What Philly Is Overreacting To: The Phillies' Injuries

What Philly Is Overreacting To: The Phillies' Injuries

If baseball games
are won in the hearts and minds of fans, the Phillies have already lost.
Chase Utley would be the perfect metaphor for this team right now, as
they come limping a bit more literally into the regular season with a
pair of players who will return to the diamond, well, whenever they get
around to it.

We've all experienced together the doom and gloom side of being a
Philadelphia sports fan. Unstoppable forces have met immovable objects.
What's meant to be turned out was not to be. The fear is the Phillies,
for all their aces, all their accolades, all the hype, will somehow fall
short of our expectations, lofty as they are.

They will not be undone in April though. The Phils will begin this
season without two critical pieces, and those absences will undoubtedly
be felt in ninth innings and clutch situations. Still, it's a little
early to be hitting the panic button, don't you think?

Utley will be back. Let's say for the sake of
discussion it's not until after the All Star break, and the Phillies
would have to scrape by for the next three months or so.

Raise your hand if you think they'll be out of the pennant race at
that point. Shoot, raise your hand if you think they won't be in first

That's not intended as a slight on the rest of the NL East. The
Phillies are just that good. They still have five All Stars and two Most
Valuable Players in the starting lineup. They still have four aces, two
Cy Youngs, and a World Series MVP in their rotation.

With or without Utley, the team is going to be right there. You could
make the case the Fightins could win the whole thing without him.,
that's how loaded they are. The fact that he's expected back is a bonus.

And before you go all he might not be 100% on me, that's
fine. 50% of Chase Utley is better than most second basemen. It's not
ideal, but stick him in the lineup somewhere, and he's going to make
good things happen through sheer determination.

Brad Lidge... okay. This certainly is a concern, but
again, not so much because he's going to miss a portion of the season.
With his ever ongoing durability issues, and one very forgettable '09
season lingering in the rear view mirror, it's becoming harder and
harder to gamble on his success.

Which isn't to say there definitely will be rocky roads ahead either. Maybe Lidge returns healthy, and it's Lights Out again.

Or maybe not. Here's the good news though: this gives them plenty of
time to sort it out. I would imagine there will be a few save situations
before Lidge returns, perhaps even a handful in April. (Hey, you don't
know with this caliber starting pitching.) So it stands to reason that
if something should happen and Lidge can't go again, or simply doesn't
have it, Charlie Manuel will know where to turn.

And if nobody takes the ball? Supposing it can't be Madson—or
Contreras, or Romero, or even Matthieson—why not deal for another
closer? Certainly there should be some idea as to whether there is a
finisher in that bullpen by July 31.

Honestly, it's hardly worth getting distressed over so early, not with the roto they have.

Injuries? You haven't seen injuries. Yeah, the rest
of the team isn't exactly a picture of health. Placido Polanco has a
banged up elbow. Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard both missed significant
time last season. They're all pretty much in their 30's, which Matt P.
can tell you means everything breaks easier.

It would be foolish not to acknowledge an increasing number of
injuries could derail the Phillies' season, just as it could any team in
any sport. It's the nature of the game.

Well you can only worry about what you know. Utley and Lidge are
hurting. That's not a good start, but it's April. Right now, both guys
are expected back wellll before the post-season begins.

That's what's important. While anything could happen between now and
October, the Phillies not reaching the playoffs should be the last thing
on anybody's mind. What they look like when they get there, that's a
little more difficult to predict, but a couple of injuries on Opening
Day shouldn't leave anybody believing this season is spiraling out of


In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

In long-awaited NBA debut, Joel Embiid treats Sixers fans to a show

The crowd erupted as Joel Embiid stepped to the free throw line. They chanted a phrase Embiid has been repeating for the past two years, a fitting welcome to his NBA debut.

“That was great,” Embiid said after the Sixers' 103-97 loss to the Thunder on Wednesday (see Instant Replay). “That’s my motto, 'Trust the process.'”

After two years of rehabbing foot injuries, Embiid has his first regular season game behind him. Embiid scored a team-high 20 points, shooting 6 for 16 from the field, 1 for 3 from long range and 7 for 8 from the line. He also recorded seven rebounds, two blocks, four turnovers and four fouls in over 22 minutes. 

“The beginning I was nervous, but once you make that first shot it just goes away,” he said. “The fans were so into the game that it was fun. I love having fun.”

Brett Brown enjoyed watching Embiid on the court as much as he liked being on it. Brown has seen the 7-foot-2 center grow and develop during his rehab. Finally, he was able to utilize his versatile skills in a real game setting.

