Tyrese Maxey

Maxey highlights love, appreciation for Harden after Sixers' shakeup

Maxey expressed his gratitude for the 10-time All-Star guard's mentorship.

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CAMDEN, N.J. — After James Harden’s first practice as a Sixer, you knew exactly who would be right next to him.

Tyrese Maxey was there last February. He took step-back jumpers, watched Harden do the same, smiled, absorbed it all.

With Maxey’s time as Harden’s teammate now up, it sounds like he values those sorts of moments above the ample trade talk-related drama that swirled recently around the Sixers.

If they happened to be awake, Sixers players learned around 2 a.m. Tuesday morning that the team has agreed on a deal to move the disgruntled Harden, PJ Tucker and Filip Petrušev to the Clippers. KJ Martin, Nicolas Batum, Robert Covington and Marcus Morris Sr. are set to become Sixers.

“I texted him. Told him I love him, told him I appreciate him,” Maxey said of Harden following the Sixers’ practice. “One thing that he really (instilled) in me is confidence. And I’ve always been a confident person, but he made me be more confident than I already was and all I can do is appreciate him for that. 

“He took me under his wing, taught me a lot of things as far as being a professional in this league and how things go, so I appreciate him, I love him. Same thing with Tuck. Love that guy.”

While Maxey undoubtedly has more positive, generous instincts than the average person, it’s true that Harden cared about the ebullient 22-year-old guard’s development. Harden cheered on his aggressive scoring bursts, pulled him aside for in-game critiques, and got to know Maxey better through the pair’s joint workouts in the summer of 2022.

Maxey gained an up-close understanding of Harden’s tools and tricks, including how he accumulates free throws. 

“I can’t tell you those secrets. He barely told them to me. It took months to tell me the secrets,” he said last October with a grin. “But nah, he’s been great. He’s (a former) MVP, future Hall of Famer, so everything that he tells me, I soak it up like a sponge.” 

Maxey’s game has kept on rising. During an Eastern Conference-best opening week, Maxey averaged 30.3 points, 6.7 rebounds and 6.3 assists. He shot 10 for 10 at the foul line Sunday night when the Sixers beat the Trail Blazers.

“I just look at it as this kid’s really good and this is a tremendous opportunity,” Sixers head coach Nick Nurse said Tuesday. “Regardless, from the day that I came here, everybody was talking about, ‘Tyrese needs to take a step up’ or, ‘He’s going to take a step up’ or, ‘He could take a step up’ or whatever. All those things are still very much true. He’s a young guy.”

Nurse knows a thing or two about major shakeups beyond his control. About a month after the Raptors promoted Nurse to head coach, they traded for Kawhi Leonard.

He’s familiar with on-the-fly team chemistry (and strategy) adjustments at lower levels like the D League, too. 

“It goes along the lines of who’s there,” he said. “I’ve been in these situations before in the minor leagues. It happens to you a lot where you’ve got one team on Tuesday and then Thursday, you’ve got four guys called up — moving guys in and out and around. So there’s some thought that needs to go into all that, right? The first thought is you can’t let that try to disrupt things too much. You’ve got to just kind of say, ‘Here’s where we are. Let’s deal with it, let’s handle it.’ 

“And then you’ve got to start going down the pecking order: How do you get ‘em integrated as quickly as possible? There’s usually different timelines for each guy, and you’ve got to do all those kinds of things. But the main thing is I’m focused on the guys that were here today and I’m starting to think about some possible different rotations and things like that, because we’ve got a game to play in a couple of days and we want to play well.”

That next game on the Sixers’ schedule is a Thursday night matchup against Toronto at Wells Fargo Center. 

“Honestly, this group has been keeping the main thing the main thing,” Maxey said. “So it’s another step in the right direction, I guess. We’ve been playing together. 

“Everything’s been going well, the flow’s been going well. The team believes in us, the coaches believe in us, so everything’s going great.” 

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