Feb. 28, 2021 –
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – Though he had a brilliant career as a college & NFL running back, Warrick Dunn’s greatest impact has been felt as one of the more accomplished Atlanta athletes of all time off the field. This former Falcon & his Atlanta based Warrick Dunn Charities works every day to break the cycle of generational poverty. With his signature program Homes For The Holidays Dunn has helped literally hundreds of families achieve first-time homeownership, and from scholarships, to health & wellness support, to financial literacy workshops, Dunn has committed his time, money & resources to truly making a difference. A minority owner of the Falcons since 2009, Dunn won the 2005 Walter Payton Man of the Year Award and is cofounder of Athletes For Hope. Some talked the talk, Warrick Dunn has always walked the walk.
Feb. 24, 2021 –
BY MATT EDGAR
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – I’m not really a Trae Young fan, I admit that, but I’ve got his back on this one! Tuesday night Trae was left off the Eastern Conference reserves and Adam Silver should be ashamed of himself! First, he has the stupid idea of an All-Star Game during the grind of an NBA season during the pandemic, when these players actually deserve a break. Then, he can’t even make sure that our home town Hawks have one player on the Eastern Conference roster! Seriously? You bestow on us “the honor” of allowing Atlanta to the host the NBA All-Star Game in the midst of a season beset by COVID and you can’t even throw us a bone and let one of our own have a seat on the bench and represent the ATL? It’s truly a slap in the face!
I know Trae isn’t liked all that much by his peers and coaches. I know that because he couldn’t find his way onto the reserves in the first place, but that is a story for another day. Heck, I’m not fond of the kid myself but this is about Adam Silver doing what is right and letting a long-suffering fan base have a little pride. By the way, there isn’t one person in the NBA sphere….media, fans, experts, players, etc.….that would have batted an eye at Trae being announced as an All-Star, not one! I would imagine Tony Ressler isn’t too pleased either as this doesn’t bode well for him and his beleaguered franchise in league circles. To add insult to injury, not long after the reserves were announced and Trae wasn’t included, the Hawks fell to the lowly Cavs, who had lost ten in a row. Welcome back from paternity leave, Coach Pierce….yet another story for another day.
Within minutes of the announcement and Trae’s snubbing, I had a friend text me with the simple phrase of “That’s so Atlanta”. Maybe he’s right.
Feb. 22, 2021
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – “The Black Babe Ruth,” that’s what many called Josh Gibson, the negro league power hitting catcher. The Buena Vista, Georgia, native played 16 seasons in the Negro Leagues and was the second Negro Leaguer inducted in the Baseball Hall of Fame. With a career average of .359, many considered Gibson better than Jackie Robinson, who of course was major league baseball’s first black player. Gibson also played professionally in Cuba, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic & Mexico and passed away at the young age of 35 in Pittsburgh in 1947. His son Josh Gibson, Jr. operates the Josh Gibson Foundation, who provides academic & athletic programs that foster leadership & scholarship.
Feb. 18, 2021 –
680 THE FAN, ATLANTA – When you think of boxing and Atlanta there is only one name that comes to mind and it’s Evander “the Real Deal” Holyfield!
Though born in Alabama, Evander’s family moved to Atlanta when he was just a toddler and he’s called Georgia home ever since. Holyfield actually started boxing at 7 years old and never looked back!
Before his retirement in 2014 at the age 52, Evander would win a Bronze Medal at the ’84 Summer Olympics, collect 44 professional wins, including victories over legends Larry Holmes, George Foreman & Mike Tyson…twice! From October 1990 to November 1992 Holyfield was the Undisputed Heavyweight Champion of the world and to this day Evander remains the only boxer in history to win the undisputed championship in two weight classes in the three belt era!
Holyfield’s fame garnered him major celebrity status that included appearances on the Fresh Prince of Bel Air, Dancing with the Stars, and minor roles in three movies. Evander is still involved in boxing as a consultant.
Feb.17, 2021 –
What’s On John’s Mind Today:
John Collins trade talk
Valentines’ advice for men and women
Executive decisions in sports
AND Sophie’s Choice for Bulldogs Fans
The San Antonio Spurs are dealing with a coronavirus outbreak among four players, the NBA said Tuesday, meaning the team will not play until the middle of next week at the earliest.
Meanwhile, Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms — whose city was picked to play host to the NBA All-Star Game and skills competitions on March 7 — raised major concerns about the notion of fans coming to the city for the events.
