Tag Archives: Atlanta

Hawks Come Up Small: Preseason Edition

Coach Bud, after a few too many Buds?

Coach Bud, after a few too many Buds?

With more than a full two months to go before the start of the 2013-2014 NBA season, one would figure the Atlanta Hawks had a good shot at not appearing on this site. After all, they’d pulled off another remodel this summer, headlined by shipping out flashy but challenging power forward Josh Smith and replacing him with the more workman-like and dependable Paul Milsap. Solid move, as judged by most basketball pundits.

They also hired Mike Budenholzer as their new coach. The top assistant and presumptive coach-in-waiting behind the legendary Gregg Popovich in San Antonio, he was hired to imbue the Hawks with some of the special powers of the Spurs. He joined Hawks general manager Danny Ferry, who had previously been VP of basketball operations for the Spurs. True to Pop philosophy, in this year’s draft, the team eschewed American college stars in favor of two youngsters who had been plying their trade in the professional leagues of Europe, Brazilian Lucas Nogueira, who played in Spain, and German Dennis Schröder. Schröder, in particular, was impressive in summer league this year.

Last night, Budenholzer was arrested and charged with driving under the influence after being pulled over by the cops in Midtown Atlanta—in a particularly nightlife-rich bit of Midtown. He refused the breathalyzer, but the cop wrote in his report that, “I noticed that he had bloodshot and watery eyes and a strong odor of an alcoholic beverage coming from his breath.”

No word on what the Hawks plan to do about this situation, but Ferry has informed the media that he’s up-to-speed on the situation. But, really, this likely doesn’t bode well for a franchise that’s been in Atlanta for nearly 50 years and hasn’t made it past the second round of the playoffs. We still don’t really know what kind of leader of men Coach Bud is, but he isn’t doing himself any favors in the setting a good example department.

It’ll be interesting to see what he does to right the ship. If he doesn’t, Coach Bud won’t just be a clever way of truncating a long surname.

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Falcons Fall Back to Earth, Perhaps Predictably

012113_falcons_bseThere’s a reason no writer representing San Francisco contributes to this blog: SF teams, more often than not, finish the drill. Atlanta teams, sigh, tend not to. The Hawks have never made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, much less the NBA Finals. The Braves went to the playoffs 14 years in a row and managed only one World Series win—the city’s sole championship. Now the Falcons have reached the NFC Championship game three times and will once again not win the Super Bowl.

But, through three quarters of yesterday’s thrilling NFC Championship Game, it looked like the latest edition of the Falcons could make the franchise’s second Super Bowl appearance. That will not be the case. SF teams come up big. ATL teams come up small.

My worries with the new era of the Falcons, led by the Dimitroff-Smith-Ryan troika, crystallized on November  27, 2011. I never was too bothered by the first two playoff loses suffered by this regime. Losing to the eventual NFC Champion Cardinals on their turf with a rookie QB in his first playoff game was tough, but reasonable. The defeat to the Packers was harder to take, but that team was a buzzsaw.

But, the weekend after Thanksgiving in 2011 was foreboding: The Falcons piled up a 17-0 lead in the first half on the lowly Vikings, who came into the Georgia Dome sporting a feeble 2-8 record, a rookie quarterback who’s ceiling is probably Matt Schaub, and no Adrian Peterson. But, in about a five-minute span, the Falcons gave up two touchdowns, and the Vikings closed the gap to three points. The Falcons would eventually win, but I remember sending a text to a couple friends that read: “The Falcons have no killer instinct. We should have squashed this team. Why is this even a game?”

And, that’s been evident in their no-show in the Wild Card Game against the New York Football Giants last year; several skin-of-their-teeth victories this season over bad teams, including the Cardinals and Raiders; and their two most recent playoff games. The Falcons impressively fast starts against the Seahawks and the Niners have been tempered by equally shocking swoons.

A John Abraham Falcons jersey, on its hangar and heading back to  the closet until the fall.

A John Abraham Falcons jersey, on its hangar and heading back to the closet until the fall.

