We’re all tired of talking about James Harden’s trade request and all the drama surrounding it.
But here’s a fresh angle: the perspective of Sixers golden child Tyrese Maxey.
On his Maxey on the Mic podcast, the 22-year-old guard dove into what he makes of the Harden situation and how everyone on the team will have to adjust — most importantly Maxey himself.
In typical Maxey fashion, he starts the pod off by talking about how great his summer has been and how much work he’s gotten in. He quickly pivoted to the “elephant in the room” and his high-profile teammate demanding a trade out of Philadelphia.
“I will say this about the situation: to each his own. James, he’s a professional and he’s doing something for a reason. You just have to kind of sit back and understand what he’s doing as a friend, but then as a teammate and someone as a part of an organization I’m with right now, you have to prepare for whether James is going to be there or not going to be there. That’s just the nature of it.”
It’s been a very easy parallel to make between the current situation and the Ben Simmons holdout back in 2021. The key difference: this current group would welcome Harden back with open arms. Though Maxey himself had a strong relationship with Simmons, the same cannot be said for the rest of his teammates.
“It’s crazy to say this, but it’s not our first rodeo, honestly. That’s funny to say, but that’s life. James is his own individual and he’s able to do whatever he pleases. I’m preparing right now to play with him or without him. ... and I love James. If James decided he’s going to come back and play for us, there’s nobody in this organization that would be upset about that.”
As for the idea of a “gap year,” it doesn’t sound like something Maxey or the Sixers have much interest in.
“People ask me, ‘If James doesn’t come back, do y’all see this season as a wash?’ ... I think with the position that the Sixers are in we can’t ever see a season as “a wash.” We have talent. We have the reigning MVP on our team. We have to go out there and expect to win. Expect to still try to complete our goal. It’ll definitely be even more difficult now that one of our best players has decided as of right now he doesn’t want to come back and play. That’s how life goes.”
Maxey went on to discuss how every member of the Sixers will need to step up if Harden is no longer a part of the team — not just himself and Joel Embiid. He references Jaden Springer multiple times as a player that could be thrust into a bigger role, amongst others.
But let’s keep it real: no player will have a bigger adjustment (or greater opportunity) than Maxey. Entering his fourth year, Maxey’s role has seemingly changed every season. This year could be the most drastic shift yet as he prepares for a much larger role on the ball if The Beard isn’t around. It’s something new head coach Nick Nurse wanted from Maxey any way, whether Harden was on the team or not.
You won’t be surprised to hear that Maxey is prepared:
“If James doesn’t decide he wants to come back and play, it will change my role significantly. ... That’s one thing I’ll say playing for my dad taught me, and playing for Coach [John Calipari] taught me — I’ve been able to play on the ball, I’ve been able to play off the ball, I’ve been able to be kind of adaptable in whatever situation I’ve been thrown into. It’s just funny, every single year it’s been something new. ...
“If anybody has taught me that, it’s [Harden]. That’s the funny part about it. I know if he’s not playing he’s going to be rooting for me to be the best version of myself because that’s just the type of brother that he is. He’s a great person.”
No surprise here that Maxey would handle this in such a professional and diplomatic way. Nobody is going to feel sorry for the Sixers if Harden holds out. And the team has envisioned that Maxey will one day take the reins and become an All-Star-caliber player.
We just might be arriving at that a little earlier than anticipated.
Maxey also discussed the idea of one day playing for Team USA. When his agent Rich Paul approached him about an opportunity to maybe play for the Select Team, it was when Maxey was just coming back from breaking a bone in his foot. He mentioned that playing in the Olympics — in 2024 or in the future — would be “a dream come true.”
The last fun thing Maxey talks about is the recent Hall of Fame class. He mentioned that he wore No. 3 coming up because of the Miami Heat’s Dwyane Wade ... which is amazing since Wade wore it because of his presenter, Allen Iverson.
While we’re all miserable as hell navigating this James Harden debacle, it’s good to see the sunniest player on the Sixers hasn’t lost his disposition.