Tyrese Maxey

Atlantic Notes: Maxey, Sixers, Horford, Trent, Barnes

Tyrese Maxey returned to the Sixers‘ starting lineup on Wednesday for the first time in over a month, replacing big man Joel Embiid. Interestingly, Maxey remained in the starting five on Thursday when Embiid was healthy, supplanting fellow guard De’Anthony Melton.

As Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice writes, when Melton first replaced Maxey in the starting five, the five-man group that featured Melton, Embiid, James Harden, Tobias Harris, and P.J. Tucker had a clear statistical advantage over the one that had Maxey in Melton’s spot, particularly on defense. However, in recent months, the five-man unit with Maxey alongside those four other starters has been the more effective lineup.

In Neubeck’s view, the Sixers should use the final few weeks of the season to get a long look at both lineups to assess their options entering the playoffs. However, he believes there’s a strong case to be made that it’s time to reincorporate Maxey into the starting five, based on how productive that group has been. Plus, as Neubeck outlines, starting Maxey means he’ll play alongside defensive anchor Embiid more often — that should benefit the young guard, who is frequently targeted on the defensive end.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • The Sixers look like the clear winners in last year’s James Harden/Ben Simmons trade for the time being, but that could change if Harden leaves in free agency without winning a title in Philadelphia, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer writes, noting that the Nets still control two of the 76ers’ future first-round picks (in 2023 and 2027) as part of that blockbuster deal.
  • It looked like Al Horford‘s NBA career might be winding down when he was traded in a salary-dump deal in 2020 following a failed stint in Philadelphia, but the 36-year-old has resurrected his career during his second stint with the Celtics. Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports has the story.
  • With recent acquisition Jakob Poeltl now part of the Raptors‘ starting lineup, Gary Trent Jr. is the team’s new sixth man. As Doug Smith of The Toronto Star writes, that role looks like Trent’s best fit in Toronto going forward, so it will be interesting to see how it might affect the swingman’s free agency decision if the Raptors make it clear they want him to come off the bench beyond this season.
  • Scottie Barnes‘ sophomore season got off to a shaky start, but since January 1, the Raptors forward has looked more like the player that won the Rookie of the Year award last spring, as Spencer Davies of BasketballNews.com details.

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Niang, Maxey, Luxury Tax

Joel Embiid turned in an MVP performance Saturday afternoon while matched up with Nuggets center Nikola Jokic, who has beaten him out for the award the past two seasons, writes Kyle Neubeck of The Philly Voice. Embiid posted 47 points, 18 rebounds and five assists and made several big plays late in the game to help the Sixers win the battle between two of the NBA’s best teams.

Embiid was a bit too focused on his individual matchup with Jokic early on, Neubeck observes, but he began to take over the game in the second quarter, showing off his full offensive arsenal. Many of Embiid’s points came via a two-man weave with James Harden that resulted in prime scoring opportunities.

Afterward, Embiid said he doesn’t have a personal rivalry with Jokic, but he felt it was “a little disrespectful” that he wasn’t named a starter when the results of this year’s All-Star voting were announced Thursday, relays Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

“I’m used to it,” Embiid said of the snub. “It’s not the first time. I think it’s more of a motivation to go out and win the whole thing. That’s the only way I’m probably going to get that respect.”

There’s more from Philadelphia:

  • Georges Niang is headed for a sizable payday in free agency this summer, Neubeck adds. Niang contributed 14 points in about 18 minutes off the bench today, shooting 4-of-7 from three-point range. Neubeck calls Niang one of the NBA’s best bench shooters and expects a lot of teams to be interested when he hits the open market.
  • Tyrese Maxey has adapted well to a reserve role since the Sixers changed their starting lineup earlier this month, Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer states in a mailbag column. Coming into today, Maxey was averaging 22.4 points and shooting 41.9% on three-pointers in his first five games off the bench. However, Pompey views Maxey as a long-term starter and says he needs to improve his defense this summer so he’ll be a better fit alongside Harden.
  • Luxury tax concerns will affect the Sixers’ strategy heading into the trade deadline, Pompey adds. Philadelphia is currently about $1.1MM over the threshold of $150.3MM, so Furkan Korkmaz or Jaden Springer could be unloaded to avoid the tax.

