season. In fact, the most successful in franchise history. 60 victories in the regular season, 19 connective wins, 17-0 in January, four All-Stars (who all played on the floor together during the 2015 All-Star Game), the starting five named January players of the month, Coach of The Year, earning the number one over all seed in the Eastern Conference Playoffs, a win over the Brooklyn Nets in six games, a win over the Washington Wizards in six games and hosting the Eastern Conference Finals against LeBron James and the Cleveland Cavaliers ... whew!
Dominique Wilkins was immortalized with "Nique Week," culminating in a statue outside of Philips arena in March. The team set records for sell-outs and set new marks for home and road victories.
A team that was the eighth seed in last years' postseason run shocked the city and the basketball world this year. Overcoming embarrassing comments from an owner and a GM were hurdles the team where able to negotiate by bringing the city together with wins.
In June of 2014, reading from a scouting report, Hawks General Manager Danny Ferry said on a conference call referring to Luol Deng, “he has a little African in him. Not in a bad way, but he’s like a guy who would have a nice store out front but sell you counterfeit stuff out of the back.” That got him removed from the team for the rest of the season.
In August of 2014, Owner Bruce Levenson wrote among other things in an email about his arena:
— it’s 70 pct black
— the cheerleaders are black
— the music is hip hop
— at the bars it’s 90 pct black
— we are doing after game concerts to attract more fans and the concerts are either hip hop or gospel.
He went on to add too many black people were on the "kiss cam," and black people were the reason attendance was low. All of which were apparently bad things and clearly wrong in his warped mind. Same black folks helped set attendance records. Decent people of all races should be offended by both sets of comments.
What a disaster the season could've been if not for the wins. But the coach and the team pressed forward, executed a fun system to watch and dazzled fans at home and on the road through the haul of the NBA season.
The Hawks do need to questions to answer moving forward:
-Will they keep Paul Millsap who will be 31-years-old next year?
-Will they keep Kyle Korver who will be 35-years-old next year?
-How much is DeMarre Carroll worth?
-Will the team get a big man to help rebound?
-Does the team need to upgrade the bench?
-Will the General Manager be back to make decisions?
We'll get to those this summer in the meantime - reveling in this season is what we need to do for a while.
This season should never be forgotten. Old, young, natives and transplants should hold on to programs, t-shirts, jerseys, pictures and memories from one of the all-time great seasons in Atlanta history.
Don't Change a Thing
by "Hometeam" Brandon Leak
The Hawks open up first round playoff action against the Brooklyn Nets. Not a bad draw given the Hawks owned the Nets in the regular season to a tune of 4-0. The Hawks were too fast, played better defense and rained three-point baskets in all four regular season tilts. Jeff Teague averaged nearly 15 points and dished out nine assists per game against the Nets defense, Paul Millsap got whatever he wanted and the Hawks ran up the score on a Brooklyn team that is older and slower.
The Nets are big team inside with Brook Lopez and Mason Plumlee. Joe Johnson can still knock down three-pointers but is only going to get around 16 points per game. Deron Williams has not shown the flashes of brilliance he did in his younger days and does not take over games. The X-factor for the Nets is Thaddeus Young who came over mid-season in a trade who could score at the rim and make shots from the outside.
That said, the Hawks don't need to do one thing differently playing the Nets. Ball movement has worn out the Brooklyn defense all year and the Hawks' bench play has been solid helping to find ways to beat the Nets on the glass when needed. Keep the same philosophy which is get up early, set the tempo and convert Brooklyn misfires into offense. The Nets have had a tough time because the Hawks are a well-balanced team, they will have a tough time this series not being swept.
Spring Cleaning for the Braves and Hawks by "Hometeam" Brandon Leak
The Braves did what they had to do they cleaned up a mess that needed fixing. Closer Craig Kimbrel and outfileder Melvin Upton Jr. were dealt to the Padres in a six player deal on opening day. Former GM Frank Wren signed then (BJ) Upton to a $75 million dollar and Dan Uggla to a $34 million dollar contract and got nothing from both players. As a result, the new GM John Hart has cleaned up an old mess but at a tremendous cost.
The price, Uggla, Upton and his brother Justin, Evan Gattis, Jason Heyward and now Kimbrel. It hurts but is necessary. Hart has a proven record in Cleveland making that franchise extremely successful in the '90's. The Braves will have six of the first 89 picks in the MLB draft to replenish the their farm system which has been depleted. It stings now but the future of the Braves looks bright with a clean new house coming in 2017.
The Hawks should shut all of the starters down now! With six games remaining, the number one seed in the east locked up and forward Paul Millsap injuring his shoulder against the Nets, it was a sign that the regular season is over.
Health is the most important dynamic for the Hawks this post season and that is something that can be controlled by giving starters the old DNP-CD (did not play-coaches decision). The Hawks can get through the first round against Boston, Charlotte, Indiana or Miami so getting the top players rest is of paramount importance for the second round.
This has been a historic season for the birds and the ride can continue in the second season but health has to favor the good guys to pull off a deep playoff run. Al Horford missing the post season last year clearly made a difference. The Hawks control their own fate ..they need to control the amount of minutes the starters see the final two weeks of the season.