The news of Phills's death broke as the Sixers' practice was winding down at Philadelphia College of Osteopathic Medicine. The Sixers' Tyrone Hill, a teammate of Phills with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Matt Geiger, who spent a season with Phills with the Hornets, were visibly shaken and did not comment.
Brown recalled watching Phills in high school, saying, "I liked him better than the guard who went to Temple." Phills, though, was "a 6-3, 6-4 pivot man at the time and I didn't let my instincts take over. He was a class kid."
Phills went on to Southern University, was drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks in 1991, spent the balance of the '91-92 season in the Continental Basketball Association, then joined the Cavaliers. The Hornets signed him as a free agent in 1997.
Several of the Sixers who knew Phills, either as an opponent or from players union functions, shared their thoughts.
"It's just unfortunate, one day you're playing basketball, doing something you enjoy. . ." George Lynch said. "It's sad. You're playing ball, enjoying life, you have a great job and all of a sudden it's all over. It was hard for me to concentrate [after learning the news]. I've got to drive home, pick up my son. You never know."
"It tells you how short life can be," Eric Snow said. "We all know things like that can happen. When it happens to someone you know, it hurts."
"That's a tragedy," said Theo Ratliff. "I know him from the players association. It's a sad thing. You never know when something like that can happen. It's the worst feeling in the world when you hear something like that." RUMOR DU JOUR
The Contra Costa Times (Walnut Creek, Calif.) attributed to sources a rumored deal sending Larry Hughes and Billy Owens to Golden State for Chris Mills, currently on the injured list. That, apparently is all it is: a rumor.
Allen Iverson was excused from practice for the second time this week to attend to a family emergency. Iverson was away Monday, but was with the team Tuesday. . .Larry Hughes sat out for the third day in succession with stiffness in his lower back. . .George Lynch taped a public-service announcement for the Variety Club with cerebal palsy patient Megan Donnelly, 11, of Langhorne .
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