Against the Niners, they failed to score a single point in the second half, after having their way with the visitors in the first quarter of the game. Once again the Falcons only seemed to play offense for one-half of a football game; and however amped their defense was on the first couple series of the game, it was significantly more porous soon after. After letting the Niners recover from a 17-0 deficit and pull to within three points, the Falcons showed some pluck and put together a quick strike scoring drive to go into the half with a 10-point lead.

Maybe today would be different? Alas, it wasn’t. Matty Ice went cold, throwing an interception (that to be fair wasn’t his fault) and fumbling a snap. John Abraham was clearly ineffective—and I think someone needs to take a long look at why he was playing in the fourth quarter of a meaningless game on December 29. The better team, who’d been here before and squandered its opportunity last year, won. People seemed certain the 49ers would be back to avenge their loss; I get the impression that many think the Falcons just blew their one chance.

The fans, from what I hear from several people (including my parents) who went to the game, did their job for the entire 60 minutes. The city has risen up, as it is continually prodded to do, and embraced this team of talented underachievers. I’ve called the Falcons “the most considerate team in football.” They should be more considerate to their fans than to their opponents.


Happy Independence Day!

Na na na na. Na na na na. Hey, hey, hey. Goodbye! Later sk8ters.

It’s July 4th, the day that each year our nation celebrates its independence from British rule. This year, I’m dedicating this holiday to the newly minted general manager of the National Basketball Association team from my hometown. This one’s for you, Danny Ferry—for authoring a declaration of independence from toxic contracts that threatened to mire the Atlanta Hawks in mediocrity for the foreseeable future. I’ve decided to give you a pass on your Duke bona fides and anoint you the title of “possible savior,” which I reserve the right to either shorten to “savior” or pull from you entirely at any time.

Ferry worked not one, but two miracles on July 2nd—at the tail end of his first week on the job. He traded the inflated contract of team star Joe Johnson to the New Jersey Brooklyn Nets, who were desperate for star power, for a fleet “who gives a shit?” that will all be off the books in a year’s time. That positions the Hawks to make a run at some simply delectable possible free agents, including Dwight Howard, Chris Paul, and Andrew Bynum. It also just offers the Hawks some flexibility and allows them to build around a younger nucleus starring Josh Smith and/or Al Horford.

It’s not that Johnson was bad. He was the team’s best player and a regular All-Star. But, he tended to disappear in the playoffs and didn’t endear himself to the fanbase (or whatever was left of it since its peak in the early-1990s). But, he had the richest contract in the game and was, at best, a third tier star. The math didn’t work, and with him on board, the Hawks were destined to be the fourth or fifth seed in the playoffs yearly, crashing out in the first or second round.

That’s not it, though. He also evicted another albatross who was unjustly flying with the Hawks: Marvin Williams. It wasn’t so much that Marvin Williams was terrible. Were he a mid-first round pick who materialized into a reliable rotation player, he’d have been much appreciated. But, he was picked 2nd overall, ahead of Chris Paul, Deron Williams, Andrew Bynum, and Danny Granger. This, despite the fact that he never started a game during his only year at UNC. He was dealt to the Utah Jazz straight up for Devin Harris, who is also entering a contract year.

Look, the result of these moves is the Hawks grab one of the last tickets to the playoffs and crash out in Round 1, probably getting swept by the Heat. But, the future—beyond next year—is looking bright.


So This Is What Misery Feels Like …

The Braves epic September 2011 swoon helped propel Atlanta to the top if Forbes' Most Miserable Sports Cities

This is a blog that basks in the misery that underachieving sports franchises inflict on their respective fan bases, from the rabid, rust-belted Dawg Pound inhabitants of Cleveland to the new moneyed, good ol’ boy transients who fein to support Atlanta teams. The authors, which include a Seattle native still so distraught at losing the Sonics to OKC that he’s yet to post anything, are constantly quibbling about which of their hometowns is in fact the sorriest of sports cities.

On Leap Day 2012, it is I who can claim the title, as an independent arbiter, Forbes magazine has declared that the loss of the NHL Thrashers (honestly, no one cares) and the epic September collapse of the Braves (don’t really want to talk about it) makes Atlanta more pitiable than Sonics-less Seattle. Yay! (I guess.)

