Now the Phillies Could Have Their Hands Full with Reds

Now the Phillies Could Have Their Hands Full with Reds

Earlier this week the Indians came to town riding a hot streak, having already run roughshod over the Phillies once this season. This time it’s the Reds showing up at Citizens Bank Park while on a tear – winners of six straight and 10 of their last 12 – and having already pounded the Phillies.

Cincinnati swept the Phils in their April series at Great American Ballpark, which naturally helped jump start their campaign. The Reds were 5-7 heading into that three-game set. Since then, they’re 20-9 and only 1.5 games out of first place in the NL Central.

It wasn’t pretty for the Fightins, either, as it seldom has been in 2013. Charlie Manuel’s crew managed to scrape together four runs over three tilts, which has really become the story of the year up to this point. Their problems ran deeper than that though. Bullpen woes helped cost the Phillies in 4-2 and 1-0 losses, while an 11-2 shellacking is the last time we saw John Lannan.

The big thing for the Phillies this weekend – besides trying to locate their offense – will be not to give Cincinnati too many freebies. As Matt Hammond writes, the Reds are walking their way to wins these days. With that in mind, it might be a positive that Cole Hamels will not take the hill this weekend.

At just 19-22, everybody around the Phillies is talking about trades these days, even Jimmy Rollins and Ruben Amaro. Well, I suppose that is the general manager’s job. That said, the club is only 3.5 games out of first place in the NL East, so we’re not quite there yet. A series victory could be huge with those lousy Marlins right around the corner.

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."