A few more fond remembrances of Roy Halladay

A few more fond remembrances of Roy Halladay

A number of former and current Philadelphia Phillies players shared their thoughts on the great Roy Halladay yesterday. We'll share some of those below, but first a few links from around the web today.

I also wanted to share my most memorable post on Halladay. It was a simple post about how he talks to the homeplate umpire in between innings and what he's trying to accomplish there. I remember it well because after the typical postgame scrum thinned out in the Phillies clubhouse at Citizens Bank Park, only a handful of guys stuck around to listen to everything Doc had to say. Jayson Stark was curious about those between-inning conversations with the ump. Pretty unique look into the mind of one of the game's greatest.

- Zoo with Roy's "Cutter in the Wind" is a must today. Get out the tissues again.

- MJ Bauman writing at Grantland today has a nice piece titled "To Roy Halladay, With Gratitude."

- David Murphy at the Daily News

- Matt Gelb's anecdote about Doc's son is great at the Inquirer

- Friend of the Level, the Rev. Paul Revere at Sports Fan Journal.

Teammates and Coaches React

"He was one of the best competitors who ever played this game and taught everyone around him to prepare the right way in order to be the best. For me, personally, he helped me understand the game more and gave me insight on how to become a top of the line starting pitcher."

-Cole Hamels

"Roy was probably the best influence in my career. Being able to spend the last four years with him taught me what work ethic and commitment are all about. In my eyes, the game just lost the best pitcher of the last 10 years."

-Kyle Kendrick

"Roy was one of the best pitchers and students of the game I've ever had the honor of playing with. Hands down, he was the best pitcher of this era and a first ballot Hall of Famer."

-Roy Oswalt

"Roy Halladay is the ultimate competitor. He is by far the hardest worker that I've ever seen and treated every game as if it were his last.  It was no coincidence why he was the best pitcher of his era.  I'm honored to have had the opportunity to watch him pitch for four years.  I'll miss his presence and passion but, most of all, I will miss his intensity.”

-Chase Utley

"Roy was the most prepared, ferociously competitive pitcher I've ever been around and was the epitome of professionalism. How he conversed with people and treated his teammates was something I really admired about him. He did it all. He and Jamie Moyer are the most demanding pitchers I've ever had. They wanted to get better every time out and if you look at Roy's numbers, having played in the AL East all those years, winning two Cy Youngs, pitching a perfect game and a postseason no-hitter, he should absolutely get strong consideration for the Hall of Fame."

-Rich Dubee

"Roy Halladay is one the most dominant, consistent professional pitchers I've ever had the privilege of playing with.  He was a great teammate, but an even better father, friend and role model.  He is one of those guys who is determined and driven to be great at whatever he does.  I wish him and his family all the best."

-Raúl Ibañez

"I know it must have been hard for Roy to make this decision to retire because I know how much he loved to play the game.  Roy was, without a doubt, one of the greatest competitors I ever had the pleasure of being around."

-Charlie Manuel

“I’m very sad to see Roy retire but very happy to have been his teammate. He was a special player, and it was my great fortune to be able and watch him pitch. Hopefully he enjoys retirement.”

-Jamie Moyer

“Roy was a great player and a very special friend. To have caught both his perfect game and playoff no-hitter is something I will remember for the rest of my life. I wish him and his family all the best in retirement.”

-Carlos Ruiz

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

Despite blowout loss, Sixers see potential in Joel Embiid, Jahlil Okafor playing together

BOX SCORE

Brett Brown was ready to do it Wednesday night. The matchup against the Kings presented an opportunity to experiment with playing Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor together. That pairing had to wait two days, though, after the Kings game was postponed

On Friday, Embiid and Okafor shared the court for just under 13 minutes in the Sixers' 105-88 loss to the Magic (see Instant Replay), who also rolled out a duo of bigs in Bismack Biyombo and Nikola Vucevic. 

“I thought we had our moments,” Embiid said. “We shared the ball, we made shots. Obviously we need to play more together and learn how to play with each other.”

Embiid and Okafor first played together for 5:29 in the second quarter. They scored all of the Sixers' 12 points during that time, including a pair of threes by Embiid. They also combined for five boards. The Sixers outscored the Magic, 12-9, with the bigs in together.

The benefits of the floor spacing was apparent. Oftentimes in the game, Okafor could be seen open at the basket with a hand up for the ball while Embiid was also getting looks from long range. 

“I liked our spacing, I liked the high-low stuff we were doing,” Brown said. “I think when you post Joel, that Jahlil is going to play sort of hide-and-seek on the other side of the floor, and work that low zone, and become — I hope — a potent offensive rebounder. When you post Jahlil, Joel has the ability to space to three.”

Brown turned to Embiid and Okafor again in the fourth. At that point, the Magic had a 23-point lead. Their next 7:25 together was a chance to give them a long run in live game action. They combined for another 12 points and four rebounds. All of their buckets were layups, dunks or free throws. Both teams scored 19 points with Embiid and Okafor in that segment.

