Game Chat: Phils Out to End Slide Amid Good News on Injury Front

Game Chat: Phils Out to End Slide Amid Good News on Injury Front

the second time in 17 games, the Phillies are undoing the progress
they've made in the standings with a four-game losing streak. The good
guys once again find themselves five games back of the Nationals, one
game under .500.

Elsewhere, things are a bit better. Chase Utley
and Ryan Howard looked good at the plate in extended spring training,
and Roy Halladay held a press conference to announce he'll begin
throwing again after three weeks of rest. None of them are close to a
return, but return it seems they all will.

What condition their
Phillies teammates are in when that happens though hinges so much on
every last game, and tonight is another big one. Kyle Kendrick tries to
steer his mates away from a new low: their first five-game skid of the

Kendrick has been plodding along steadily since becoming
more of a fixture in the rotation. He's 2-4 with a 4.02 ERA, but as
usual, his numbers as a starter are even better, 2-3 and 3.27. KK has
won in consecutive outings, and hasn't allowed more than two runs in any
of his last four.

He could run into some trouble tonight though.
A couple of Los Angeles Dodgers have enjoyed tremendous success against
Kendrick. Naturally, Andre Ethier is one of them. The All-Star right
fielder is 5-for-13 with a pair of homers and 7 RBI off the righthander.
First baseman James Loney is the other, and while he's having something
of a down year so far, the lifetime .285 hitter is 8-for-14, also with
two diners and 7 RBI on Kendrick. Scary match-up there.

Phillies' struggling offense isn't catching any breaks with Chris
Capuano going for LA. he's having a career year, off to a 7-2 start with
a 2.50 ERA. Capuano had the dreaded Tommy John surgery and wound up
missing the '08 and '09 seasons for the Brewers, and after an
up-and-down year for the Mets in 2011, he joined the Dodgers and has
been a fantastic addition for them. He is currently fourth in the NL in
hits per nine.

Charlie Manuel doesn't have anybody in the lineup
who hits Capuano exceptionally well. Hector Luna is 5-for-15 all time
versus the lefty, but he is sitting this one out. Juan Pierre has seen
Cap the most, going 9-for-26, but those are presumably Juan Pierre-type
hits -- bunts, flares, infield singles, etc.

Something's got to
give here. The Fightins need a win bad tonight, but the numbers would
suggest their odds are not very good. We shall see.

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

Embiid and Okafor want to play together, but not just yet, says Brown

CAMDEN, N.J. — If all goes as planned, a time will come when the Sixers can roll out a dominating frontcourt duo with Joel Embiid and Jahlil Okafor sharing the court in lengthy stretches.

That moment has to wait, though, as both Embiid and Okafor are on minute restrictions. As he returns from a knee injury, Okafor currently is coming off the bench and backing up Embiid.

“This conversation with Jahlil and Joel is more intelligent and applicable at a later date,” Brett Brown said at practice Friday. “When Jahlil’s minutes start going up and Joel can, then it’s a real conversation. I do think you may see them sooner than even I thought together. But as far as making it a real constant part of a strategy or rotation, it’s beyond too early days.”

In an ideal world, Brown could pair the two bigs now and use all of their allotted minutes (Embiid 20, Okafor 14) at once. That would leave an extensive workload on second-year bench player Richaun Holmes.

“This is a hot topic,” Brown said. “I will say it one more time: If I play Jahlil and Jo together, I hope Richaun can play 35 minutes.”

It’s an unrealistic expectation for Holmes, who averaged 13.8 minutes in 51 games last season. Brown caps the majority of the Sixers at six-minute segments to keep them competing at a high energy level.

“Right now, he’s a backup,” Brown said of Holmes. “I think he’s going to be an NBA player for a very long time. I just feel like in the role, he’s a second-year player that didn’t really have much of a role last year. He’s shown everybody that he’s for real. He really can play a role. At this early stage, that is the key word.”

Embiid and Okafor have been envisioning competing together since Okafor was drafted two years ago. They became friends long before they were NBA players and have an easy chemistry on the court as a result.

“I think it’s going to be exciting,” Embiid said. “We played a little bit together today in practice. We’re figuring out how to play with each other. It’s a process and we’ve got trust it.”

Yes, the players know they have to wait, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy for them to resist an opportunity to play with one another.  

“I think once we figure it out, we can really dominate together,” Okafor said. “We were able to flirt with it again today. We accidentally keep ending up on the same team even though Coach keeps telling us to make sure we alternate. But we’re having fun. We’re trying to put some pressure on it because we want to play together.”

Is that accidentally with air quotes?

“Yeah, exactly,” Okafor said with a laugh.

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

'Trust the process' has a different, more personal meaning to Joel Embiid

CAMDEN, N.J. — Joel Embiid is all about trusting the process.

He manages to insert the well-known phrase into just about every interview, hashtags it on social media and soaks in the chants during games. 

While “trust the process” is commonly associated with former Sixers general manager Sam Hinkie’s patience-required approach to building the team — which resulted in three years of dismal losing and suffering setback after setback — Embiid has his personal take on the mantra.

“I think I have my own process,” Embiid said Friday at practice.

Embiid is playing for the first time this season after waiting two years to recover from foot injuries. His long-anticipated debut was a focal point of “the process,” and his return to the court marked a new chapter in the organization.

“I went through two surgeries, lost my brother, thought about some stuff I shouldn’t have thought about, so that’s my own process,” he said. “And then the process of going through the rehab and finally getting back on the court and getting the chance to finally play in the league, that’s my process.”

Embiid is now synonymous with the word. He credits Sixers fans for the moniker, which he added to his Instagram profile. 

“I don’t think it came from me,” he said. “Fans just started and then I just went along with it.”

Wednesday marked the next step in the process, both for the Sixers and Embiid. His regular-season debut (20 points, seven rebounds, two blocks) was a long time coming and garnered buzz all over the NBA world.

“I was the third pick and then I missed two years,” Embiid said. “The excitement in the city, everybody’s happy to finally see me play. Even though it was weird because a lot of people kind of wrote me off a long time ago saying that I’d never play as a Sixer, I’d never play in the league. So it’s all fun. Everybody’s going to have an opinion.”

He’s just got to trust in his own.