Domonic Brown Heat Check: Cooling Off

Domonic Brown Heat Check: Cooling Off

Is it any coincidence that quite possibly the biggest Phillies letdown this season yet coincides with the sudden disappearance of Dom Bombs? Don’t look now, but it’s been over a week since Domonic Brown last hit a home run, a stretch that just happened to fall right in the thick of the club’s 3-7 road trip.

No home runs at Coors Field? Really? Really. In fact, Colorado’s Carlos Gonzalez passed Brown for the National League lead in home runs on Sunday with his 20th.

Power isn’t the only difference in Brown at the plate, either. He’s in a bit of a slump, period. Over the last seven games the reigning NL Player of the Month is 3-for-25 with no extra-base hits, one lonely run, one lonely RBI.

You knew he was going to come back down to earth eventually. Unfortunately the Phillies are prone to gravity, too. Their record is 2-5 during Brown’s mini-slump.

This is not the first time this season the Fightins have suffered along with their everyday leftfielder, either. Prior to this, Brown’s worst stretch this season was April 14-23, a period where he went 2-for-24 at the dish while dealing with a sore back. The Phils were 3-6 during that span.

What should we make of Dom’s vanishing act? Well, not too much so far. There was no way that homer-a-day binge was going to last, especially as word made it around baseball about what he was doing.

And Brown is still doing some good things up there as well. After going the month of May without drawing a single walk, he’s got six already in June, half of those during this ongoing cold spell. Either he’s getting more selective by choice, or the increase in free passes demonstrates a change in how pitchers are approaching him. A couple of the freebies were intentional, so it seems opposing teams finally caught on.

Again, not an altogether unexpected development – although it is a situation to monitor. Pitchers are adjusting, and with so many far easier outs to choose from in the Phillies’ lineup in these days, Brown simply isn’t going to see as many meatballs. How he responds will be the true test of how good a hitter he can be.

In the meantime, Brown’s slump has made the Fightins a whole lot less enjoyable to watch. Dom Brown’s own little personal home run derby over the previous few weeks was not only breathtaking to behold, it was helping the club rack up wins. If he’s not producing, then who is?

I think we figured out the answer to that question sometime in the last eight days.

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

Sixers being cautious with Jahlil Okafor early in training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. — The Sixers lost Jahlil Okafor for the final 23 games last season because of a small meniscus tear in his right knee. Now they are being cautious as he prepares for his second year.

As part of the Sixers’ prescheduled load management for Okafor, he participated in a portion of practice and then worked out individually with head strength and conditioning coach Todd Wright.

“They just told me to relax once I did what they wanted me to do today,” Okafor said. “I was off to the sidelines. I feel fine. I’ll be good tomorrow.”

Okafor learned during his first NBA season that he should speak more openly with the staff about his body.

“Communication is key,” he said. “I think last year I didn’t really communicate how I was feeling, so I wasn’t able to get the help I needed.”

The team held three practice sessions in the first two days of training camp. Okafor said he knew the Sixers would be cautious with his workload. He is poised to improve upon his rookie year in which he averaged 17.5 points and 7.0 rebounds in 53 games last season.

“I’m 100 percent healthy,” he said. “I’m all good.”

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

Joel Embiid adjusting to new challenges in 1st NBA training camp

GALLOWAY, N.J. -- With Joel Embiid's excitement to be on the court following two years of injuries comes the reality of his lengthy setback.

Embiid is participating in his first NBA training camp this week. While he has impressed with his natural abilities and improved skills, Embiid is facing challenges as he gets accustomed to the league.

"Everything is kind of off right now as far as catching the ball or shooting," Embiid said after practice Wednesday. "I've still got to get in the flow of the game."

Embiid has yet to play since being drafted in 2014. For the past two years he has worked out individually and in controlled settings. Practices, even in training camp, are different. 

"You see all the time when you realize he hasn't played basketball for a long time," Sixers head coach Brett Brown said. "He's trying to gather his feet and find his balance, he's trying to figure out stuff in real time speed on defensive assignments and rotations."

On Wednesday, Embiid went through practice without any minute restrictions and was feeling healthier from the cold and virus he had been battling (see story). Teammates have praised his physical presence and eagerness to compete. He makes an impact with his 7-foot-2 presence alone, but there is more he wants to improve. 

Embiid is adjusting to the speed of the game. He has been facing challenges with getting the ball in the post and spoke to the coaches about his frustrations. The staff explained they are focusing on pick-and-roll defense and getting out to run during training camp, but he will get that desired location in game situations. 

“You continue to see the size of Joel Embiid,” Brown said. “He's a big man and he's got a mindset to back up his physical gifts. He really wants the ball. He wants to get deep catches. He wants to dunk on people.”

Embiid always has been realistic about his transition to his rookie season. He has pointed out many times that he is a fast learner, and is anxious to soak up new knowledge and apply it to the court.

"It's really frustrating," he said. "But like I've said, you've got to trust the process, which I've been doing."