Here’s how the Coming Up Small team took the news:

ATLSwami: CAME up small!

ValmiCLE: You can have it. Totally impossible to take that list remotely seriously. Puts Denver ahead of Cleveland. DENVER! With this: “A great run from 1996 to 2001 (four titles) doesn’t quite mitigate a long bridesmaid history for the Mile High City.” Four fucking titles in the last 15 years gets less weight than 0 for 45? Blech. Worst one of these lists I’ve ever seen. Buffalo? Seattle? No problem. But putting Phoenix and Denver up there?

ATLS: Phoenix? They had the one Dbacks series. Anything else?

VCLE: Years and years of the Suns being good. Went to a Super Bowl. Dbags more recent than Atlanta’s.

ATLS: So, y’all have been to multiple World Series and an NBA Finals.

VCLE: This is a zero sum game. Been to 3 championship rounds in my lifetime and lost each in a horrible way. Can’t argue with zero titles in over 40 years. Who cares if the hockey team leaves Atlanta? No one in Atlanta clearly. Let’s not go over what happened when Cleveland lost its most popular team. In that time, ATL’s been to a Super Bowl and as many World Series [5, actually, to the Indians’ 2] and managed to win one. Winning matters. No comparison. Winning before 1964 doesn’t matter unless you’re old enough to remember it. And even then.

ATLS: It’s not about you, dude. It’s about the city.

VCLE: Shut your word hole

ATLS: Cleveland was there before you, and, this might be a stretch, it will outlast you.

GreggySEA (in his first appearance on the blog): Damn, swiped first place from us.

ATLS: If it makes you feel better, I don’t value the loss of the Thrashers as even being in the same ballpark as the loss of the Sonics.

GSEA: It does make me feel better.  And we just lost out next best hope with Sacramento staying put.

ATLS: Did KJ ever frustrate you back in the day? Cause he’s certainly doing it from Sacto’s mayor’s office.

GSEA: Yeah, fuck that guy.

VCLE: Drafted by the Cavs and traded for Larry Nance, if I recall.


What Is “Coming Up Small”?

The inspiration for this blog's name comes from a Sports Illustrated article written after the Miami Heat lost to the Dallas Mavericks in Game 6 of the 2011 NBA Finals. (The authors were pleased with that outcome.)

“Coming up small” is what the teams that the authors of this blog love seem to do annually. It’s Ichiro and the 2001 Seattle Mariners tying a Major League Baseball record for 116 regular season wins in … before managing to take only game from the Yankees in the ALCS. It’s the Cleveland Cavaliers swashbuckling through the rest of the NBA enroute to the best record in both the 2008-2009 and 2009-2010 seasons … and failing to make it to the NBA Finals both seasons. It’s the Atlanta Braves making it to the postseason every year for 14 straight years, beginning in 1991 … and only notching one World Series victory (and that, in the strike-shortened 1995 season).

It’s losing the Sonics to, of all places, Oklahoma City. It’s handing Baltimore a Super Bowl-ready franchise. It’s failing to adequately support not one, but two hockey teams (the Flames and the Thrashers).

The authors of this blog all live in New York City, home to storied franchises, such as the Yankees, Knicks, and Giants. (Yes, there are some less storied franchises here, too.) Yet, they have held steadfastly to the franchises of their youth and suffered perpetually from those teams’ unfailing mediocrity. They hail from the towns, that according to Forbes’ most recent assessment, are the first-, second-, and eighth-most miserable sports cities in the country.

Coming Up Small  is a venue to discuss what it means to be an expat fan, to honor your vestigial loyalties nearly a decade or more after you’ve left the city where you grew up. It’s a site to document the process of trying to teach your newborn son to love teams from a city he’s never known, that don’t get a lot of media coverage in the Northeast, and that don’t have a track record of success. It’s a corner of the web to discuss the mix of pride and shame that comes from going to a sports bars and having people point and say, “Whoa, a Falcons fan!”

This is a blog about being a fan. It’s also a blog about being a fool.