Atlantic Notes: Maxey, Embiid, Harden, Raptors, Hauser

Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey is coming to terms with his new reserve role, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Maxey was demoted to a bench role in favor of the more defensively oriented De’Anthony Melton.

“Sometimes you have to be the bigger person,” Maxey noted “I feel like it was kind of trending that way. But I’m a professional at the end of the day.”

The 22-year-old is still having a solid scoring season for Philadelphia, averaging 20.8 PPG, 3.9 APG, 3.0 RPG, and 0.9 SPG.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • The Sixers’ All-Star tandem of Joel Embiid and James Harden are finally clicking midway through their first full season together, Pompey posits in another article. “He’s so dominant and versatile to where I’m sure he’s never played with a play-maker like me,” Harden said of the Philadelphia center. “So it’s just constant communication to where he hasn’t probably rolled this much before and I haven’t had a big that pops like that.”
  • After an erratic six games at home, the current core players for the Raptors face some big-picture questions, writes Doug Smith of The Toronto Star. At 20-24, Toronto heads toward the February 9 trade deadline with an uncertain future. Smith notes that the team’s front office brain trust of Masai Ujiri and Bobby Webster may make some significant changes to the club’s roster if the Raptors can’t start winning. The Raptors boast several movable players on reasonable deals.
  • Celtics reserve forward Sam Hauser has been mired in a major shooting slump for the last month. Chris Forsberg of NBC Sports Boston wonders if team president Brad Stevens may opt to make a trade to replace Hauser’s lagging output for a Boston team with title hopes. Over the past 23 games, Hauser has seen his minutes slashed to 12.2 MPG and his shooting splits have nosedived to .348/.284/.250.

Sixers Notes: Harris, Embiid, Thybulle, Playoffs

Though starting Sixers power forward Tobias Harris may want an extension from Philadelphia, it would behoove the team to keep him on his current deal to maximize its flexibility, Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com opines in a new mailbag. Harris will be a free agent in the summer of 2024.

Neubeck notes that moving on from Harris for a better player would probably necessitate also including the rookie scale contract of impressive shooting guard Tyrese Maxey. Neubeck opines that the team should hold off on an extension unless it comes at a discount.

Elsewhere in the mailbag, Neubeck also discusses the possibility of the Sixers having a quiet trade deadline as they start to gel, closing lineups, and more.

There’s more out of the City of Brotherly Love:

  • All-NBA center Joel Embiid will be shelved for the Sixers’ next game, Friday against the Bulls, due to left foot soreness, per Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer (Twitter link). Pompey notes that this will mark Embiid’s second straight absence with the ailment.
  • Philadelphia head coach Doc Rivers recently explained his decision to prioritize playing swingman Matisse Thybulle over Danuel House for the Sixers, Pompey writes in a recent article“I just think Matisse is playing terrific defense,” Rivers said. “And it’s really helped us. He’s staying aggressive… overall, he’s been fantastic for us.” 
  • Following a rocky start to their 2022/23 season, the Sixers have been coming on strong of late. The team currently boasts a 23-14 record this year, and is just 2.5 games behind the Celtics for the Eastern Conference’s top seed. But another year of regular season achievement is no longer the end game. The goal now must be making it beyond the second round of the playoffs, Pompey opines in a separate piece. Philadelphia’s opening night starting five of James Harden, Maxey, Harris, P.J. Tucker and Embiid has only been fully available eight times thus far, as Pompey notes. Whenever Embiid returns, Pompey believes the club will be able to fully assess its roster needs ahead of the February 9 trade deadline.

Atlantic Notes: Fournier, Rose, Maxey, Nurse, Claxton

After a long stretch outside the Knicks‘ rotation, injuries have given Evan Fournier and Derrick Rose a chance to play again, writes Peter Botte of The New York Post. Jalen Brunson missed a third straight game Saturday with a sore hip and RJ Barrett sat out his second game after suffering a lacerated finger on Tuesday, so Fournier and Rose were back in their familiar roles.