“People should not travel to Atlanta to party,” she said.
The NBA on Tuesday postponed five more games: the next three for the Spurs — at Cleveland on Wednesday, at New York on Saturday and at Indiana on Monday — as well as the next two for the Charlotte Hornets while contact tracing is completed.
The Hornets were scheduled to play host to Chicago on Wednesday and Denver on Friday. Their games are halted because they were the last team to play the Spurs, losing to them on Sunday. The league is reviewing data to see if any Hornets may have been exposed to someone who tested positive for COVID-19, a process that takes time.
Charlotte’s next possible game is now Saturday at home against Golden State, in what would be Warriors guard Stephen Curry’s annual return to North Carolina, where he grew up. San Antonio’s next planned game is Feb. 24 at Oklahoma City, meaning the Spurs will have more than a week between contests — as Washington and Memphis did earlier this season when affected by the virus.
Charlotte coach James Borrego said “there’s no indication that anybody” on the Hornets’ roster is positive for COVID-19. But the Hornets finished their game with the Spurs with just eight available players, and Borrego confessed that he doesn’t know what his roster will look like if Saturday’s game goes on as scheduled.
“The league is doing everything they can to gather information and even more information,” Borrego said. “They’re going to watch us over this next week and make sure we’re OK. I think that’s really where it starts.”
The postponements announced Tuesday push the total of games that have been moved back this season because of positive tests or contact tracing issues to 29, including the Spurs’ game at Detroit that was to have been played Tuesday night. The NBA called that game off on Monday.
Also postponed: Detroit at Dallas, scheduled for Wednesday, now off because of the severe winter weather that has hit Texas — where more than 4 million homes and businesses were without power Tuesday in subfreezing temperatures. The Mavericks had to call off practice Tuesday because of a power outage, and Dallas guard Josh Richardson said he didn’t have power at his home.
A pair of games were added to this week’s slate: Detroit will go to Chicago on Wednesday and Denver will now play at Cleveland on Friday. Those games were originally targeted for the second half of the season. The NBA has said it will shuffle some games, when possible, to accommodate the need to reschedule postponed games in the second half.
The NBA does not reveal which players tested positive, but its announcement of the latest postponements said the Spurs had positive tests among players — and did not mention coaches. Spurs coach Gregg Popovich announced last month, on his 72nd birthday, that he has received the vaccine that protects against the effects of COVID-19.
The Spurs were without just one player — guard Quinndary Weatherspoon — for their game Sunday against Charlotte because of the league’s COVID-19 protocols.
Spurs Sports and Entertainment CEO RC Buford said “basketball is secondary” right now given the situation in Texas with the storm and outages.
“Our team is responsibly handling our health and safety situation and will return to playing games as soon as it is safe to do so,” Buford said.
The NBA will announce All-Star starters on Thursday. Four-time NBA MVP LeBron James, two-time reigning NBA MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo of the Milwaukee Bucks, two-time NBA Finals MVP Kawhi Leonard of the Los Angeles Clippers and others have spoken out in recent days to express their unhappiness about the idea of playing an All-Star Game during a pandemic — and wedging it into an already jam-packed season.
The NBA told teams Monday that strict protocols will be in place for the All-Star events; players will be allowed a very limited number of guests, all participants must travel to Atlanta by private car or plane, and for the most part players will be allowed to leave their hotels only for All-Star events at the arena.
Tickets will not be sold. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution reported earlier this week that some vaccinated front-line workers will be invited to attend, but there will not be events for the general public — an obvious change from past All-Star weekends, which tend to attract tens of thousands of fans for the game, parties and atmosphere.
“Under normal circumstances, we would be extremely grateful for the opportunity to host the NBA All-Star game, but this is not a typical year,” Bottoms said. “I have shared my concerns related to public health and safety with the NBA and Atlanta Hawks. We are in agreement that this is a made-for-TV event only, and people should not travel to Atlanta to party.”
Bottoms also said there will be “no NBA sanctioned events open to the public” and that the city strongly encourages local businesses “to host events in the city related to this game.”
By BRIAN MAHONEY
NEW YORK (AP) — Beating Atlanta isn’t enough for the New York Knicks. They want Julius Randle to be in Atlanta.
Randle scored a season-high 44 points, making a career-best seven 3-pointers and leading the Knicks to their third straight victory, 123-112 over the slumping Hawks on Monday night.
