All of a Sudden, Cole Hamels Isn't Having That Bad a Season

All of a Sudden, Cole Hamels Isn't Having That Bad a Season

If you were to list the biggest reasons the Phillies underperformed in the first half of the year, Cole Hamels' rough start to the season might not be #1--Doc's shoulder surgery after giving up 33 runs in 34 innings would probably be tough to unseat there--but it'd certainly be top five. Through the end of June, Cole was 2-11 in 17 starts, the first pitcher in the majors to ten losses, with other thoroughly mediocre numbers like a 4.58 ERA, a WHIP around 1.3 and a 3:1 K/BB ratio. It wasn't as catastrophic as Doc's beginning, but it was pretty damn far from what we expected for our presumptive ace and recent $144 million signee.

But have you looked at Cole's numbers recently? OK, the record is still pretty brutal--5-13, with Cole's 13 losses leading the NL (and tied with Lucas Harrell and our old friend Joe Blanton for most in the majors), but that's largely a matter of run support, with Cole only getting about three a game on average from his offense. The rest of his stats are looking a whole lot better, though. The ERA is down to 3.65, the WHIP down to 1.194, and the K/BB up to 3.56:1. It's still not as good as his last few seasons, but it's not totally out of their realm either--and at the very least, he's separated his 2013 from his relatively disastrous 2009 (4.32 ERA, 1.286 WHIP, just 168 total Ks), which looks secure for another year in its status as the worst year of Cole's career.

Maybe the most encouraging thing of all is that Cole's going deep into games again. In those first 17 starts, he only went seven innings or deeper five times, but in his eight starts since, he's gone seven-plus every time but once--including last night's nine-inning, one-run effort against the NL-best Braves, his first complete game (and a scrapped-together ninth-inning run from being his first shutout) of the whole season. With the team's bullpen as much of a s---show as it is currently, we need those kind of pen-saving efforts from our best starters, and it's a hell of a relief to see King Cole stringing together those kinds of outings again. (Hopefully he won't have to go 123 pitches too many more times, though.)

If Cole continues on this pace for the rest of the season, it wouldn't be surprising if his final line ends up looking virtually identical to his last few Cy Young-caliber-type seasons, minus the beyond-redemption Won-Loss record. Watching Cole in prime form might also be one of the only reasons to keep tuning into this team as the season winds to a close--especially if the once-dominant Cliff Lee's season keeps going in the reverse direction.

Report: Sixers have shown interest in Timberwolves PG Tyus Jones

Report: Sixers have shown interest in Timberwolves PG Tyus Jones

With Ben Simmons and Jerryd Bayless hurt, the Sixers are still lacking a distributor, and so it makes sense that they've been in contact with the point guard-rich Timberwolves.

According to Adrian Wojnarowski of The Vertical, the Sixers and New Orleans Pelicans have shown interest in T'wolves backup point guard Tyus Jones. 

With fifth overall pick Kris Dunn and Ricky Rubio, Minnesota is set at PG. Jones, 20, is third on the totem pole a year after being drafted 24th overall. 

According to Wojnarowski, the Timberwolves are more inclined to trade Jones than Rubio. 

Jones has a connection to the Sixers in Jahlil Okafor, a former teammate at Duke. Both were one-and-dones for the 2014-15 National Championship team. Jones averaged 11.8 points, 3.5 rebounds and 5.6 assists for the Blue Devils. 

He played sparingly as a rookie last season with Minnesota (37 games), averaging 4.2 points and 2.9 assists in 15.5 minutes, but stood out this summer, winning Las Vegas Summer League MVP.

T.J. McConnell has started the majority of the preseason at point guard for the Sixers. Sergio Rodriguez got the nod in the last game against the Pistons. Brett Brown is also looking at Nik Stauskas to fill the spot in a non-traditional role.

Elton Brand announces retirement after 17 NBA seasons

Elton Brand announces retirement after 17 NBA seasons

CAMDEN, N.J. -- Elton Brand walked out to the practice court clad in a gray suit and tie. As he approached the media with his family, the Sixers' players and staff gathered to watch and, more importantly, pay their respect to the news he was about to deliver. 

“After 17 years of playing the game that I love, and it’s been great to me, I’m officially retiring,” Brand said standing next to his wife Shahara. “It’s for real this time. It was a wonderful journey.”

Brand, 37, played 17 seasons in the NBA with a career average of 15.9 points, 8.5 rebounds and 2.1 assists. A two-time All-Star, he recorded four 20-and-10 seasons. 

This summer he signed his final contract, a one-year deal with the Sixers worth $980,431. Brand announced his intention to retire on Thursday and the roster move will be officially completed at the conclusion of training camp. Brand’s retirement clears up a roster space for the Sixers. 

“Me personally, playing, being out there, the mentoring role, it was great. I enjoyed it,” Brand said. “But I really couldn’t be out there giving my all after 17 years, helping the team, being in the right place on defense, and giving the coaching staff the energy they deserve from their players. I thought it was time.”

The Bulls selected Brand with the first overall pick in the 1999 draft out of Duke, a moment he considers a highlight of his career. He played his first two seasons in Chicago, followed by seven with the Clippers. The Sixers signed Brand in July of 2008. He was a member of the team for the next four years, including two playoff runs. Brand played one more season with the Bulls, followed by two with the Hawks. 

His already-lengthy NBA career appeared to be over at the end of the 2014-15 season, but he made a surprise decision to return to the league in January of 2016 with the Sixers. He appeared in 17 games last season, averaging 4.1 points and 3.7 rebounds in 13.2 minutes. 

While Brand was needed to log time because of injuries, including 20-plus on back-to-back nights, his biggest contribution came away from the game. The young team signed Brand to serve as a mentor to players such as fellow Blue Devil Jahlil Okafor, who struggled with off-the-court issues as a rookie. Okafor developed a big-brother relationship with Brand, talking often — and rarely about basketball itself. 

Brand shared his messages of discipline and work ethic across the locker room. He stayed late after practices to work on fundamental drills with then-rookie Richaun Holmes. On game days he often could be seen dressed in a suit, a visualization of professionalism for his teammates. At the end of the season, Brand paid for the team to take a trip to Miami. 

“We felt his presence,” Okafor said. “Having another vet in there, knowing who he is, his accolades, it was a respect factor to him. Whatever he said goes. I remember hearing his voice at halftime if we were playing poor, he would let us know about it. It was good to have somebody on your team tell you you’re playing bad rather than hearing your coach’s mouth all the time.”

Brett Brown described his emotions as "sad" when Brand informed him of his decision. In less than a year of working together, Brown has learned from Brand's NBA experiences. 

"He's as elite in class as anybody I have ever coached," Brown said, adding, "He's got the ingredients that make him, I feel, highly attractable down the road. Surely he's got stuff to offer after this is all done. Compassionate, hard-working, educated, real, tough. He was a great example for our locker room."

Brand plans to spend time away from the game and has not made any decisions on his next career move. He will be accessible to the Sixers and plans to spend time around the team but not in an official role. He has had conversations with the team about possible opportunities in the future, just not right now. 

The Sixers broke out in applause at the conclusion of Brand's announcement. He didn't know they were going to be present and joked that as the "OG" of the team, he doesn't like surprises. Brand wanted a simple no-frills gathering of media, a low-key departure from the game. It was fitting for a career based on quietly putting in hard work. 

“It’s been an honor, it’s been a privilege to play this game, the game that I love, and I’m certainly going to miss it,” Brand said. “But it’s definitely time now.”