Coach Tom Thibodeau called Fournier “a true pro” after he returned to the court Thursday following a 23-game absence. On Saturday, Thibodeau held up Fournier and Rose as positive examples for young guards such as Quentin Grimes and Miles McBride.

“I think trial and error is a big part of learning, so they have to go through things,” Thibodeau said. “There’s gonna be some bumps, how do you handle all those things and then there’s times, hey look, this league, it’s a roller coaster. There’s gonna be times it’s going great and then all of a sudden it can change very quickly on you and it’s going the other way. And you have to be able to handle both. So I think having the right veterans around those young guys is very important.”

There’s more from the Atlantic Division:

  • Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey didn’t play Saturday after logging 19 minutes Friday night in his return from a fractured foot. Coach Doc Rivers plans to monitor Maxey’s playing time for a while, tweets Andrew Lopez of ESPN.
  • The Raptors responded to a challenge from coach Nick Nurse in Friday’s win over Phoenix, notes Michael Grange of Sportsnet.ca. Toronto had fallen out of a play-in spot with five straight losses, and Nurse called the recent effort “unacceptable.” Instead of having a shootaround before facing the Suns, the team went through a 20-minute film session with Nurse pointing out areas that need improvement. “It’s very simple, foundational things that we’ve got to get better,” Nurse explained. “… I’m probably not gonna air on the soft side of saying, ‘It was just a one-night thing.’ I’m gonna show them the good, bad, and ugly. I’m gonna show them that I’m not backing away from any of that stuff. I’m gonna show them what they need to do better. That’s the only way I think I can teach ‘em.”
  • Nic Claxton has given the Nets a defensive anchor in the middle, and coach Jacque Vaughn believes he’s playing the best basketball of his career during the team’s 11-game winning streak, per Brian Lewis of The New York Post.

Atlantic Notes: Lee, LeBron, Maxey, Grimes

After being released from his two-way contract with the Sixers earlier this week, young point guard Saben Lee has re-joined the Raptors‘ NBA G League affiliate, the Raptors 905, writes Blake Murphy of Sportsnet.ca (Twitter link).

Lee initially joined the 905 in October before latching on with Philadelphia in late November on that two-way deal.

The 23-year-old was initially selected with the No. 38 pick out of Vanderbilt in the 2020 draft. He spent his first two NBA seasons with the Pistons, averaging 5.6 PPG across 85 games. This season, he has appeared in 15 NBAGL games between the Sixers’ G League affiliate, the Delaware Blue Coats, and the Raptors 905, averaging 23.3 PPG, 6.4 APG and 4.7 RPG.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • With Lakers forward LeBron James recently voicing his concerns about being able to compete with his current team during the twilight of his career, Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice wonders if the Sixers could work as a potential trade landing spot for the 18-time All-Star this summer. James, who just inked an extension prior to the start of this season, cannot be moved until the start of the 2023 offseason. Next summer, Neubeck notes, the Sixers could potentially trade the expiring contract of starting small forward Tobias Harris along with explosive young guard Tyrese Maxey, plus some future draft compensation, to L.A. in exchange for James.
  • Maxey, who has been sidelined with a fractured foot since November 18, practiced with the Sixers on Thursday, according to Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer, a positive sign that he’ll be back in action this weekend. The possibility of a potential Friday return against the Pelicans in New Orleans was recently floated, and he has been officially listed as probable to suit up for that game, Mizell reports (Twitter link).
  • Young Knicks guard Quentin Grimes continues to develop as a potent 3-and-D option for New York, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. Grimes has been performing well since been promoted to a starting role for his team last month. “It’s not an easy chore to take the best perimeter player every game,” head coach Tom Thibodeau said of Grimes. “Sometimes, you can do it great, and they still can score. But he’s got the right mindset for it.”

