The Hawks, in general, and Trae Young in particular. What a show the young Atlanta point guard put on in Philly on Sunday as the Hawks grabbed Game 1 and seized home-court advantage from the East's No. 1 seed. Young finished with 35 points and 10 assists, and until the 76ers started throwing everything at him this side of the Liberty Bell and the Rocky statue, Young was a maestro in the high screen-and-roll set. Young's abilities in the moment in the postseason can't be overstated; Young is the second NBA player to score 30 or more in his first four NBA road playoff games. (The other was some dude named Jabbar who was in the Airplane! movie.)
Braves. The Atlanta baseball bunch took two of three from the best team on the line-up card in baseball, and beat Kershaw and Trevor Bauer on the weekend to do it. Add in a very un-Braves bullpen-like performance from the Braves bullpen, and when they rattle off 15 wins in their next 19 games and grab first place, we'll remember this weekend in early June.
Montana Fouts. The 6-foot-1 Alabama right-hander was — hey Spy, what's better than great, brilliant, or amazing? Wait, got it — perfect Saturday against UCLA to get the Tide to the winner's bracket final in their pod of the College Softball World Series. It was a run of 21s that would have made Charlie Babbitt smile. She faced 21, retired 21 and did it on her 21st birthday. I'm really happy for the Alabama fans I know, because I know how hard it's been recently to cheer for the Tide in this run of struggle. Egad.
Jacob deGrom. Not sure what else there is to say about the Mets ace, but I saw this stat and it was pretty amazing. Through nine starts, deGrom has a 0.62 ERA. Yes, any ERA that resembles Spy's BAC on St. Patty's Day or my GPA during the fall semester of 1991 is eye-popping. It's also historic. It's the best ERA since the stat became official in 1912, topping Juan Marichal's 0.69 ERA through nine starts in 1966.
Hendrick Racing. The team notched a 1-2 finish with Kyle Larson winning and Chase Elliott taking second at Sonoma. It was the fourth consecutive race that Hendrick drivers had the top two spots, tying the longest such streak in Cup series history. It also should be noted that giving Larson a second chance has paid huge dividends. Larson has three wins this season, which is tied for the most, and just completed a Tony Stewart-level of talent back-to-back with wins at Charlotte and then at the road course at Sonoma.
Tennessee baseball. Wow, I wish that had been on TV around these parts, especially the come-from-behind, walk-off grand slam in the Vols' opener. (Hey, ACC Network and SEC Network, get this fixed already. We had football replays and studio shows on while we could have had college baseball? That's F-minus work gang.) Still, a rocking atmosphere and a ticket to host the Super Regional is a heckuva weekend. Side note: Hey Josh Heupel, build something that competes and Johnny Vols Fans will love you forever my man. Here's more from TFP all-around ace David Paschall.
Hubie Brown. Yes, there were a lot of winners over the weekend. As Nuke told Crash. "I love winning, man. I (bleeping) love winning. Hear what I'm saying. It's like better than losing." But Hubie is 148 years old — yes I rounded up — and still at the top of his game as an NBA analyst.
Jon Rahm. He was dominant through three rounds of the Memorial, holding a six-shot lead after 54 holes with a brilliant 64 Saturday. Walking off the course, Rahm was informed he had tested positive for COVID. (Side note: William Hill sports book announced that anyone with bets on Rahm would be paid in full. Respect.)
The NBA playoffs. This is not about the numbers in round one, because I'd bet the weekend was probably pretty OK in terms of ratings. This is about first-round outcomes considering the postseason lost mega-draws LeBron, Luka and the Knicks in the opening round. Far from ideal. In fact, I saw a stat that for the first time since the Pistons went back-to-back in 1990, these NBA Finals will not feature one of this group: MJ, Hakeem the Dream, Shaq, Kobe, Tim Duncan, Steph or LeBron.
Anyone who wasted their time with the Paul/Mayweather boxing exhibition. Yawn.
The Yankees. Wow, the Red Sox — even with an injured JD Martinez — strolled into the House that replaced the House that Ruth built and took all three games from New York for the first time in the City That Never Sweeps since 2011. How one-sided is the Yankees offense right now? Well, it's more right-handed than Captain Hook. How about this stat: After Sunday, the Yankees have played 33 home games. They have fewer homers from left-handed hitters in Yankee Stadium this year than the Tampa Bay Rays, who have played seven games there.
More bad fan behavior. The U.S. Men's National Soccer Team pulled a rabbit from its duffle bag Sunday, beating favored Mexico. This did not please the thousands of Mexico fans at the match in Denver, as they chanted homophobic slurs during the game and even threw water bottles that hit players after the game. Imagine the outrage if Russell Westbrook was hit with a water bottle rather than popcorn. Also, I can't help but wonder if the outrage would have been louder if the U.S. fans had been the ones with those offensive and dangerous antics. Thoughts?
Julio, gone from the schoolyard
In the worst-kept secret in sports since the NFL draft, the Atlanta Falcons pulled the trigger and dealt Julio Jones.
Lots to get to here, so be patient.
First, the trigged to that trade gun was the salary cap, plain and simple. I don't think the new coaching staff — led by Arthur Smith, who was the Titans OC last season, and sent the future Hall of Fame WR to his old team — wanted to deal Jones in any way, shape or form. I don't think the team is happy about this, and I know the fans are not happy about this.