Randle added nine rebounds and five assists in perhaps the best performance of a season that should merit consideration for the All-Star Game in Atlanta next month.
“What else does he have to do?” teammate RJ Barrett said. “The man’s an All-Star.”
Randle scored 17 points on 7-for-8 shooting in the first quarter to send the Knicks to a fast start and ended up one point shy of his career high. He didn’t feel good about his first season in New York, and the seventh-year forward was driven to make this one better.
“A lot of people may have wrote me off, a lot of people may have had their doubts or whatever it may be, and that was just motivation or fuel,” Randle said. “For me it was just about coming back a better player and a better teammate than I was last year.”
Barrett added 21 points and rookie Immanuel Quickley had 16 for the Knicks, who improved to 14-15 and can reach .500 with a victory over Orlando on Wednesday. They have doubled their win total through 29 games from last season, when they were 7-22.
Trae Young had 23 points and eight assists for the Hawks, who dropped their fourth straight and seventh in the last eight games.
The Hawks yielded 118, 125 and 125 in the first three games of the skid and had plenty more trouble defensively with a Knicks team that scored 20 more than its NBA-low 103.3 points per game. New York tied its season best with 66 points in the first half.
The Knicks raced to a 16-5 lead in the first four minutes and Quickley’s 3-pointer to open the second made it 42-28, New York’s largest lead.
Atlanta scored the first nine points of the third for a 72-66 lead after John Collins’ dunk, but couldn’t control Randle — the only Knicks player to score for nearly half the quarter. New York surged ahead again with a 15-2 spurt, and another 3 by Randle made it 93-86 with just over a minute remaining in the period.
“He hit every big 3,” Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce said. “And our guys competed and we’re constantly trying to find those big-play moments on our side, and we got dinged by a guy making play after play all night.”
The biggest might have been a 3-pointer with the Knicks protecting a two-point lead with under 3 1/2 minutes to play. Randle then found Barrett for another 3 that made it 115-107 and knocked down a jumper that pushed the lead to eight with 1:36 left.
Hawks: Collins had 19 points. Cam Reddish and Danilo Gallinari each scored 16. … Clint Capela, the NBA’s leading rebounder, had 15 points and 18 boards. He has been in double figures in rebounds in 22 of 24 games this season.
Knicks: Coach Tom Thibodeau said center Mitchell Robinson will have another consultation with a surgeon on his broken right hand Tuesday and afterward would have a better update on how much time he could miss. … Frank Ntilikina missed his fourth straight game because of health and safety protocols. Thibodeau said Ntilikina continues to test negative for the coronavirus.
MR. NICE GUY
Thibodeau has always had a reputation as a no-nonsense workaholic, but Pierce described a much different personality at the Las Vegas Summer League or NBA coaches’ meetings.
“About as nice a person as you’ll meet,” Pierce said. “He’s always got a smile on his face. He’s easy to talk to. Different personality come game time.”
Thibodeau smiled when told that Derrick Rose, playing for him for the third time, said he’s never seen the coach smile as much as he has now.
“Look, I want us to work,” Thibodeau said. “I think when you get a team that’s committed to playing for each other and doing the right things, I also want us to enjoy it.”
Hawks: Visit the Boston Celtics for games on Wednesday and Friday.
Knicks: Visit the Orlando Magic on Wednesday.
By JAKE SEINER
NEW YORK (AP) — Completing the 2020 season required MLB to rewrite its rule book. Stadiums were emptied, schedules rewritten. Some players opted out. The ones that didn’t spat into COVID-19 testing cups until their mouths went dry.
“When it was all said and done, you kind of look back and go, ’God, that was the longest 60 games I’ve ever been a part of,” veteran pitcher Jon Lester said last month.
Well, to borrow from another Chicago Cubs favorite:
Let’s play 162!
Against the backdrop of a still dangerous coronavirus pandemic, pitchers and catchers are reporting to spring training this week, the first step in a 2021 season that will take many of the complexities from 2020′s 60-game sprint and stretch them over an additional four months.
Sure, there’s the usual buzz over players with new homes. Blake Snell and Yu Darvish, hoping to push the upstart San Diego Padres over the top. Still in their way, the World Series champion Los Angeles Dodgers, who upgraded with NL Cy Young Award winner Trevor Bauer. Francisco Lindor is a Met, Nolan Arenado a Cardinal, and George Springer and Marcus Semien have joined up on the Blue Jays.
