Guerry Clegg commentary: Hawks, spring football, paying players, Spieth and Wren topics of day

April 15, 2014 

Some days there are just too many topics to get to and not enough time to get to any one of them in-depth. This is one of those days.

Such as:

• The Atlanta Hawks: They have just earned the distinction of being one of the most irrelevant playoff teams in NBA history. It's bad enough that they are the eighth seed in a conference that might not be strong enough to put more than four teams in the NCAA tournament. But their reward is a first-round matchup against Indiana.

They would have been much better off missing the playoffs and being a lottery team. Granted, being in the lottery would have required some luck for them to move into one of the top three places. And this draft contains no certain franchise players.

Still, the opportunity to move into the top three in the draft, however minute their chances were, would have been more beneficial than a one-and-done series against the Pacers. Only five teams seeded eighth have ever won a playoff series.

Since we're on the topic of irrelevant, that leads us to …

• Spring football games: Of course it matters. But how players play in the spring games means nothing come the regular season. For one thing, they are playing against teammates. So was Hutson Mason's solid performance last week an indication that he's ready to be a top-tier SEC quarterback, or does it reflect how poor the Georgia pass defense remains?

My guess is a little bit of both. The Bulldogs' constantly changing depth chart suggests that new defensive coordinator Jeremy Pruitt didn't inherit as much talent as many people think.

The fact that Ray Drew, once a five-star recruit, had to suit up for the second-team defense indicates that he has taken a big step backward. He's a senior and should be one of the most dominant defensive players in the SEC.

Now we hear that Auburn and Alabama are competing to see who can have the largest A-Day crowd Saturday. Good grief.

• Paying college athletes: Giving athletes money, beyond expanding their modest stipends, could be a slippery slope. But why does the NCAA care if players sell their jerseys or game tickets or autographs? Why do they care if Joe Booster hires some defensive linemen and pay them $10,000 a summer to work in their warehouse? The excuse that the deep pocket schools would have an unfair advantage is a crock. Doesn't, say, Vanderbilt or Rice have a few generous alumni who love football?

Let the players sign with agents and establish some ground rules for agents.

As for unions, that's a whole other issue, one in which the players still stand a good chance to be manipulated, just by different people, whose motives would be less honorable than the coaches.

• Jordan Spieth: Until this year's Masters, Spieth was just another face in a crowded field of talented young golfers. But the only thing more amazing than his gallant performance under pressure Sunday was his gracious reaction afterward. He's mature far beyond his 20 years. At 20 years old, I was just trying to figure out how I was going to get through college.

"I don't look at or read or watch very much about myself," Spieth said on ESPN Radio. "I don't think that is very healthy."

That, even more than how he played Sunday, is why this kid's future is so bright. But enough talk about looking for "the next Tiger Woods." There was one Tiger, just like there was one Jack and one Arnie.

• Since I criticized Braves GM Frank Wren in the offseason, let me be the first to say he's the early leader for Executive of the Year. Saving himself some budget room allowed him to sign Ervin Santana when Kris Medlen was lost for the season. Cutting Freddy Garcia and signing Aaron Harang was a bold move, but one that certainly looks good now.

-- Guerry Clegg is an independent correspondent. You can write to him at sports@ledger-enquirer.com.

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