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Harden, Melton, Maxey, Tucker, King

Dominant performances from Joel Embiid (35 points) and James Harden (29 points and 13 assists) were the difference in the Sixers‘ comeback win over the Knicks on Christmas Day and served as a reminder that the team’s star power can make up for some shortcomings, writes Tim Bontemps of ESPN.

Before Embiid and Harden really got rolling and helped the Sixers pull away, De’Anthony Melton played a key role in keeping the club in the game, according to Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer, who notes that the guard began the afternoon by making his first five 3-point attempts.

The performance bumped Melton’s season-long 3-point percentage to an impressive 39.2% and contributed to ongoing speculation about whether he might keep his spot in the starting lineup even when Tyrese Maxey returns from his foot injury.

According to Mizell, it’s hard to imagine Maxey not eventually regaining his starting job, but if he has a minutes limit when he returns, the team could bring him along slowly by initially having him come off the bench. Melton also could find himself playing crunch-time minutes in certain situations where a defensive specialist is required, Mizell notes, since neither Harden nor Maxey is a lock-down defender.

Here’s more on the 76ers:

  • The Sixers’ recent hot streak seems to be renewing enthusiasm about the upside of this year’s squad. Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer wrote after Friday’s win over the Clippers that the 76ers are starting to live up to their preseason billing as a title contender, while Rich Hofmann of The Athletic said after Sunday’s victory over New York that the club is finally showing off its offensive firepower. Philadelphia had the NBA’s 17th-best offensive rating (111.2) through its first 24 games, but has posted the league’s third-best mark (118.1) during its current eight-game winning streak.
  • Sixers forward P.J. Tucker revealed on Friday that he has been battling a pinched nerve, which he referred to as a “dead hand,” for the last few weeks, tweets Mizell. Tucker has been playing through the injury, but intends to keep working on it with the team’s trainers and physical therapists, Mizell adds.
  • In the wake of the Sixers signing Louis King to a two-way contract to replace Saben Lee, Kyle Neubeck of PhillyVoice.com considers what King could bring to the team, suggesting that the former five-star recruit might be a “more intriguing lottery ticket” than Lee was.

Sixers’ Tyrese Maxey Could Return On Friday

Third-year guard Tyrese Maxey, who has been sidelined since November 18 due to a broken bone in his left foot, could return to the Sixers‘ lineup as soon as Friday’s contest in New Orleans, sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link).

Maxey will likely have his minutes limited upon his return to the lineup, per Charania. Even a somewhat restricted Maxey will be a huge boon for one of the league’s hottest teams — Philadelphia has won eight straight games.

The most recent official update on the 22-year-old’s status came a few days ago, when head coach Doc Rivers said the combo guard was “making great progress” and was “close” after a Thursday workout. Maxey had a strong start to the 2022/23 season prior to getting injured against the Bucks, averaging career highs of 22.9 PPG, 3.5 RPG, 4.4 APG and 1.0 SPG, along with a .462/.422/.738 shooting line.

Fellow guard De’Anthony Melton is likely to move back to the bench once Maxey returns to action. Shake Milton, who had several strong performances as a starter when Maxey and James Harden were out, could see his minutes reduced as well.

The Sixers are currently 20-12, the No. 5 seed in the East, but only trail No. 2 Milwaukee by one-and-a-half games.

Latest On James Harden

James Harden had little to say about an ESPN report Sunday that he’s considering a return to Houston in free agency next summer, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Whether the report was legitimate or just a way of letting the Sixers know that he won’t be giving them a discount again, Harden denied any knowledge of it and brushed aside questions before Philadelphia’s Christmas Day game.

“Why would you ask me about that on Christmas, man?” he told a reporter. “You didn’t say Merry Christmas or nothing. You asked me about something that I ain’t even … I’m not answering. I didn’t see nothing.”

The two-year, $68.6MM contract that Harden signed in late July contains a player option for 2023/24. Harden could have demanded more money, but his $33MM salary left the Sixers with enough room under the hard cap to sign three of his friends and former Houston teammates, P.J. Tucker, Danuel House and Montrezl Harrell.

