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5 Atlanta sports stars to keep an eye on

Atlanta athletes we're watching in 2012



Shaquille O'Neal: "I'm just going to try to make it more fun than it already is," Shaq said when he was announced as joining Kenny Smith, Charles Barkley, and Ernie Johnson on TNT's oft-weekly NBA show. A tall order — sorry, it was too easy! — for the 7-footer, as the show is widely hailed as the best pre-/post-game show of any major sport. But Shaq has a great sense of humor and was fairly outspoken during his playing days, so he should fit right in. (Provided you can understand his Bowzer-esque baritone. The man has a deep voice, is what we're saying.

Angel McCoughtry: The Atlanta Dream forward continued her superstar ascension last season, finishing second in the WNBA in scoring with 21.6 points per game. She was named not only to the 2011 All-WNBA First Team, but also was selected to the WNBA All-Defensive First Team. The 2009 Rookie of the Year looks to get the Dream over the championship hump in 2012, as the team has lost in the WNBA Finals the past two years.

Julio Jones: As in watch this weekend. The rookie Atlanta Falcons receiver lived up to his draft day hype, proving the five (!) draft picks used to move up and select Jones were an appropriate price to pay. Teaming with veteran stud receiver Roddy White, Jones helped Atlanta surge into the playoffs with 20 catches, 393 yards, and six touchdowns in his last four games.

Chipper Jones: The looooongtime Atlanta Brave looks set to play his 19th year with the team, even though he turns 40 in April. Despite his age and injuries, he had some fairly productive stretches, and looks to contribute to one more playoff run. In any case, c'mon, he's gonna be 40! That's worth watching, right?

Jeff Teague: When the Hawks beat the powerhouse Miami Heat earlier this week, point guard Teague showed flashes of his all-around play that Atlanta must have if the team is going to be a serious championship contender. Watching to see if he can overcome his inconsistent play will be a full-time spectator sport in 2012.

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