(Editor’s Note — Before I start the usual “Wednesday’s ramblings,” I just want to thank everyone who has called, emailed or texted with their condolences for my father’s passing on Tuesday. It has been overwhelming to say the least. That’s why I have chosen to call McPherson home for 35 years. I also want to thank all my Independence friends, who have responded in tremendous numbers as well.)
• WHERE WILL EMBIID GO? — Even more intrigue has been added to Thursday’s NBA draft now that Kansas' Joel Embiid has had surgery for a broken foot.
In a draft where there’s simply no clear-cut No. 1, Embiid was thought to be the best bet for the top spot since athletic big men with such a huge upside don’t come along very often.
The NBA has transitioned over the years. Gone are the days of Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, the dominant goliaths who were at the epicenter of their teams’ success. The league is now about the gifted, athletic wing players like LeBron James and Kevin Durant, who have the ability to take the ball to the basket, yet can pull up and knock down the 3-pointer despite being 6-8 or 6-10.
In his freshman year at Kansas, the still-raw Embiid evoked memories of his idol, Hakeem Olajuwon. Even though he’s 7-0, he can run the floor like a guard as well as step out on the perimeter. He’s also a premier shot-blocker and improving post player. What’s most encouraging about him is that he’s still learning the game, having played only about three years. He's soaked up an incredible amount of knowledge in a short time.
However, I think he made a mistake by leaving KU after one year. You put him in Andrea Hudy’s weight program and he’d become a physical monster. Hudy is renowned for transforming players into specimens and another year of college certainly wouldn’t have hurt him. But it's hard to argue coming out when you know (if healthy) you're going to be in the top two or three.
He’s now going to be learning on the fly — that is if he fully recovers from the broken foot. No one knows for sure if he’ll be back to 100 percent or be the next Sam Bowie or Greg Oden, players with superstar potential whose careers were curtailed by endless injuries.
There’s no way Cleveland — given its run of back luck with its sports teams — is going to pick Embiid. Karma is working against the Cavaliers. They'll probably go for Embiid's KU teammate Andrew Wiggins or Duke's Jabari Parker, who is probably the most NBA-ready player in the draft. I'm not sold on Wiggins' future as while I think he'll be a good pro, he won't be great. He's way too passive and withdrawn, doesn't shoot well from midrange and anybody who's scouted him knows he has trouble putting the ball on the floor and creating his own shot. What enamors teams is his jumping ability and quickness, both of which are off the charts.
I've seen numerous reports on where Embiid is going to be drafted. Most alleged experts believe he'll now go anywhere from No. 7 to 10, as it's simply too much of a risk to take him No. 1. When teams get the top pick or two, it has to be a sure-fire franchise player. Cleveland, ironically, had the top pick last year and took UNLV's Anthony Bennett, who at this point has to be considered one of the most colossal busts in NBA history. The Cavs can't afford another misfire of a top pick.
• KERSHAW SENSATIONAL — Clayton Kershaw said he didn't have his best stuff Tuesday night against Kansas City.
The Los Angeles lefty didn't need it.
An 80 percent Kershaw is better than most others at 100 percent. Coming off his no-hitter, Kershaw threw eight scoreless innings against the Royals in a 2-0 victory.
Since its uplifting 10-game winning streak, Kansas City has laid a Royal egg. It has lost five of its last six and its offense has reverted to the 98-pound weakling form of the meandering portion of the season with weak ground balls and fly balls that don't even threaten the warning track.
Granted, the Royals have faced some of the best pitchers in baseball during this 1-5 skid, but they also beat some of the best when they were reeling off those rollicking victories. Detroit has taken advantage by winning five games in a row to push its lead back to two games, though it actually is five games up in the loss column, which is what is far more important.
• HOSMER FLAILING — It seems like Eric Hosmer has been given a free pass by Royals fans in terms of criticism.
Hosmer, by all rights, should be the face of the franchise, which currently belongs to Alex Gordon. He was projected to be a .300, 30-homer, 100-RBI fixture for years to come when he was picked No. 2 overall in the draft.
After an encouraging rookie season, Hosmer seemingly has regressed. He's batting less than .200 in June and most alarming is that he's walked only three time the entire month. He has no concept of the strike zone, often finding himself down in the count 0-2 or 1-2 almost every at-bat, unless he's making an out on the first pitch.
Hosmer also has hit only four home runs, an unsightly number for a hitter who is slotted either at No. 2 or 3 in the order. This is a guy who is close to 6-5 and swings with tremendous velocity. But he's so off-balance that by the time he makes contact, he's almost falling down.
One of Ned Yost's biggest shortcomings as a manager is his misplaced loyalty. There's no way Yost should be batting Hosmer so high in the order as long as his bat is slumbering. Kansas City is back to starving offensively and Hosmer is a big reason. He did collect two hits against Clayton Kershaw Tuesday, but one of those was on a pitch over his head that he somehow hit to left field.
Hosmer is the barometer of this team. It's time for him to get hot or move down in the order.