Both Embiid and Okafor finished the game with double-doubles: 25 points, 10 rebounds and four assists for Embiid; 16 points, 13 rebounds and two blocks for Okafor. 

“I thought they played well together,” Vucevic said. “I thought it was tough to guard them because they’re both really good offensively.”

Okafor credited his friendship with Embiid, which dates back to high school, as a key to coexisting well on the court. Both emphasized their off-the-court relationship would help them in a game situation. 

“I think the communication piece went really well,” Okafor said. “He was talking to me, I was talking to him.”

Scoring and communication always seemed to be the easier parts of the pairing to tackle. Defense, though, was the challenge given that one of the centers would have to guard the four spot. Okafor noted their transition D as an area that needs improvement.

“We’re both used to going right to the rim,” Okafor said. “I think I had a couple easy buckets. That’s something we’ll be able to fix.” 

Brown had based his decision of when to play Embiid and Okafor together on the matchups. While the two could boast their own edge on the offensive end, Brown didn’t want to play them in a scenario in which they’d be at a huge defensive disadvantage. 

“It’s not offense to me, it’s defense. That’s the thing that is most challenging,” Brown said. “We want to play fast. We want to put points on the board. You don’t want to play in the 80s. You don’t want to do that, that’s not our sport anymore. So you want to make sure that you're capable of guarding the opposition.”

Vucevic noticed the challenge from an opposing perspective. He understands the necessary changes since playing alongside Biyombo.  

“It takes time for them to get adjusted, especially for the guy that will be playing the four defensively,” Vucevic said. “They’re not used to that because they always back down to the paint guarding the fives. It’s a different look. They have to work on it, communicate, and I think they’ll be fine.” 

On a night with few highlights in a 17-point blowout loss, Brown was able to take away a positive from this anticipated duo.

"I thought Jahlil and Joel did a really good job," he said. 

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Sixers Notes: Joel Embiid unhappy with effort; Robert Covington hurt

Joel Embiid didn’t see four quarters of basketball from the Sixers in their 105-88 loss to the Magic Friday night (see Instant Replay). Their efforts were inconsistent as they fell flat in long stretches and allowed the Magic to build up double-digit leads as high as 29 points.

The Sixers gave up a 16-0 run in the first and shot just 6 for 26 (23.1 percent) in the quarter. The Magic, who had lost a one-point game to the Grizzlies in Memphis the night before, rallied together to seize this opportunity.

“They just made a lot of shots that we didn’t,” Embiid said. “That’s the game, but we didn’t play hard all 48 minutes and we need to do a better job next time.”

The Sixers didn’t break 30 points until 4:33 to go in the second and attempted just two free throws in the first half. By the end of the third, the Magic had a 21-point lead which they held on to with in ease in the fourth. 

The Magic outshot the Sixers on all areas of the floor: 47.4 percent to 37.9 from the field and 50.0 to 28.1 from three. While the teams had nearly equal percentages from the line, the Magic shot 18 for 26 compared to only 7 for 10 from the Sixers. 

“They missed a lot of shots,” Magic forward Jeff Green said. “We got stops, were aggressive, guys just played hard and created for one another and played as a team.”

Covington injured
The Sixers are waiting to learn more news on the extent of Robert Covington’s injury. In the fourth quarter, Covington exited and did not return after suffering a left knee sprain when he collided with T.J. McConnell chasing a loose ball in front of the Sixers’ bench. If the starting small forward has to miss time, Sixers head coach Brett Brown is thinking ahead to possible lineup changes. 

“We'll try to figure out what his next week represents,” Brown said. “If we aren't with him, maybe there's a chance we can look at Dario [Saric] a little bit at the three.”

Covington is averaging 8.5 points, 5.1 rebounds and 1.9 steals in 27.5 minutes per game. Saric has been coming off the bench at power forward behind Ersan Ilyasova. He started 10 games earlier this season at the four spot. 

Embiid honored
The Sixers honored Embiid during a timeout for being named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month (October and November). Embiid was appreciative of the award and has his sights set on the bigger picture this season.

“All the hard work I’ve put in, it feels great,” Embiid said earlier in the day at shootaround. “Obviously, maybe the bigger picture is Rookie of the Year, that’s what matters. … I don’t have my mind set on that. But if I can get it, that would be nice.”

Brown sees this recent showing as just a glimpse into what Embiid will be able to do over his career. Embiid leads the Sixers with 18.7 points, 7.9 rebounds and 2.2 blocks. 

“This in infant stages, early days for him,” Brown said. “His body of work, given his lack of playing basketball, really is jaw-dropping for what I think he can be. To jump in and get rookie of the month I think is a real, sort of, quick snapshot view of him now. I think what he’s going to be is going to be extremely special.”

Embiid also is shooting 51.4 percent from three, including 3 for 5 against the Magic. When asked if he would like to participate in the three-point contest All-Star weekend, he said "it would be nice" and noted he would have to work on the speed of his release.