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April is always a big month in professional sports. NBA and NHL playoffs are underway. NFL draft later this week. MLB season is gaining steam. World Cup Soccer on the horizon. There's plenty to keep even the not so active fans eye swirling. Time for another version of Random Rumblings.
How embarrassing for New York fans. Both Big Apple teams (Rangers, Islanders) failed to qualify for the playoffs. 15 of 30 NHL teams play post season hockey. Rangers troubles were well documented all season long as they failed to qualify for the first time since 2003-04 season. Local papers pointed fingers squarely at the coaching staff.
Islanders faithful always seem to think each new season offers hope for improvement. In the past 21 seasons, Islanders teams have finished higher than 4th place on only three occassions. Isles have failed to participate in playoff hockey 14 of those 21 seasons. Front office decisions have been just short of catastrophic. Making matters worse is failure of Long Islanders to approve "The Lighthouse Project". All in all, New Yorkers will have a long wait before championship hockey returns.
Local New York NBA teams (Knicks, Nets) can pal around with NHL counterparts (Rangers, Islanders) while most rivals are busy playing playoff basketball. New Jersey lost 70 of 82 games becoming one of five to post 70 losses in a season. Nets have been a terrible judge of talent and traded their stars in an effort to slash payroll. They're $23M under cap and will have plenty of opportunities to chase some of the most sought after free agents. Question is, who willingly wants to play in Newark?
Knicks were in a rebuilding year. They too have slashed payrolls. Big name potential superstar free agents will be given red carpet treatment in an effort to bring their skills to Madision Square Garden. James, Wade, Kobe are just a few names dangled in New York papers. Don't bet on it. However, one can expect the Knicks to tremendously upgrade before 2010-11 season kicks off.
Will anyone dethrone the Lakers? Not in the West as LA will return to the NBA Finals. Which East team will give LA a run for their money in the Finals? Cleveland? Orlando? Boston? Get ready for Shaq vs Kobe.
Trouble in Red Sox Nation (4-9)? David Ortiz is being raked over the coals after another slow April. He continues to struggle and Boston papers are wondering if manager Francona is giving their former World Series hero too much slack. Starting pitchers have struggled. Their new and improved defense has been flat. Scutaro (SS) has already made three errors. Catcher Martinez hasn't been able to slow down opposing base stealers (14 of 15 successful steals). Even Papelbon was torched recently. Two weeks does not make a season... normally. These aren't normal times. AL East division rival Tampa Bay (10-3) and defending champion Yankees (9-3) are red hot out of the gate. Boston could be cooked before April ends.
Ubaldo Jiminez throws Rockies first no hitter! He shut down the Braves in Atlanta April 17th. Can his performance kick start another slow opening month for one of baseball's best September teams? Time will tell. Colorado doesn't want to fall too far off the pace this season as many teams will fight to the finish for playoff honors.
Draft day is quickly approaching. Will we be treated more draft snafu's by early drafting teams. Rams, Lions, Bucs, Redskins and Chiefs own the top 5 picks. Which way will they go? All need help in most phases of the game. These teams have a recent propensity for picking disasters. Expect to see a few pre-draft trades as teams target potential signees. Isn't it amazing how cellar dwellers continue making bad decisions with early picks while upper echelon organizations continue signing key contributors in later rounds?
Rumor mill has ESPN reporting new Redskins QB Donovan McNabb would like Washington to sign free agent WR Terrell Owens. Owens and McNabb together again? Really? Shocking considering the well publicized rift between these two former Eagles teammates. Never say never although it's hard to believe first year Skins coach Mike Shanahan would open the door for a player who has a well chronicled history of disrupting team chemistry.