published Tuesday, July 10th, 2012

5-at-10: Recruiting, NBA deals, Braves review

From the "Talks Too Much" Studios, here we go...

Recruit 2.0

Robert Nkemdiche is the nation's top college football prospect, and by most accounts, it's not close. Dude is 6-foot-5 and 270 pounds and is fast enough to be the leading rusher in the state championship game last year in Georgia's largest classification. He's a beast.

He picked Clemson earlier this summer. It's a fine school, and his high school coach roomed with Tigers coach Dabo Swinney at Alabama.

Now, Nkemdiche is facing significant backlash after saying he was "a done deal" to Clemson if the Tigers offered a teammate a scholarship.

Let's cut Nkemdiche at least a little slack. Dude is 17 — and a super talent at 17 who until now has been amazingly forthright on the recruiting trail, which is not the easiest trail to navigate. Who among us did not say something dumb at 17? (Other than Spy of course.)

By all accounts, Nkemdiche is a good kid. He avoided a bunch of the hubbub that surrounds national top recruits and he deserves a mulligan if for no other reason than he did not schedule his announcement on ESPNU or do the hat dance with five caps in front of him on the local news.

What gets us is the "done deal" part. How many of these kids commit and then take other visits or listen to other coaches whisper sweet somethings into their ears? And hey, that's the game and the system we deal in so it is what it is.

This is yet another reason why there should be an early signing period in the first week of August. Alas.

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  • photo
    Orlando Magic's Dwight Howard (12) is defended by New York Knicks' Tyson Chandler (6) during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, March 28, 2012, in New York. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II)
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Trade swirls around the NBA

The Brooklyn Nets appear bound and determined to land Dwight Howard. There are talks of three-team deals and four-team deals and trading every pick this side of the old-school Waterpik.

We have to admit, in the era of Big 3s, a potential trio of Howard, Joe Johnson and Deron Williams is pretty stout. We'd rank it just behind Miami's Big 3 and even with OKC's Big 3.

Not surprisingly the Cleveland Cavaliers are interested in helping make the Nets' deal happen. Yes, the same Cavs that were jilted by LeBron. Yes, the same Cavs owned by Dan Gilbert, who owns the FatHead franchise and who, after LeBron left, lowered the price on the LeBron FatHead to $17.41 — the same year Benedict Arnold was born. (Gilbert is such a bitter old man he may have "Get off my lawn" tattooed on his arm.)

Hey, if we're getting to the point where no more than eight teams are going to have Big 3s and those eight teams fight it out for the title great.

Let's assume the Nets land Dwight Howard, here are the seven that have a chance to win it all:

1) Heat — Big 3 already set and added Ray Allen, who will average six 3s per game next year getting a river of open looks.

2) OKC — Big 3 set.

3) Spurs — Big 3 is set, aging, but set; while Parker, Ginobli and an aging Duncan are the least impressive Big 3, the surrounding cast is better and the coach is the best.

4) Nets — Assuming Howard comes aboard and they have enough cap space and players to avoid the Hickory Huskers' "May team is on the floor" move.

5) Celtics — Big 3 (Rondo replaces Allen) welcomes Jason Terry.

6) Lakers — Big 1 as in Kobe plus Bynum, Gasol and Nash can really score; they couldn't guard a geriatric minimum security facility but they can score.

7) Bulls — Not a factor with Derrick Rose on the shelf

The rest of the league will have to dangle their assets to teams searching to complete a Big 3 in an effort to strike a lottery golf mine like the New Orleans Sterns did with Anthony Davis.

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  • photo
    Atlanta Braves catcher Brian McCann (16) tags out New York Yankees' Mark Teixeira during the fifth inning of a baseball game at Yankee Stadium in New York, Tuesday, June 19, 2012.
    Photo by Associated Press /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Braves catch their breath

This may be the perfect year for Brian McCann to miss the All-Star game. Dude needs a break.

In fact, here are five quick-hit observations on the South's favorite baseball team:

1) Bourn the best: Michael Bourn has been the everyday MVP for this team. The Braves need to make every effort to sign him long-term, especially in these post-PED days of reduced homers. Bourn creates offense. Period.

2) Kimbrel the great: Finish this sentence, "The Braves are sunk because __ got hurt." Yep, if something happens to about anyone else on the roster, the Braves can cope ˜ heck it feels like they already have accomplished that. But if closer Craig Kimbrel goes down, it's a lost cause.

3) McCann and Uggla will rebound: You know we embrace that baseball is a long season and we trust it. But averages are averages because they average out. (That should be in a fortune cookie somewhere. Get Kim Jong Il on the blower stat.) And the averages say McCann will get to .280-plus and Uggla will get back to around .250, which means each will have stout Julys.