But the striking reality is that the Falcons were cap crunched, and this was the best — and potentially only — way out of it. It's why the deal a) happened after June 1 — like we have said from the beginning — and b) only netted a second-round pick.
(Side note: I think this also points to the changing narrative of skill-position guys in the NFL other than QBs. Here are the top highest-paid WRs in the NFL in order: DeAndre Hopkins, Julio Jones, Keenan Allen, Amari Cooper and Michael Thomas. Those dudes have zero Super Bowl titles. Combined. We could be moving toward WRs becoming similar to RBs in terms of cap view and allocation.)
If Julio can stay healthy, the Titans are going to be a match-up nightmare for teams with Jones on one side, AJ Brown on the other and Derrick Henry running between the tackles.
The Falcons dealt from its biggest position of strength, especially with the first-round addition of Kyle Pitts.
As Michael told Sonny, it's business, not personal.
But it makes me sad. Julio was great. And so much fun to watch. He had reached that elite level of sports stardom that every time the ball was thrown toward him I expected it to work out. Like Tiger in his heyday standing over an 8-footer or Steph when he releases a 3.
It's good, because they are that great.
Julio was there too. And now he's gone.
I wish him the best in Nashville, because I will always be a fan.
But as a Falcons fan, I can understand the why and still be saddened by the reality.
It is a place with which all Falcons fans are very familiar.
This and that
— Luka lost the series but you can make a hard argument that he won the weekend too. Dude was brilliant on Sunday, scoring 46 points and handing out 14 assists in a Game 7 loss. He also is the last one-star show in the league, something Dallas must address or face the potential franchise-crippling reality of losing Luka. How great was he in the series with the Clippers? Glad you asked. Luka played 284 minutes in the series, and the Mavs were +7 with him on the floor. In the 52 minutes Luka was on the bench, the Mavs were -43. Luka scored or assisted on 58.6% (161-of-274) of Dallas' baskets in the series. And the clarity of the two A-player plan was obvious in this series. As Kawhi Leonard rested, the Clippers could run its offense through Paul George. The Mavs without Luka had nothing close to that.
— You know how when we mention 'unbreakable records' numbers like Cy Young's pitching victories or Maravich's NCAA scoring records are always among the first mentioned? Why is Connie Mack's MLB managerial wins not right there with them? Tony LaRussa left his crotchety seat between Statler and Waldorf and has returned to the dugout with the White Sox. You knew this. Over the weekend, he got his 2,764th win to move past John McGraw for second all-time in baseball. If the White Sox go on to win 100 games this season he'd finish 2021 with 2,836, which means the 76-year-old LaRussa would need to average 100 wins in each year through the 2029 season to get to 3,636. Then he'd only need 96 wins in 2030 to pass Mack's 3,731 career wins.
— Speaking of golf, well, looks like the Brooks-Bryson thing is anything but cooling down. And now Bryson wants the PGA Tour to get involved? This feud is worth millions to those two dudes considering the recent announcement of the Tour's $40 million cash kitty for the players that move the needle. Ask yourself this? Even at a tournament like The Memorial at Jack's course, the storylines in golf went Rahm's WD, Brooks and Bryson sitting in a tree H-I-S-S-I-N-G and then whomever won the tournament.
— Made chicken florentine this weekend and it was aces. We've been getting a slew of spinach from the Signal Mountain co-opt box so far this summer, and it was excellent.
— So Burger King is taking shots at Chick-Fil-A and will donate up to $250K to an LGBTQ group for every chicken sandwich it sells in June, which is also Pride month. BK, like your product, but I'm out. Look, I'm all for supporting whatever group you see fit — and shouldn't CFA have the same right to support the group it sees fit, too — but if we're going to make the chicken sandwich battles political — and another opportunistic, "Look at us" half-hearted gesture of goodwill — well, I'm done. And this follows the social media calls to boycott Chick-Fil-A because it was reported last week that CFA CEO Dan Cathy donates to the National Christian Charitable Foundation. (That piece in the Daily Beast is here, and the links between the CFA to the NCF and anti Equality Act measures are kind of thin, and, in the analysis of the donations and the charities, it uses more anonymous sources than a rumor started by middle-school girls in study hall.) Still, the last thing I want to think about when deciding on a chicken sandwich is transgender issues.
— Speaking of getting along, we share this photo from social media that shows a house in Clarksville, Mich., with a Confederate flag flying on top and a rainbow LGBTQ flag right below it. Progress?
— You know the rules, and here's TFP sports editor and prep sports guru Stephen Hargis on Grace Academy dealing with lower numbers and switching to eight-man football.
Weekend winners and losers. Go.
On this multiple choice Monday, I almost included this above, but held it for here:
Which is the best Falcons player of all-time?
— Julio Jones;
— Matt Ryan;
— Mike Vick;
— Deion Sanders;
As for today, June 7, let's review.
It's Daniel Boone day. So there's that. It's also National Chocolate Ice Cream Day. (Side question: Am I nuts for not having chocolate ice cream on the Rushmore of ice cream?)
Prince would have been 63 today. Anna Kournikova is 40 today. Mike Pence is 62.
Dean Martin would have been 104 today.
Rushmore of Dean? Go.