It's all over for the New York Knicks and the New York Rangers. Their respective first-round series were quick but not painless. There were a few "what-might-have-been" moments in each (Game Four for the and Games One and Two for the Knicks), but ultimately each team's opponent was just flat-out better and more talented than the two local squads. The Boston Celtics and Washington Capitals are where the Knicks and Rangers are hoping to go (minus the whole choking thing that Washington has been going through). Each team gave us thrills, ups, downs, magical moments along with infuriating and heartbreaking ones as well.
The Rangers are young, and they're building from Henrik Lundqvist and the defense out. They have the chemistry thing down. The hard-working and grinding thing down. They have the role players. Now what they need is some scoring. Some Carmelo Anthony and Amar'e Stoudemire type offensive weapons. And the Knicks need what the Rangers have. Some defense. Some jam (as John Tortorella likes to say). Some chemistry. The Rangers have the heart. The Knicks have the stars. And now it's decision time for both. While Glen Sather and Tortorella will be around for another season, it looks like the Knicks' brain trust will return as well. At least Donnie Walsh will. Mike D'Antoni will most likely be given another season, too. And the Knicks announced on Wednesday that they picked up Chauncey Billups' option for next year. But what will the two teams do about Chris Drury, Wade Redden, Marian Gaborik and the all the Knick players who aren't Billups, Stoudemire or Anthony? Salary cap concerns are intertwined with each one of those guys, of course, making the decisions that much harder with future implications on the line. Both teams' seasons ended with a thud, but over the past six months they gave us something to cheer for and something to care about for a change. But now comes the hard part--getting to the next level.
And now on to the other top stories in the world of New York sports.
Lockout Confusion and Draft Solutions: The NFL Lockout is over. Or is it? Yes. No. Maybe. As of Friday they're back in business. I think. A few days ago the New York Mathias Kiwanuka" and "Osi Umenyiora" and now this), while the New York Jets tabbed defensive tackle Muhammad Wilkerson as their first-round selection.opened their weight room and then promptly closed it. I was so confused I wasn't even sure if I should show up for work or not (I did but I was told I couldn't lift weights while I was there). Among all the lockout drama going on, the NFL draft began on Thursday night. And with all the analysis, workouts, data, IQ tests, thousands of hours of research not to mention the singing and talent competitions, we still don't know if a draft pick will be a success or a bust. GM Jerry Reese put things in perspective, though, when he said, "We are not splitting the atom upstairs in the draft room. We are trying to figure out if these guys are going to be able to help our football team. So we don't try to over analyze it or make it more difficult than it is." At any rate, Big Blue surprisingly chose cornerback Prince Amukamara (it took me years to learn how to spell "
Chicks Dig the Long Ball: It's home runs or bust for the New York Yankees this year. After getting rained out on Friday, they pounded out 15 runs on Saturday, with dingers flying out of Camden Yards left and right, including a pair by Russell Martin, who was then hit between the numbers in his next at bat, just like the good old days. And Brett Gardner answered back with a home run. Perfect. Curtis Granderson homered in Sunday's win, no homers led to zero runs in Monday's loss, all five runs scored in Tuesday's and Wednesday's games came via the long ball and on Thursday they went wild putting up a 12 spot, with a couple of more taters mixed in. The other ingredient in the Bombers' success has been starting pitching. And they've been eating up innings all week long. A.J. Burnett and Ivan Nova had their best outings of the year, CC Sabathia picked up his first two wins (though he's pitched well enough to win in every one of the games he's started) and the over-the-hill-gang of Freddy Garcia and Bartolo Colon continue their awe-inspiring awesomeness. Meanwhile, things are looking bleak for Phil Hughes, who may have a circulatory issue, which would explain his dead arm. Not good.
Back From the Dead: The New York Mets are starting to take on the personality of Terry Collins. They're fiery, they're fighting back and they're not gonna take it anymore. The signature play of the season may have taken place in the eighth inning of Wednesday night's game, when the Mets were hosed by an umpire's call after Jose Reyes was mysteriously called out at third with what would have been a leadoff triple. The shortstop went ballistic as did Collins. Neither were thrown out of the game, which probably meant that the ump knew he made a mistake. Daniel Murphy promptly followed with a game-tying pinch-hit home run. After some 2009-like fielding blunders in the bottom of the eighth (which most likely would have lost the game for Jerry Manuel's Mets--or is that overstating things?), the Amazin's exploded in the ninth to win the game, with a sacrifice fly by Chin-lung Hu of all things being the key at bat. The team had won six consecutive games before coming up one run short on Thursday while going for their second straight series sweep. Hey, who cares that their opponents haven't exactly been the 1976 Cincinnati Reds or even the 2011 Colorado Rockies. A winning streak's a winning streak no matter who you play. And things are going so well for the Mets they even managed to visit Walter Reed Hospital while they were in DC and did it without any controversy or mishaps. Imagine that.
What a Relief: Coming into the season, it looked like the Yankees would have one of the best bullpens in baseball, while the Mets pieced together their relief corps using rejects, orphans, duct tape and glue. But after playing four weeks of the schedule, the Yanks' vaunted 'pen has not been so vaunted, while the Mets have shuffled guys in and out, adjusted roles, held pitchers accountable for their performances and jettisoned the underperformers. Rafael Soriano is exhibit A of the sensitive, thin-skinned modern reliever who has to pitch under perfect conditions or he falls apart. And though it's still early, he may be one of those players who just isn't cut out for New York. He's been a $35 million excuse-maker. Joba Chamberlain has had some struggles after his hot start. And even the great Mariano Rivera blew a pair of saves. David Robertson, on the other hand, is sporting a 0.00 ERA, as are unexpected contributors Lance Pendleton and Buddy Carlyle. The Mets' bullpen has been phenomenal lately. Pedro Beato (0.00 ERA), Ryota Igarashi and Taylor Buchholz have handled the sixth and seventh innings, Jason Isringhausen is pitching like his younger self as the setup man and Frankie Rodriguez hasn't blown a save since April 2 and has only given up two runs this year. And he hasn't beaten anybody up either. Bullpens are fluctuating, strange creatures, so all this can (and probably will) change and evolve as the season goes on. But for now, Soriano is the Yankees' biggest concern, while the Mets are living pretty when a reliever comes in the game.