4) Injuries are inexplicable: How is it that Tommy Hanson and his rickety delivery works and Brandon Beachy with his perfect form needs arm surgery?

5) The Braves are right in the middle of this: And we still think the Nationals, who own a 4.5-game lead over the Braves, will have a rocky stretch in front of them very soon.

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This and that

— Detroit Lions defensive tackle Nick Fairley said this weekend that, despite his multiple offseason arrests, he's still a great guy. OK. By the way, he gave the interview at a children's charity kickball tournament. Admit it, you're wondering whether he was kickball stud or dud, aren't you?

— OK, we try to be a sympathetic 5-at-10. We don't want folks to be ill or injured. But is there any way to feel sorry for those folks who were gored while running with the bulls in Spain? Here's betting that before the start of the annual event in Pamplona, more than one guy said, "Militas mi cerveza."

— Congrats to UTC for having two preseason All-Americans, as Mocs football ace John Frierson tells us here http://www.timesfreepress.com/news/2012/jul/10/utc-duo-preseason-all-america-chattanooga/. Side note: We'd be shocked if there are four defensive ends better and more productive in the FCS than UTC stud Josh Williams, who made the third team. So it goes.

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Today's question

This is the slowest three days of the sports calendar.

In fact, these three days leave us with the All-Star game, the All-Star game festivities and the ESPYs.

Gang, take this chance to spend quality time with family. Want to know how slow it's going to be? We scheduled some dental work for Wednesday and know that if we're under the gas for most of the day we won't miss a thing.

Is there anything more worthless in sports than the Espys? Have you or anyone you know ever watched the Espys? Is the definition of a gambling problem betting on the Home Run derby?

(And Spy was right about begging for something on TV other than the home run derby Monday night. It was brutal, save the part where the Kansas City crowd booed Yankees second baseman Robinson Cano after every out of his homerless dismissal.)

about Jay Greeson...

Jay was named the Sports Editor of the Times Free Press in 2003 and started with the newspaper in May 2002 as the Deputy Sports Editor. He was born and raised in Smyrna, Ga., and graduated from Auburn University before starting his newspaper career in 1997 with the Newnan (Ga.) Times Herald. Stops in Clayton and Henry counties in Georgia and two years as the Sports Editor of the Marietta (Ga.) Daily Journal preceded Jay’s ...

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Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
ordinaryguy said...

Indeed kudos to Wes Dothard and Josh Williams for the honors...with more than just a casual interest in Mocs football, game days will indeed be special this season, with both App and GSU on the home schedule...can you say final four in FCS this season?

July 10, 2012 at 10:30 a.m.
fechancellor said...

10 Ring, I had a rule at the frat house when choosing Little Sisters. You guessed it, no package deals.

Good luck in the chair, I had an emergency root canal about a week ago. The pain, even with percocet, radiated to differing upper body joints for days.

July 10, 2012 at 10:38 a.m.
jgreeson said...

OG —

Great call. The Mocs home schedule is pretty stout. We may make an effort to see the App State game — could be a barn-burner.

We think these Mocs can be a playoff team, and once you're in the dance, anything can happen.

FE to the C —

Thanks. We loath going to the dentist but it is what it is. And they will have to knock us out — for their benefit and ours.

He, he, he... you said package.

We had several rules at our fraternity house in Auburn — we're trying to think of one we can share on a F-O-I-B sports column.

We'll think of one soon. Maybe.

— 5-at-10

July 10, 2012 at 11:28 a.m.
ordinaryguy said...

Jay by all means be at the App game...come up to my booth and say hello

July 10, 2012 at 12:03 p.m.
chas9 said...

What a great, GREAT story is R.A. It's a disgrace that he's not starting. Launch the investigation.

The Bravos have the Gnats right where they want them.

July 10, 2012 at 12:03 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Oh, I said plenty of dumb stuff at 17. Mostly to girls. Without a whole lot of luck.

Did you see Ray Allen play in the playoffs? He looked and played old. He lost playing time to a dude named Avery Bradley (should be the next main evil lawyer in a forthcoming Grisham book with that name). Someone tell the Heat they are not getting Jesus Shuttlesworth. On second thought, let them find out for themselves.

The All-Star break comes at a bad time for McCann. He does not need four days off right now, not the way he was swinging it the last week. Struggla, however, could use a week. Or two. Or more. You know, a nice, non-painful "injury" (not like the dude in "Victory" who gave up his goalie spot to Sly Stallone. No.).

So when Nick Fairley played kickball with the kids, how hard did he kick the ball at the kids? Did he take some poor urchin's dome off with a blast and yell "home run!" as he trudged around the bases?

July 10, 2012 at 12:26 p.m.
jgreeson said...

OG —

If we go as a fan, absolutely. If we go as part of our day job, well, we'll swing before beforehand.