“I can't say this loud enough,” Brown said. “For the city to be rewarded with a player that we all understand has unique gifts, special gifts, for him to go through all the things he has been through and play like he did on opening night, the city deserves it. Most importantly, he deserves it.”

Now that Embiid has been cleared to play, he would like to do so for longer periods of time. He began the preseason at 12 and was increased to 20 in segmented spurts for opening night. Even though he exceeded that limit by over two minutes, Embiid is itching to be cleared to play more extensively. 

“It sucks,” Embiid said. “I feel like I could have played more but you know you’ve got to trust the process, got to trust those guys. If I have my minute restriction at 20 minutes, I guess I’m going to go with that. But obviously I want to play more and more and I think it can help the team better. But they have a plan for me and I’ve got to follow it.”

Embiid has maintained he wants to be a clutch player. Brown looked to him toward the end of the game as the Thunder pulled ahead late in the final quarter. He drained a fade away jumper to tie the game at 97 apiece with 50.7 to go. 

Later trailing by four with 10 seconds left, the Sixers went to Embiid. While he was whistled for an offensive foul, Brown was glad to have a go-to unlike in years past. 

“You have a target,” Brown said. “We tried to get the ball to him a lot. … By and large, to have somebody like Joel, where the mystery is solved like, 'What do you do?' You get him the ball as much as you can.”

The more the Sixers found Embiid, the more the Thunder had to try to defend him. Thunder head coach Billy Donovan knew what his team was going up against. He watched Embiid as a high schooler and coached against him during his tenure at Florida. 

“He’s gifted and skilled,” Donovan said. “It was probably our guy’s first time seeing him … I knew the talent, the gifts. The one thing with him is, he’s got great footwork. He’s hard to guard because he’s herky-jerky. He moves. He’s got a lot of (Hakeem) Olajuawon to him.”

Opening night had been two years in the making. Even though the Sixers didn't win, the significance of the evening didn't disappoint. 

"I thought this moment was going to be special," Embiid said, "and it was just great."

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

Best of NBA: Davis' 50 points not enough in Pelicans' loss to Nuggets

NEW ORLEANS -- Jusuf Nurkic scored 23 points, Will Barton added 22, and the Denver Nuggets survived a dominant performance by Anthony Davis to defeat the New Orleans Pelicans 107-102 in both teams' regular season opener Wednesday night.

Davis had 50 points, 16 rebounds, seven steals, five assists and four blocks. His production helped New Orleans trim a deficit as large as 14 late in the second quarter down to two points in the waning minutes. He simply didn't have enough help.

The rest of the Pelicans combined to shoot 21 of 58. Tim Frazier scored 15 for the Pelicans. E'Twaun Moore added 10 points, but missed a 3-point attempt that could have tied it with 24 seconds left.

Danilo Gallinari scored 15 for Denver and Wilson Chandler added 12 points (see full recap).

Celtics top Nets in Horford's home debut
BOSTON -- Isaiah Thomas had 25 points and nine assists, Jae Crowder added 21 points and Al Horford pitched in 11 in his Boston debut on Wednesday night as the Celtics survived a late scare to beat the Brooklyn Nets 122-117 in their season opener.

Bojan Bogdanovic scored 21 for Brooklyn, including a 3-pointer to make it 120-117 with 47 seconds left after the Nets erased most of a 23-point deficit against the Boston bench. But he missed one with a chance to tie it after Joe Harris intercepted Thomas' cross-court pass, and the Celtics were able to hold on.

Justin Hamilton came off the bench to score 19 points and grab 10 rebounds for the Nets in coach Kenny Atkinson's debut (see full recap).

Turner's opening act leads Pacers past Mavs in OT
INDIANAPOLIS -- Myles Turner scored 30 points, tied his career high with 16 rebounds and made a 3-pointer with 1:18 left in overtime to start an 8-0 run that allowed the Indiana Pacers to close out a 130-121 victory Wednesday night over the Dallas Mavericks.

Three-time All-Star Paul George added 25 points, including another 3 with 55 seconds left to seal Indiana's fifth season-opening win in six years.

Deron Williams scored 25 points, while J.J. Barea and Dirk Nowitzki each added 22 as the Mavs lost their fifth straight in the series. They still haven't won in Indianapolis since February 2014.

Dallas didn't tie the score or take a lead until the fourth quarter, yet still forced overtime when Harrison Barnes' open 3-pointer made it 115-all with 2.3 seconds left.

Turner could have won it with a long buzzer-beating 3, but it bounced off the back of the rim (see full recap).