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Article:Spreading The Wealth

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Strange sports time of year -- only point where really all 4 major sports intersect in a major way: you've got your NBA and NHL playoffs in full swing, the baseball season has just begun in earnest, with about 20-25 games under every team's belt, and then you have the NFL draft taking place, making late April unique in that way.

The annual draft of college players into pro football is a rite of spring that allows fans of every NFL team to convince themselves that their club has really improved; as long as you have a couple of picks in the early rounds, hope does spring eternal.

For instance, as a Cowboy fan, I'm convinced that we've got a few more weapons on offense for QB Tony Romo: RBs Felix Jones (Arkansas) & Tashard Choice (Georgia Tech) and TE Martellus Bennett (Texas A&M), as well as some much-needed help at DB with 1st-round pick Mike Jenkins (South Florida). Without over-analyzing things, that's 4 solid players that should make an immediate impact to a team that went 13-3 and didn't lose all that much in the offseason, and that's not counting the huge risk/reward that Dallas is taking with the Adam Jones deal, the much-troubled but highly talented CB better known as Pacman.

Of course, other teams got better as well. I think the Steelers got a lot of help on offense with RB Rashard Mendenhall out of Illinois and WR Limas Sweed from Texas. Add that to RB Willie Parker, WR Hines Ward, the TE Heath Miller, and Big Ben has far too many weapons for most defenses to stop.

The New York Jets had a busy offseason and yesterday added 2 1st-round picks that should start right away: LB Vernon Gholsten (Ohio State) and TE Dustin Keller (Purdue). Jets also had some quality picks in the late rounds.

Also notable was the Kansas City Chiefs' draft, which will be judged in large part by how well LSU DT Glenn Dorsey performs, but was one for the ages for a completely different reason: the Chiefs drafted three guys with basically the same first name, and it wasn't Mike or Bill or Jim either, but Brandon. KC took OG Branden Albert from Virginia in Round 1, CB Brandon Flowers from Virginia Tech in Round 2, and then CB Brandon Carr from Grand Valley State in Round 5. What are the odds of even 2 Brandons on one team, never mind in the same draft in the same year. I'm pretty sure this was prophesied in one of Nostradamus's forgotten passages.

Speaking of bad omens, that was a rotten loss by the 76ers last night to the Pistons, after leading by 10 at halftime and having a chance to go up 3-1 and shock the world. Well, some of the world anyway. But the focused Pistons came out and totally dominated the Sixers after the break, scoring the first 11 points and decisively outscoring Philly 34-16 in the 3rd to take a 70-62 advantage and never looked back.

I don't think it was a case of a young Sixers team being overconfident; I don't see coach Maurice Cheeks letting that happen. But there's a reason Detroit has been to 5 straight Eastern Conference finals: they're good. And they're experienced and seasoned and as battle-tested as any team outside of perhaps the San Antonio Spurs.

One key matchup has been the Sixers' best player, Andre Iguodola, against Tayshaun Prince, the Pistons' best man-on-man defender. Last night Iguodola went 4-16, his fourth straight subpar shooting game, while Prince shot an efficient 11-12 from the field. Prince has gotten the best of AI in every game, and it's amazing the 76ers have managed to win those 2 games so far given Iggy's struggles.

The numbers are downright putrid for Iguodola: 11 for 49 from the field, including 0-9 from beyond the arc. That's all due to the in-your-face defense of Prince, who has the wingspan of a small pterodactyl (about 33 feet). Meanwhile, Prince is an astounding 31-47 from the field in the series, against Iguodola, a very good defender in his own right on most nights.

In most cases, one key matchup doesn't win or lose a series unless it's two great centers battling, but here the stats are so stark because one guy has really gotten the best of the other. Three games left for Iggy to make his mark, otherwise he's looking at a long offseason. Bottom line: I'm one of the biggest 76ers fans in my census tract, and I'd be shocked if they won another game in this series. But this is one case where I would love to be proven wrong.

Some big names in baseball are struggling immensely at the plate so far this season. A lot of focus has been on Red Sox slugger David Ortiz, who through 96 ABs now is hitting an unsightly .177 with just 4 dingers, although he has a respectable 20 RBI. But his battles at the plate are not helping Boston any, losers of 5 straight entering tonight's action.

The Cubs' Alfonso Soriano is currently on the DL, but before he was injured he too was sucking windage in Windy City to the sorry tune of .175 with 11 K's in 57 at-bats. What a bargain the Cubs got at only $136 million over 8 years.

Pitching-wise, the Giants' Barry Zito continues to disappoint in alarming fashion. He's off to an 0-6 start, with a Richter-scale-like ERA of 7.53. And with just 11 K's in 28 innings, the former Oakland ace is not fooling anyone with anything he's throwing up there. In fact, it's foolish investments like the $126 million fortune the Giants sank into this baked Zito that has America teetering on the edge of economic recession.

On the Yankees, Jason Giambi is also "hitting" .177, albeit with some pop (5 HRs), and 2B Robinson Cano is "missing" to the tune of just .158, with only 1 measly HR; this is the sec0nd season in a row where the young hitter has stunk it up mightily early in the year; he's too good a young hitter for these protracted slumps. In fact, no one on the Yankees is really tearing it up at the plate so far, and C Jorge Posada just went on the disabled list. So it's not unexpected that as I write this they're getting no-hit tonight in chilly Cleveland through 5 innings by Aaron Laffey, a 23-year-old making his first start of the year. So it goes.

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