This season, though, promises to again be defined by the pandemic.
Offers by MLB to delay opening day were rejected by the players’ association last month, defaulting the league into an on-time start.
Baseball will again use seven-inning doubleheaders and runners on second base to start extra innings — experiments introduced during last year’s condensed regular season to ease the burden on pitchers amid a flood of postponements prompted by positive tests and contact tracing.
Sunflower seeds are still outlawed, and high-fives frowned upon, too. Although limited-capacity crowds are expected at many stadiums, autographs will remain a no-no.
Other 2020 changes have been put on the bench. The universal designated hitter is gone, and no deal has been reached to re-expand the postseason. Of course, last year’s agreement to fatten the playoff field from 10 to 16 teams wasn’t finished until hours before the first pitch on opening day, so there’s precedent for a late change.
Then again, the league and union have agreed on little lately — hardly a promising sign with the collective bargaining agreement set to expire Dec. 1. Expect chatter about that this spring, too.
Scheduling figures to remain a headache. There were 45 games postponed for coronavirus-related reasons last year, and all but two were made up.
Players will again be tested 3-4 times per week for COVID-19 and heavily restricted in what they can do during their time off. Lester, signed by Washington as a free agent in January after six seasons with the Cubs, compared the exhaustion of last year’s protocols to a deep playoff run.
“Mentally, you don’t realize how draining it is until you’re done,” he said. “I think last year was that. It was two months of that mental grind of the testing, worrying about the testing, making sure you’re doing all the right things.”
And now it’s time to start all over, beginning soon in Clearwater, Tempe and all the familiar camp sites.
Spring rosters will be limited to 75 players, with minor league camps delayed until the big leaguers leave town for opening day April 1. For fans accustomed to exploring the backfields, there won’t be much to see.
The good news for all involved — spread of the virus has slowed near camps. Arizona has dropped from a peak of nearly 14,000 cases in one day to under 2,000, while Florida went from a high of 19,000 cases to under 8,000.
Still, MLB has adopted extra spring precautions. The Grapefruit League schedule was reworked to limit travel, and clubs won’t play exhibitions against local colleges — usually a spring staple. Some early games may be shortened to five or seven innings, and half-innings can be called off before three outs if a pitcher has thrown at least 20 pitches.
MLB has claimed billions in losses after playing the 2020 season almost entirely without fans, and free agents were met by a sluggish market this winter.
Several notable players remain available. Righty starter Jake Odorizzi, an All-Star in 2019, is still without a deal after various ailments ruined his 2020. Gold Glove center fielder Jackie Bradley Jr. hasn’t found a home, either. Trevor Rosenthal, Taijuan Walker and others could help a contender, too.
Championship managers Alex Cora and AJ Hinch are back after serving one-year bans stemming from the 2017 Houston Astros cheating scandal. Cora — fired by Boston shortly before last year’s camp opened — was re-hired by the Red Sox, where he won a title in 2018. Hinch, fired as Houston’s manager in the wake of his suspension, was hired to replace Ron Gardenhire in Detroit.
The only other new manager is a throwback — Tony La Russa, now in charge of the Chicago White Sox. Already a Hall of Famer, La Russa hasn’t managed since 2011, and his hiring was met by skepticism about his potential handling of modern players.
La Russa in particular is coming back to a different game. And while many recent changes haven’t been wholly popular with fans, the consensus is that all these adaptations are baseball’s best chance at normalcy.
“I actually liked both the seven-inning doubleheaders and the runner on second,” Oakland manager Bob Melvin wrote in a text to the AP. “I was skeptical at first, but they both were successful in my opinion.”
AP Baseball Writer Janie McCauley contributed to this report.
Follow Jake Seiner: https://twitter.com/Jake_Seiner
NEW YORK (AP) — LeBron James was warned Saturday for violating the NBA’s anti-flopping rule after a play in which the superstar appeared to fall dramatically with little or no contact.
The league also warned teammate Kyle Kuzma for flopping in the same game, the Los Angeles Lakers’ 115-105 victory over Memphis on Friday.
James was between two Memphis players when teammate Anthony Davis took a shot from the other side of the court. James fell backward and threw his arms into the air, and a foul was called as the Grizzles players looked on in frustration.
Kuzma was defending against Dillon Brooks when he spun all the way around and tumbled across the baseline.