9er —

Great post. And R.A. is a great story. Did you see the ESPN "Outside the Lines" story about him detailing his abuse as a kid? Excellent story, and he's survived life's roller coaster.

And we will no longer call them the Nats. They are the Gnats from this point forward.

Spy —

At least Fairley was not at a charity "dodgeball" game and unloading the "If you can dodge a wrench, you can dodge a ball," training routine.

We saw Ray-Ray in the postseason, but we also believe he's one of those guys that's going to come in with a chip on his shoulder. And how great would an Eastern Conference finals Game 3 be when Allen is introduced in Boston. It will make the KC treatment of Cano last night look like a Tupperware party. Heck, they may have a real-life version of "Celtic Pride" the brutally bad movie where those dolts kidnapped the player.

— 5-at-10

July 10, 2012 at 12:37 p.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent

First of all, I think the Braves can survive without Kimbrel. Closer is the easiest position in the league to fill. It's the most overrated position in baseball. Look at the Yankees- Rivera goes down. Still have the best record in baseball. Giants lose Wilson, one of the top closers in the games, bam- go from being almost ten games out of first to first place (thanks in large part to the Dodgers having so many injuries they can't even breathe).

Kimbrel is the best closer in the game right now, but I saw some stat that said that Rivera has successfully closed something like 97% of the games over the last fifteen years. The worst team in the bigs during that stretch is at something like 95%. The Yankees were the best- and the worst is only 2% worse. Losing Kimbrel would not kill the Braves....and I love Kimbrel.

Secondly, I actually did use to watch the ESPY's yearly. I enjoyed it back in the early to mid-90s when they first started. Then, I got a little older, and I realized that I don't watch any awards shows because they are really kind of a waste of time. I might turn on the ESPY's and watch to see a couple of the awards as I flip through the channels, but it is not something I stick with for the long haul.

The Braves are going to have a great second half. Freeman will get back to hitting. McCann will get his average up into the .260 range (I think he's aged more than his years, and that he is on the downside of his career, so his .280 days may be behind him), and Uggla will get hot. Combine that with Bourn and Heyward continuing to hit, Jurrjens and even Minor remembering how to pitch, and BOOM! you've got one of the favorites in the National League. Seriously, what team should scare the Braves to death in the playoffs? The Giants, Dodgers, Reds, Diamondbacks, Pirates, Nationals, Mets, and Cardinals are all good teams, but none of them are elite. And I'll take a seven game series for the title against any AL team as well.

Baseball predictions for the NL:

NL East Champ: Braves NL Central Champ: Reds NL West Champ: Dodgers Wildcards: Nationals, Giants

Nationals win wildcard, take on Dodgers. Dodgers sweep Nationals. Braves beat Reds in four. Braves vs. Dodgers? Great series. Probably goes seven. I'll take the Braves- but apprehensively.

July 10, 2012 at 1:10 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

I hate to tell you Mocs fans this, and I'm glad the program is on an upswing, but Georgia Southern is loaded on offense. And they still have Manbearpig, Brent Russell, who is unblockable.

July 10, 2012 at 1:30 p.m.
Livn4life said...

Wow if Nkemdiche works this deal, look out in the future. Great Buckets of Rain that should have fallen, what is Nick UNFairley doing kidding around with kickball? What next, James Harrison teaching ballay(Ineveracceptedtheetending)? We all know they're both "nice" guys or maybe even "kind" guys, the Kind you keep kids away from. The Pamplona bidnus is just a bunch of bull anyway. But no we do not celebrate serious injuries. I wonder if the commissioner of that event is looking into the hard hits by the bulls...eh never mind. NO there is absolutely nothing worse than the ESPYs. Well, the former way the division 1A Collegiate Football Champions were chosen runs a close second. Hey does my memory fail or wasn't there a sports guy named Mike Espy once? I know there was an Esposito but thought I remember an Espy. So see there, they're horrible, those Espys. And we always thought they seemed like a nice family.

July 10, 2012 at 1:34 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Stuck —

As Ron Burgandy says, "We'll agree to disagree... When in Rome."

Like your picks for the NL and hope the Dodgers can hang on despite all these injuries. We'd also like to see the Pirates find a way into the postseason but it seems like a long shot.

Spy —

There will be plenty of time to bring facts into this. We're in July, when everyone is undefeated and has their eyes on the prize.

Livn(Large) —

They've already been working these package deals for years. In fact, Nkemdiche's other best friend — a running back at his high school — already is committed to — cough cough — Clemson.

And yes, Big Nick and James Harrison are not the front-runners for the NFL-United Way commercials.

And we fully respect your decision to spell "ballay" any which way. We have always been troubled how the rank of Colonel does not have an 'R' in it somewhere.

