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Jack McCaffery is the lead sports columnist for the Daily Times and delcotimes.com. He has spent several decades covering everything from the Phillies, Eagles, Flyers and Sixers, to college hoops, to high school sports in Delco.

Saturday, July 5, 2014

Sports notebook: Come and get it

Monday, June 30, 2014

Embiid will take his time

PHILADELPHIA --- With two screws in his surgically repaired foot and a back that had recently been stress-fractured, Joel Embiid didn't need a mock draft to understand what was about to happen. He was not going to be the first player selected in the NBA draft, or the second, maybe not the third, or the fourth, or the one the Spurs would take after winning the championship.
“I thought,” Embiid said Monday, on a conference call with basketball writers, “I was going to drop to the second round.”
That's the way it used to be, back when the idea of pro-basketball roster construction was to accumulate players who could follow the classic Hakeem Olajuwon plan. That was, “On offense, I like to dunk, and on defense, I like to block shots.” Those traits have been known to work, too, from time to time, dunking at one end, preventing dunks at the other. But that's not how it necessarily works anymore.
So despite a back injury that kept him from joining Kansas for the NCAA Tournament, and despite having his foot snap during a pre-draft workout, the 7-foot, 250-pound Embiid was selected No. 3 overall by the Sixers. And he is going to play for them, too. Some day.
When?
“When I feel,” he said, “110 percent.”
Hey, don't rush anything.
Embiid is from Cameroon and only began playing basketball in 2011, so give him a no-harm-no-foul and assume he was fumbling around with the sports cliches. Maybe he meant he would give 110 percent when he returned, and maybe he would concede to do that if he were only at 99 percent readiness. Yet there has been enough recent evidence that the Sixers will stash a talented player in the green room for an entire season, never willing to demand one dunk or one blocked shot for a year's salary. Remember Andrew Bynum? Remember Nerlens Noel? Nerlens Noel. Anybody?
Anyway, Embiid remembers Olajuwon, the player he has been most likened to, the one who won two NBA championships and wall space in Springfield, Mass. Olajuwon was the first player taken in the 1984 draft and was the Rookie of the Year.
Embiid is not going to be the Rookie of the Year, or a Rookie of a Month, or a Rookie of a Week, not the way it seems. The Sixers drafted him with the intent to allow him to heal while they lose more games. So, he said he will, and will agree to play only after consultation with doctors and Sixers administrators. By then, the Sixers may actually break the tie for the NBA's longest losing streak, the one they share with Cleveland. Best of luck.
“I just have to stay positive and put all the negative comments out of my head,” Embiid said. “I have to stay positive.”
Embiid was injured in a workout in L.A., where he was playing against “some people.” An MRI revealed a stress fracture, which was repaired, the recovery typically taking up to half a year, even on timetables not controlled by Sam Hinkie. Embiid insists the fracture was not related to the back, that he wasn't risking one injury by trying to minimize the effects of another. He's only 20. He can and should recover.
Until then?
“My shot getting a lot better,” he said. “I am working on my handle and passing skills. I feel I can become a forward, but I want to be a traditional center and stay on block, not be like other centers shoot threes.”
If he could shoot ones, he would help a team that lost 63 times last season. But he won't, not this season, not unless he is a buck-ten-percent healthy, which is unlikely. But he will come to Philadelphia next week and start devouring tapes and cheesesteaks. Care to guess which one the Sixers will encourage as a photo op?
“When my name was called, I was excited and happy,” he said. “I realized my dream and still can't believe it's true. I am excited and happy and can't wait to get to work.”
As for the Sixers, they can and will wait, and wait, and wait.r

Saturday, May 31, 2014

Sports notes, come and get 'em

Saturday, May 24, 2014

Interesting stat about Phillies

From 2007 through mid-May of 2010, when they were accused of stealing signs with binoculars, the Phillies were shut out 19 times.

From mid-May of 2010 through Friday night, they were shut out 46 times.

Carry on.

Tuesday, May 20, 2014

A Phillies notebook

By JACK McCAFFERY
@JackMcCaffery
PHILADELPHIA --- The Phillies scored 12 runs Saturday, eight Sunday … and then scored a day off Monday to savor it all.
Are they back? Are Ryne Sandberg's innovative lineup configurations working?
Did it just take time to thrive with Jimmy Rollins leading off, the catcher hitting second, the centerfielder dumped in the eight-hole?
“I look at lineups,” Sandberg said. “I try to come up with a lineup that makes sense for that particular game. On the other note, trying something different is a good idea.”
Rollins, destined to rate as one of the greatest leadoff hitters in Phillies history, began the 8-3 victory over Cincinnati Sunday with a home run. Things clicked from there. Will Nieves, hitting in what has become Carlos Ruiz's No. 2 hole, followed with a home run, went 2-for-3 and increased his average to .333. John Mayberry, possibly in the process of wrangling the regular center field job from Ben Revere, had a double in No. 8 spot.
And Cody Asche went 2-for-4 to improve his average to .259, benefitting from what that lineup may be able to achieve.
“I think we've seen glimpses of it,” Asche said.
The Phillies have shown 19 glimpses of success, 22 of failure. That had them squished into last place in the N.L. East by the end of the weekend, yet still only 3.5 games from the top.
They will open a three-game series in Miami Tuesday night at 7:10. They will be back by the weekend to face the Dodgers in the opener of an 11-game homestand.
Sandberg, who accurately predicted a power outburst before the Cincinnati series then saw the Phillies hit six homers in two games, thinks the long-ball trend could continue.
“Potentially it can, with some warmer weather,” he said. “But we have potential up and down the lineup with guys hopefully getting hot and that continues.”
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The Phillies had their third off day in a week Monday, and were to host their annual Citizens Bank carnival to benefit the fight against ALS.
“Strange schedule,” Sandberg said after his teams outscored the Reds, 20-4, over two games. “Now I think we have a run of about 52 of 54, something like that. Right now, we are swinging the bats. It's been real choppy, a little hard to get into a rhythm. But bouncing back and winning this series, after the way the things were going there for a few days, was big for the guys.”
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Naturally, the Phillies' pitchers are relieved by the recent offensive improvement.
“It’s definitely easier to pitch with a lead,” Cliff Lee said. “It’s easier to attack the strike zone. You can use a little more of the plate and not worry too much if you give up a solo homer. It’s not going to hurt you as bad. Whether it’s a close game or a low-scoring game, every pitch is important. Not that it’s not with a lead, but there’s just definitely more room for error and you can get away with a couple more mistakes.”
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NOTES: In May, Asche is hitting .333 with three home runs and a .625 slugging percentage … The Phils are 6-2 in games started by Nieves … A.J. Burnett (2-3, 3.13 ERA) will face right-handed Anthony DeSclafani (1-0, 3.00) Tuesday. Kyle Kendrick (0-4, 3.96) and right-hander Nathan Eovaldi (2-2, 3.62) will throw Wednesday night at 7:10. The Marlins series concludes Thursday afternoon at 12:40 with Cole Hamels (1-2, 4.40) facing righty Henderson Alvarez (2-3, 3.62).  

Saturday, May 17, 2014

Sports notes: Come and get 'em

Sunday, May 11, 2014

Sports notes, come and get 'em