Flopping penalties have been infrequent in recent years after the league began cracking down on the act of trying to fool referees into calling fouls by initiating penalties in the 2012-13 season. After a first-time warning, a player is fined $5,000 fine for a second offense.
By DOUG FERGUSON
PEBBLE BEACH, Calif. (AP) — Jordan Spieth took on a bold tee shot and pulled it off perfectly to set up birdie. He hit a poor 3-wood that went off a tree and back into the fairway that led to another.
Whether it’s good golf or good breaks, it’s making him feel a lot better about his game at the AT&T Pebble Beach Pro-Am. He shot a 5-under 67 at Spyglass Hill on Friday for a one-shot lead over Daniel Berger going into the weekend.
“I like where things are at,” Spieth said, referring to more than his name atop the leaderboard on the weekend for the second straight week.
Winless since his British Open title in 2017 at Royal Birkdale, Spieth wasn’t sure if he was taking baby steps or a giant leap. But one week after relying so much on his wizardry with the wedge and putter, this was a steady diet of keeping the ball inside the tree-lined fairways of Spyglass, reducing stress and making a few putts.
There was a 45-foot birdie putt he holed on the tough par-3 fifth hole. He also missed a few inside 10 feet, and his lone bogey was a three-putt from 7 feet on the par-5 first hole after he made the turn.
“A little bit improved off last week, which was the goal this week, to just try and feel like I’m getting better each day,” said Spieth, whose tie for fourth in Phoenix was his best result since May 2019. “I haven’t made a ton of longer putts … which is probably a really good sign that I’m keeping the ball in front of me and striking it really nicely.”
Spieth was at 12-under 132, his first 36-hole lead since Birkdale.
Berger shot a 66 at Pebble Beach by going 2-3-2 along the ocean on a day filled will sunshine and a Pacific breeze. He holed 15-foot birdie putts on the par-3 fifth and par-3 seventh holes, and in between chipped in for eagle from about 20 feet on the par-5 sixth.
“I didn’t make a bunch of birdies in the middle of the round and then hung in there and toward the end rattled off a couple and got myself in a good position going into Saturday,” Berger said.
Henrik Norlander had a 70 at Spyglass and was at 10 under, while the group at 9-under 135 included Patrick Cantlay, whose record-tying 62 at Pebble Beach on Thursday was quickly forgotten. His opening tee shot at No. 10 on Spyglass hit a tree and was never found, sending him back to the tee. He opened with a double bogey and eventually got those two shots back until a three-putt bogey on the par-3 third and pars the rest of the way in.
Five-time champion Phil Mickelson won’t be around for the weekend, but he went out in style. Mickelson hit two shots in the ocean on the 18th at Pebble Beach and took a quadruple-bogey 9 for an 80.
Spieth showed his level of trust on the 17th hole, 325 yards with a sharp turn to the left. Instead of laying back with a fairway metal as he often does, he took driver to the front of the green, leaving him a flop shot to 5 feet for birdie. Cantlay in the group behind was too far right, into a bunker about 40 yards short, and made bogey.
Spieth surged into the lead with a gap wedge that got the ridge perfectly on the skinny green at No. 4, and followed that with a 5-iron to 45 feet, a birdie putt helped by Rickie Fowler going first from the same line.
He reached the front of the green on the par-5 seventh with a hybrid for a two-putt birdie, then figured his one miss off the tee would cost him on No. 8.
“I hit the tree off the tee,” he said with a smile. “I toed a 3-wood and it came out in the fairway and I hit a 7-iron that happened to go right of the right pin, below the hole. That was a steal there, for sure.”
Good breaks have been hard to find for Spieth over the last two years. He has seen his share of shots that hit the tree and carom out-of-bounds, or tee shots that bury in the rough instead of sitting up.
“I’ll tell you what, it’s crazy. You go on runs of cards out here,” he said. “You get good ones and then you go on a bad run of cards. I’m now hitting it and kind of thinking it’s going to be a good break again, which is really nice.
“But you don’t rely on that,” he added. “It’s just when it happens, it’s obviously really nice.”
The cut was at 1-under 143 after 36 holes on Pebble Beach and Spyglass. Only two courses are being used this year because the tournament has no amateurs (or spectators) due to COVID-19 restrictions.
Fowler, who played alongside Spieth and defending champion Nick Taylor (at 4-under 140), shot 75 and missed the cut for the second straight week. Fowler has gone just over a year since his last finish in the top 10.