Harden didn’t feel like addressing the rumor after the game either, indicating that he’s happy with the Sixers, who have strung together eight straight wins.

“I’m here. We are playing very well,” he said. “And I don’t know where the report came from. But I’m very excited to be here. We are playing well, and we’re continuing to get better.”

There’s more on the Harden rumor:

  • Nets officials were concerned last year that Harden had an interest in going back to Houston, according to Jake Fischer of Yahoo Sports. Brooklyn considered the Rockets to be as much of a threat as the Sixers were to sign Harden in free agency, Fischer adds. Sources tell Fischer that Harden began to miss playing in Houston, as well as his position with the organization and in the community, shortly after being traded to Brooklyn in January of 2021.
  • Sunday’s report doesn’t change anything about the way Sixers management will approach Harden’s free agency, per Kyle Neubeck of Philly.com. The organization was always prepared for the possibility that the star guard will have other offers to consider. The team is committed to aiming for a championship this season with Harden and Joel Embiid as its main components and will hope to sign Harden to a long-term deal in the offseason.
  • If Harden is considering an exit, any trade involving Tyrese Maxey becomes far less likely, adds Neubeck, who states that the Sixers currently aren’t close to making any deals.
  • Harden could be a welcome addition as a leader for the Rockets’ collection of young talent, suggests Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle. Houston can have more than $45MM in cap room, and there aren’t a lot of other prime options on the upcoming free agent market. However, Feigen also questions whether Harden would be worth a major investment when he’s about to turn 34.

Injury Updates: Middleton, Maxey, Booker, Wright, Tate

After making his season debut on December 2 following offseason wrist surgery, Bucks wing Khris Middleton has now missed four consecutive games with right knee soreness. Head coach Mike Budenholzer provided an update on Middleton’s status ahead of Friday’s game against the Nets, tweets Eric Nehm of The Athletic.

I think, I would say he is making progress, probably not at the rate we had hoped,” Budenholzer said. “To be able to get work in, to be ready to play — it’s really still, he only played I think four, five games — so there’s still that being ready for an NBA game and all that goes into that. So, we’ll see how the next 24, 48 hours go. … But I think overall we’re encouraged. And I think he’s in a good place and he’ll play when he’s ready. It’s a long season. We have to be patient. It’s hard for Khris. It’s hard for us, but just keep the big picture in mind always.”

While Budenholzer is typically vague when giving health updates, hopefully the fact that Middleton’s knee has been slow to respond doesn’t keep him out of action for much longer. Through seven games (24.6 MPG), the three-time All-Star is averaging 11.1 PPG, 2.6 RPG and 4.4 APG.

Here are some more injury updates from around the NBA:

  • Sixers head coach Doc Rivers isn’t confident that Tyrese Maxey will return for Sunday’s matchup against the Knicks, but he provided an encouraging update on Friday, per Gina Mizell of The Philadelphia Inquirer. “He’s making great progress,” Rivers said. “[He] had a great workout [Thursday], so he’s close.” The third-year guard has been sidelined since November 18 after suffering a foot fracture.
  • Suns star Devin Booker has been dealing with groin soreness since Saturday’s victory over New Orleans, with Friday marking his third straight missed game. Head coach Monty Williams isn’t sure when the shooting guard will be back in action, according to Gerald Bourguet of PHNX Sports (Twitter link). He’s been shooting the last couple of days. Not moving as much, but is progressing a bit…he’s chomping at the bit. As you can imagine, Book’s frustrated when he can’t play,” Williams said, adding that he wouldn’t speculate about whether Booker would play on Sunday.
  • The Wizards announced that guard Delon Wright, who has missed the team’s past 29 games with a hamstring injury, would be back in action on Friday against Sacramento, per Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington (Twitter link). Wright should bolster the Wizards’ defense, which ranks 22nd in the NBA.
  • Jae’Sean Tate has been sidelined since October 30 due to a right ankle injury, having made just three appearances for the Rockets thus far this season. However, head coach Stephen Silas said on Friday that the forward’s return “looks like it will be pretty soon,” tweets Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle.