Atlanta Spirit lauded, Nkemdiche questioned

You don’t hear this very often, but the Hawks ownership made a fantastic move. By hiring Danny Ferry to be its President of Basketball Operations and General Manager, the Hawks and their enigmatic proprietors showed they are in it for the long haul.

The surprising thing about this hire is that Ferry was hired from San Antonio, a franchise known for heady, veteran players, intense coach Greg Popovich and team play. You don’t see many Iso-anybody’s at a Spurs game, just well-executed offense and air-tight defense.

I am eagerly looking forward to next season to see the next bit of magic Ferry can pull out of his sleeve. Let’s just hope Horford and Teague are retained. They could be the core of the Hawks’ franchise for quite some time. But I’m not shedding any tears about Marvin and Joe moving on.

 

SHOCKING DECISION …

How about the No. 1 recruit in America choosing Clemson? After Grayson’s Robert Nkemdiche pledged to the Tigers last week, I almost fell out of my chair when I heard the news. Nothing against Dabo Swinney’s program, but they are not near the top of the heap in any way when it comes to college football.

Why choose to play in a basketball conference at a program that hasn’t been relevant nationally in more than 20 years? Clemson seemed to come out of nowhere. The athletic prodigy had told everyone he was looking at Alabama, LSU, Ole Miss and Georgia before making the surprising decision.

I understand the Tigers offered his teammates and friends David Kamara and Wayne Gallman, but Robert, buddy, you have to move on after high school. You can’t bring Grayson to Clemson no matter how hard you try. College is for growing in a variety of ways, not sticking with your high school homeboys.

Let’s stay tuned to this decision and see if it sticks until next February.

 

BYRD MAN …

I was sad to see local product Marlon Byrd busted by Major League Baseball for using banned substances. I grew up in east Cobb with Byrd and played against his Shaw Park all-star teams when I was at Sandy Plains as a kid. I remember competing against a great athlete who played the game with class and passion while also respecting his opponents.

I’ve followed his career since then, to when he and his Sprayberry teammates won a state title in 1995, to his college days at Georgia Tech and Georgia Perimeter, and on to his MLB days in Philly, Washington, Texas, Chicago and now Boston.

Byrd’s suspension was announced Monday for using the substance Tamoxifen. The outfielder said he used the substance to fight the effects of a surgery he had a few years ago.

“I made an inexcusable mistake,’’ Byrd said in a release through the Players’ Association. “Although that medication is on the banned list, I absolutely did not use it for performance-enhancement reasons.’’

I want to believe a guy who I grew up playing against, and hope we see Marlon back out on a Major League field later this season.

 

EURO MADNESS …

It was revealed by ESPN last week that EURO 2012 (or the European soccer championships) had an increase of 31 percent viewership on ESPN over the past two tournaments in 2008 in viewers of the weekend’s quarterfinal matches. The Italy-England match garnered the best overnight ratings on ESPN of any Euro game from the past two tournaments.

I watched a couple games at a very crowded Brewhouse Cafe in Little Five Points and tried to get into Fado in Buckhead for the final. While much of America frowns on watching soccer, there are at least two hotspots in this city where soccer is easily the No. 1 attraction.

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