Tyrese Maxey is a lightning bolt. Sixers fans had immense expectations for the Kentucky product heading into last season. We want you to be what we once hoped Markelle Fultz would become. We want you to make up for Ben Simmons absence. Make us forget the team didn’t want to max Jimmy Butler! It was completely unfair of us and still he’s blown us away with the leap he made as a sophomore in 2022.
One of the things that the Sixers looked for in the NBA draft back in 2020 where he slid to No. 21 was stellar performers who also possessed unreal work ethic, and that’s just what they got in Maxey. Defenses simply couldn’t slow him down last season and now even the Sixers are having trouble doing so too.
Head coach Doc Rivers talked about his star guard’s development and drive at media day Monday.
“Listen, he’s put in the work,” Rivers said. “The work that he’s done with Sam [Cassell] and my son Spencer [Rivers] has been amazing. Between him and Paul Reed — and Matisse [Thybulle] — no one has outworked those three guys, I can guarantee you that.”
But does ‘Rese ever work harder than they’d prefer, given the marathon nature of an NBA season?
“Oh, many times,” Doc admitted. “[Cassell] called me probably 10 times. My son even rang my doorbell one time with Sam. They weren’t invited, is what I’m saying, but they came to have a sit-down about calling him, making him shut it down. Man, it’s hard to shut a guy down like that. Paul Reed, too. It’s kind of hard, but they’re young and you kind of let them do it.”
You can bet that it’s probably a breath of fresh air for Coach Rivers to coach a player like Tyrese who he doesn’t have to push; a player who is intrinsically motivated and even needs to be encouraged to rest more. I’m guessing Doc has played with and coached hundreds of players who were the opposite.
One of the ways Maxey is looking to improve has been by playing 1-on-1 against one of the greatest offensive players in NBA history, and one who happens to be his back court teammate in James Harden. Pretty convenient. While Joel Embiid has logged countless hours watching film of greats like Hakeem Olajuwon, then logging practice burn with his teammates, Maxey, a notoriously quick study, can basically multitask with a legend and develop chemistry with his backcourt mate.
“Every single time we play pickup or 1-on-1, I don’t want to lose to James,” admitted Maxey on media day. “It’s like my big brother — playing against your big brother. And there’s been times where we’ve played pickup in the past couple weeks and we’re going to bump heads because I’m just extremely competitive like that, and he is, too, which is really good.”
He’s even taking it upon himself to be more of a leader than he has been in the past. That infectious personality that many of us connect with watching a game is something he’s been looking to channel to encourage his teammates, especially Paul Reed.
“One thing I’ve really focused on is trying to become a better leader. I feel like I have this personality where I’m always smiling, I’m always happy, and I work extremely hard, so I try to push my teammates.”
Maxey believes that his own work ethic being a perfectionist and always striving for that additional 1 percent is part of what has endeared him to Philly.
“The city of Philadelphia is such a blue-collar city and everybody here that goes to games or that I see around town, they work extremely hard for what they have — extremely hard for what they have. So when you work hard for what you have, you really cherish it, and I feel like I really believe that because I worked extremely hard to get where I am today. Nothing was given to them, nothing was given to me. I went out and took everything I got. I didn’t have any handouts. I went to a public school, I went to Kentucky. When I was in eighth grade, I made a list of goals. I told people I was going to go to Kentucky, I told people I was going to be a McDonald’s All-American, and that I was going to be a first-round pick. When you tell people that in the eighth grade, they’re looking at you like you’re crazy.”
But maybe he can learn from some veterans to dial back on the nitro button occasionally. It took the Golden State Warriors a preseason and then 104 total games to win it all last year. It’s paramount not to gas out or get hurt and Maxey understands that, even if it runs against his DNA.
“It’s something that you have to learn being a professional,” Maxey explained. “I’ve always been work, work, work, work, work, work. Throughout an 82-game season, that’s a long time to play basketball, playing however many minutes the coaching staff needs you to play. You need to be available, and you want to be healthy and want to be the best version of yourself. This year I took my first vacation ever, and that was ridiculously … it was too long for me. It was too much doing nothing. But it was great. I got to spend a lot of time with my family; my entire family went with me. I was blessed to have a lot of fun with them. But it’s a part of becoming a better professional — knowing when to take off, knowing how to rest your body, knowing how to recover.”
He may need Cassell and Rivers to show up at Doc’s crib uninvited to complain he’s working too hard a few more times before he strikes that perfect balance. Maybe Harden can teach him it’s OK to use some fifth gear in October. So far nobody can slow this dude down, but that’s just OK with us.