— 5-at-10

July 10, 2012 at 1:46 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

Stuck,

The Yankees are lucky they had another proven closer ready to go for Mo, Rafael Soriano, who is 20 for 21 in save opportunities.

I think closer is important and teams that undervalue the position wind up paying the price. Of course, your closer has to be in a position to close out games (see: Papelbon, Phillies).

The Braves and Red Sox have tried that "anybody can close" routine. And it has been massive failure in each instance. Once the Reds starting turning games into six-inning affairs with the first edition of the Nasty Boys, World Series champions since, with a couple of exceptions, have had a door-shutter at the end of games.

July 10, 2012 at 1:55 p.m.
Todd962 said...

Humorous Lebron Hate of the Day: "Thats almost as awkward as the scene in Space Jame 2 when Lebron leaves the Toon Squad and joins the MonStars."

"I've decided I'll will be taking my talents to Moron Mountain."

July 10, 2012 at 2:18 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

Nice call. And with Venters suffering from Stinky-ness, if Kimbrel goes down that means O'Flaherty closes and that means who is setting up? Chad Durbin? Rick Camp?

Mr. 962 —

Even as a LeBron homer, that's funny.

— 5-at-10

July 10, 2012 at 2:30 p.m.
BIspy4 said...

I do agree with Stuck on awards shows, though.

And there's no baseball on Thursday, either, 5. So that's really four days of nothing. It would even drive Andy Dufresne batty.

July 10, 2012 at 2:42 p.m.
chas9 said...

I saw what yo did quoting Wayne's World. This column needs more WW references.

Since these are the deadest 3 days in sports reporting, maybe these observations rise to the level of worth a mention. Kentucky recently re-signed its very successful baseball coach to a five year $2.1 million contract. Now, they have lured a big name track coach away from Stanford, which was #6 nationally last year. He's Edrick Floreal (no, Tiger's not his nickname) and his wife is Tennessee standout LaVonna Martin, who became an Olympic medalist. John Volsfan may think it's all about the ball that bounces funny, but UK is gonna win the SEC's all-sports trophy.

July 10, 2012 at 3:22 p.m.
jgreeson said...

From friend of the show StuckinKent —

And who closes for the Rays? Different guy every year. Right in the race every year.

Who closes for the Angels? Different guys almost every year. I'm not saying a good bullpen doesn't help you- just that having a top notch closer get three outs doesn't do anything for you. Guys emerge every year that have never gotten the three outs before. Marmol was once unhittable for the Cubs- now he gives up hits left and right. Over 50% of teams change their closer at some point during the season either because of injury or ineffectiveness. I just think closer is the most overrated position in sports. Why? Because almost any pitcher can get three outs without giving a run a good chunk of the time- when you throw in two and three run leads, it's even easier. You've got to have the lead heading into the 9th, and so the other 24 outs are 8/9 of the battle. If you have a great bullpen, the closer doesn't matter. If you're telling me that Kimbrel, O'Flaherty, and Medlen all go down with an injuries, then I will follow along and nod my head and say, "You're right- how would the Braves overcome that?"

Maybe that's a subtle difference, but unless you plan on pitching Kimbrel for the last three innings, I don't see how the Nasty Boys comparison works here. Any one of those guys goes down, someone else has to step in. If all three of them go down, then there's a problem.

July 10, 2012 at 4:36 p.m.
jgreeson said...

Spy —

We not completely anti-Awards show. And yes, Andy would be telling Red to get busy living or get busy dying of sportsless boredom.

9er —

We'll work more WW into the routine. If UK is going to corner the market on high-priced coaches, who are they going to get to replace Joker?

Stuck —

By the reasoning that teams can contend with a different closer, so it must be an overrated position — does that work the same for shortstops? The turnover at short in the big leagues is big but we're pretty sure it's not an underrated position. What about center fielders and lead-off hitters? The Braves went through a new one almost every year after Andruw and they were still pretty competitive.

Yes any number of guys can get three outs, but how many of them can get the FINAL three outs? Ask Brad Lidge about the difference.

Plus, if Kimbrel goes down and everyone in the bullpen moves down a chair, it makes every slot in the bullpen worse. If you're comfortable with Durbin pitching the seventh, he's now got the eighth and he's not as good as O'Flaherty, who was pitching the eighth but is now closing and he's not as good as Kimbrel.

In some ways, you could make an argument that losing your closer and your No. 1 starter are the two most painful injuries in baseball since the trickle down negatively affects several other spots.

— 5-at-10

July 10, 2012 at 4:54 p.m.
chas9 said...

The Cats have had a lot of success with the Knoxville connections. Maybe that young up-and-comer DD will be looking to make a move.

July 10, 2012 at 5:54 p.m.
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