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Sixers ready to reintegrate Tyrese Maxey into lineup

The Philadelphia 76ers have been without the young guard since mid-November.

Sacramento Kings v Philadelphia 76ers Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

The Philadelphia 76ers are one step closer to getting a key weapon back.

Tyrese Maxey is reportedly set to return to the Sixers lineup on Friday in New Orleans, rejoining the squad for the last legs of a four-game road trip.

The Sixers have been without their fresh-faced, fast-flying guard since Nov. 18 after he suffered a fracture in his left foot.

The Sixers have managed to go 12-6 without Maxey, including an eight-game win streak in December. But that’s not to say Maxey has not been missed. The guard’s speed and agility brings an energetic aspect to the Sixers’ offense that they often cannot replicate without the 22-year-old.

“It’s going to be fun to have him back,” Joel Embiid said to reporters after Tuesday’s contest with the Detroit Pistons. “Obviously, he was having a great year before he got hurt, so I’m excited. I think he gives us a different look offensively, so I’m excited to have him back and I think he makes us so much better.”

Maxey, who played in the Sixers’ first 15 games before being sidelined, is averaging a career-high 22.9 points, 4.4 assists, 3.5 rebounds and 1.0 steals per game this season.

He has two chances this upcoming weekend to rejoin his team on this road trip before they head back to Philadelphia: Friday at the New Orleans Pelicans or Saturday at the Oklahoma City Thunder.

“It should be easy,” Embiid said of reintegrating Maxey. “We’re not going to force anything. We’re going to let him ease back into it. I’m sure he’s going to let the game come to him, but it’s going to be fun having him back.”

What capacity the third-year guard will return in has yet to be seen. The tweet from The Athletic’s Shams Charania predicts that Maxey will “likely be on minutes restriction upon return.” It’s worth noting, however, that James Harden was supposed to be on a minutes restriction upon his return from injury in early December, but averaged 39.3 minutes in his first five games back.

Head coach Doc Rivers has recently discussed the possibility of Maxey coming in off the bench to ease him back into game speed, keeping D’Anthony Melton in the starting position, at least at first. Coming off the bench could help cut down the current trend of high-minute counts for the likes of Harden and Embiid. Doc could also always just throw him right in the deep end, back in the starting lineup. For now, it’s anyone’s guess.

“Even when [Maxey] wasn’t there, we always thought about it,” Rivers said on Tuesday. “We have discussions about lineups every day, and we will probably continue to do that.”

With the recent overwhelming dominance of the Harden-Embiid partnership, new roles may open up for the young gun that is quickly earning recognition as an offensive swiss army knife. One thing is certain — the Sixers are ready to get him reintegrated into the lineup, in whatever form that takes.

“When we get him, it’ll be good to have,” Rivers said. “It’ll give us another weapon, another ball-handler which I think we still need, and then a guy with speed and can shoot the ball so he’ll add a lot.”

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