Philadelphia 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey’s fractured foot in late November was a heartbreaking development. Any injury is unfortunate, obviously, but you hated to see the 22-year-old rising star felled down just as he looked to be leveling up. At the time, Maxey was averaging over 22 points per game, had dropped a career-high 44 points in Toronto in October, and tallied back-to-back 30-point games in early November. When he suffered the injury against Milwaukee, Tyrese had already racked up 24 points in just 21 minutes.
Now, after missing over one month of action, Maxey isn’t at square one, but the boulder has certainly rolled back down the hill a bit, so to speak. Coming off the bench in his two appearances since his return, Maxey has scored nine and 12 points in a reduced minutes load. After the Sixers’ 120-111 win over New Orleans Monday night, head coach Doc Rivers discussed getting Tyrese back up to speed:
“[He’s] just out of sync. You know it’s slowly gonna come. You know a lot of it I like. I loved a couple of drives to the basket. We keep telling him early on think about getting your fingernails on the backboard. That means you’re attacking. That means you’re playing with speed, and he started doing that. He got frustrated a couple of times because he got there and there was a no call, but when he starts doing that, I think the rest of the game comes to him.”
However, Maxey himself mentioned that he felt more comfortable out on the court Monday as compared to last Friday night in his first game back.
“I’m just being comfortable. Being comfortable and taking the shots that you know that you can make. You know the rhythm is kind of thrown off just because it’s been a month and a half or however long it’s been but, I felt really comfortable.”
Tyrese also acknowledged that the team had some strong stretches of play during his absence and he didn’t want to disrupt things that had been working:
“It was lit. It was amazing. Especially when they got to come home for that homestand… A lot of those groups are playing phenomenal basketball and I’m just trying to ease my way back in and help them as much as I possibly can.”
Of course, Sixers fans were thrilled to see Maxey back on the court. In his first home game back against the Pelicans, the crowd at the Center gave him a hearty ovation. Maxey mentioned how much hearing that meant to him:
“It was great, and I was telling Ms. Rosen that I just really appreciate the fans, and you know they gave me an extra boost. The boost doesn’t help the ball go through the net, but the boost does help your energy and you’re flying around to help your teammates try to get some stops and different things like that.”
The moment wasn’t lost upon his teammates either. Georges Niang also described hearing those cheers from the home crowd for Tyrese:
“That was so cool. You know Tyrese has worked extremely hard to get back and to be able to play and see that for him, you know, I think it brought a lot of us some joy, because that kid is a salt of the earth human being. He does things the right way. He’s an amazing person, and it’s so great to see a city like Philadelphia so historically sports and basketball embrace him like they have because he is truly a treasure. I guess the best way to say it is to protect Tyrese at all costs.”
By all accounts and by this writer’s personal estimation, Maxey is phenomenal as a talent on the court and a human being off it. Having him miss time with injury was such a blow to the Sixers’ on-court chances, but also to the excitement around the team. Seeing him playing again in a Sixers uniform was the correct way to start off 2023. It may take a bit of time to see Maxey recapture his early-season magic, but given his legendary work ethic, I suspect that day may come sooner rather than later.