How secret weapon has kept 76ers together during tumultuous postseason


The first thing you have to do with Tobias Harris is forget the contract.

Is he worth a max deal? Is he worth $180 million over five years? Is he worth more than Devin Booker, Karl-Anthony Townes, Jayson Tatum and Bradley Beal?

Nah. But it’s not his fault. We’d all accept more money than we’re worth. What’s he supposed to do, turn it down and ask for less?

Yeah, I really don’t deserve a max contract. Can you offer me something significantly less that’s more in line with my value?

So forget the money because you’re not the one who has to pay him almost half a million bucks per game.

And focus instead on his game.

And he’s been terrific.

Harris isn’t dominating like Joel Embiid. He’s not flashy like Tyrese Maxey. He’s not a future Hall of Famer like James Harden. Heck, he’s never even been an all-star, and I can’t imagine anybody else in the history of the NBA has earned $171 million without making an all-star team.

He’s been the 76ers’ leading scorer once in 10 games this postseason. He’s been leading rebounder twice, high man in assists once.

You can watch an entire game and barely notice him. You rarely hear his name on the national broadcasts unless maybe he’s the beneficiary of an incredible pass from Maxey or Harden.

But add it all up?

And he’s been the 76ers’ steadiest, most consistent, most dependable player this postseason.

Harris is averaging 18 points, 8 rebounds, 3 ½ assists and 1.2 steals per game in the playoffs while shooting 52 percent, and while each of those numbers may be modest by themselves, the only other NBA players to reach all those benchmarks in any postseason over the last 20 years are Tim Duncan, LeBron James, Giannis Antetokounmpo, Anthony Davis and Nikola Jokić.

Pretty good company.

And the only other 76er to put up those numbers in a postseason since the league began tracking steals in 1984 is Charles Barkley.

Again, pretty good company.

The point isn’t that Harris is as good as those guys. Of course he’s not. It’s that he’s a heck of a lot better than he comes across if you’re not really paying attention.

What’s most impressive about Harris over the last few weeks is that he’s raised his game from the regular season. When his team has needed him the most.

Harden has struggled most of the playoffs with poor shooting and turnovers. Embiid missed a couple games and is far from 100 percent. Maxey has had his ups and downs. Danny Green and Georges Niang have been wildly inconsistent.

But Harris just shows up and delivers every night. Sometimes he drives you a little bit nuts because he does play so under control and so within the scheme of the offense or defense, and that means there can be long gaps where he doesn’t shoot much or games where he doesn’t score much or games where he just seems almost invisible.

It’s usually because he’s waiting for the game to come to him, and he’s not the type of guy who’s ever going to force anything.

That’s why he’s shot 60 percent or better four times this postseason. Only Deandre Ayton and Jordan Poole have also done that.

The only 76ers with more 60 percent games through the first 10 games of a postseason are Wilt in 1967 and Charles in 1986.

Harris is something of an anomaly in the modern NBA. He’s not looking for attention. He’s not trying to be noticed. He’s not gunning for stats.

It’s never about himself. He does exactly what the situation requires, nothing more, nothing less. He’s as close to an anonymous star as possible these days.

And on a team with a should-be MVP, a future Hall of Famer and one of the most dynamic young players in the NBA, he’s exactly what the 76ers need.

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