Hot Wires

NBA Lottery is not what it used to be

Skal Labissiere is not what we’re accustomed to seeing in a Lottery Pick.  His statistics for the University of Kentucky in his first and last year included 15.8 minutes per game, 6.6 points, 3.1 rebounds, 3.0 fouls.  And he looked lost on defense.  He came to UK as a one-and-done project, but he showed little sign of progress.

The next NBA Draft does not look promising, with projected top lottery pick Ben Simmons attracting comments for being immature, and another likely lottery choice, Labissiere, not expected to be of much use as a rookie

It’s difficult to understand why his coach, John Calipari, was tweeting his praise as the 6-11 center departed.  Calipari welcomed some of the blame for Labissiere’s disappointing numbers:  “It took him and our staff a while to figure out how to best utilize hi, but Skal’s improvement over the year is why he is in this position to put his name in the draft and be projected in the middle of the lottery.”

ESPN’s Dick Vitale, who’s anything but a harsh critic, said: “There’s no way he’s ready for the NBA.”

But hey, even if he’s lacking in talent, the kid’s loaded with character.  Calipari:  “Skal is one of the greatest kids I’ve ever coached.”

Click here for Tyler Conway’s Bleacher Report.


Giles replaced as Astros closer before the season starts

When the Houston Astros put together a five-player package of young players to acquire the hard-throwing Ken Giles from the forlorn Philadelphia Phillies, the assumption was the 25-year-old right-hander would be the team’s closer.

That’s what Giles assumed.  But he was “a little bit surprised” when his closing role was taken from him as the baseball season was about to begin.   Instead, manager A.J. Hinch announced that 31-year-old Luke Gregerson “is our primary closer.”

Trying to be a good sport, Giles shrugged and said, “It’s his decision, so I need to follow it.”

Giles has put up unprecedented numbers for a rookie: 1.80 ERA for 69 games, with a 6-3 record that seemed impossible for a team as wretched as the Phillies.  In the final two months of the season he became the team’s closer and converted 15 of 17 save opportunities.

Gregerson, meanwhile, had a 3.10 ERA for Houston while converting 31 of 36.

But Giles was not sharp in the spring-training season (6.75 ERA for 9 games), so Hinch felt more comfortable with the veteran Gregerson.   Hinch also likes the option of bringing in his hardest-throwing pitcher (97 mph) if a strikeout is needed with the winning run on third in the sixth or seventh inning.

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