Philadelphia 76ers young gun Tyrese Maxey has made leaps and bounds in his short career in the NBA, and he may be asked to make an even bigger one this season with an increased role.
And his newest challenge on the court is looking like it’ll be a multifaceted one, with the Kentucky product preparing to take on multiple different roles — be it as a scorer, ball-handler, or whatever the team needs — for the Sixers this season under the guidance of new head coach Nick Nurse.
“Honestly, I’ve prepared for both all my life, I can say that,” Maxey told reporters at the team’s media day on Monday. “And then just this summer I prepared in a different way because I knew how important I feel like I am to this team, to this organization, whatever, at this point in my career and I’m just ready for whatever.
“They was telling me that [Nurse] said Plan A and Plan B. I’m ready for Plan C, D, all the way down to Z if there is one. I’ve just been focusing on finding ways to get better, to improve my game, to find ways to be the best version of Tyrese Maxey that I can be.”
Which plan the Sixers go forward with is likely contingent on the dark cloud looming over seemingly anything the team does right now: the James Harden situation. As of this writing, Harden has shown up for training camp and is taking part in practices, but is still looking for a trade to his preferred destination, the Los Angeles Clippers. That entire situation creates a big question mark for the Sixers on who will carry the ball-handling and playmaking weight on the squad.
The situation carries with it a weird and unfortunate parallel to what prompted his breakout for the Sixers in the first place. Seasons ago, it was Ben Simmons sitting out that led to Maxey picking up an increased role for the team, ultimately averaging 17.5 points on 48 percent from the field in 2021-22. Now, it’s Harden. Whether Harden decides not to play to his fullest effort for the Sixers, or is ultimately traded, the Sixers need to prepare for life without him. Enter Maxey, all over again, undoubtedly flying at the speed of light.
Like many of his teammates similarly expressed, Maxey is hoping Harden changes his mind and balls out for Philadelphia this season, but he’s prepared for the reality that that may be out of the realm of possibility at this point.
“As a brother I love James,” Maxey said. “Me and James became close over the last, what? Two years? Maybe a year and a half, or however long it’s been, so of course we hope that he comes in and plays. That’s always cool. And for myself, for my teammates, we gotta keep going out there and playing regardless of the situation. Plan A, Plan B, like Nurse Nurse says — and be ready for whatever life brings us.”
Maxey has spent the offseason bettering himself to be ready for such scenarios. He spoke at media day about working with his friends back home on live reads in 3-on-3 and 4-on-4 scenarios, as well as working with Drew Hanlen on his ball-handling and pace, how to best utilize his speed in a controlled way.
“Because I’m so fast, I feel like me being able to play slow is going to help me a lot this year and, honestly, just finding ways to keep getting better,” Maxey said. “I keep saying it and it’s funny, it probably sounds cliche to y’all now, but me getting one percent better every single year has done well for me and I think done well for our organization. I’m going to keep trying to do that.”
It’s clear that, whatever the role or game plan, Maxey plans to leave no doubt in himself — a motto that he has carried throughout his playing career.
“It’s still on my wrist now. LND. It’s something that my dad told me. He used to text it to me before every game at the University of Kentucky when I was there. It means a lot to me,” Maxey explained. “There’s always doubt in other people’s hearts. As a human being, you try not to worry about what other people think of you, but it’s always on the back of your mind. But for me, I go out there and leave no doubt, honestly. If there’s something that they think I can’t do — if it’s my defense, if it’s my playmaking skills, if it’s me being able to shoot the ball — I come in every year and try to leave that doubt out.
“It’s just a motto of mine. It’s a saying of mine that keeps me going, keeps me pushing, keeps me able to get up every single morning — early morning, 6 a.m. and different things like that — and coming in late at night, like last night. And just working and trying to get 1 percent better every day so I make sure there is no doubt, at the end of the day.”