It’s NBA All-Star Weekend, taking place in Cleveland this season during the league’s 75th Anniversary season. The festivities start on Friday night with the annual Celebrity game, followed by the Rising Stars Challenge. Saturday is the three-points and skills competition along with the dunk contest. The All-Star game itself takes place on Sunday night at 8:00 pm.
The Sixers will be well represented. Joel Embiid will be making his fifth All-Star game. Tyrese Maxey has been selected for the Rising Stars game. The newly acquired James Harden was selected for his tenth All-Star game however he is still nursing a hamstring injury and will not play in the big game. Looking at those three, you can see why Philadelphia is excited after the Harden acquisition at the trade deadline, as they head into the final part of the regular season as one of the top teams in the Eastern Conference.
Tyrese Maxey is representing the Sixers in the Rising Stars Challenge, and it doesn’t seem that it will be too far off that he’ll be joining Joel Embiid on that All-Star roster. Maxey came into this season, his second in the league, as the second-string point guard, by default. The quitter who is now in Brooklyn wasn’t playing, and Shake Milton was the early favorite to start for the Sixers. Prior to the season, Milton was injured, and now Maxey, having just turned 20 years old, would be the starting point guard to start the season for the Sixers. Milton was still thought to have the job when he would return, but Maxey never let that happen.
Maxey, in just his second year, has become what everyone in Philly had hoped that Ben Simmons would be. He’s averaging 16.9 points per game to go along with 3.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists. Maxey’s minutes have gone from 15 per game to over 35 this year, and he’s shown that his college coach, John Calipari, was right when speaking about Maxey after the 2020 NBA Draft.
“I thought he should have gone earlier,” Calipari stated in a video, which he posted on Twitter. “Let me just tell you; there’s a lot of people who are going to regret that they passed. There are about eight positions that they’re going to look back a few years from now and say, ‘Look where he went and where he could have gone.'”
Maxey has become a star, and while not as big as Embiid, he’s let the league know that there were teams that made mistakes during the draft, and there are teams that make mistakes on the floor with him, still. Maxey has speed, and he’s fearless. While his scoring and game may not get up to Iverson levels, the heart is there, and the speed is too. He’s fearless when driving to the basket, can switch hands in mid-air, and makes layups with two or three defenders around him. All the while, Maxey is on the court, with a smile on his face like he was playing a pick-up game with his friends. He’s developed a relationship with Embiid that has the two of them sharing the table after games for interviews, where they both make jokes, semi-insult each other, and look like best friends.
The one big thing with Maxey that Philly didn’t have in their last point guard is that he’s always trying to improve. You hear it constantly from Doc Rivers, the coaching staff, and other players that Maxey is always seeking advice on how to get better. He’s always in the gym working, shooting, dribbling, listening. In Thursday’s game against the Bucks, you could see Maxey talk with James Harden about pick and roll plays and what he should be doing. In the next play, off the screen, Maxey broke through the defense and hit a layup that had Harden jumping off the bench and yelling “thank you” at the young guard. He’s good this year. He’s exciting this year. He’s made people regret overlooking him during the draft this year. What Tyrese Maxey isn’t is finished getting better at the game. He’s going to be a star in the league and in Philly for a long time.
Sixers superstar Joel Embiid has been everything that Philadelphia fans have been missing for quite a few years. This season, Embiid has taken his game to another level. Currently leading the NBA in scoring at 29.6 points per game, Embiid is also averaging 11.2 rebounds, 4.5 assists, 1 steal, and 1.4 blocks per game. Those stats have him in the discussion, if not the favorite for MVP of the league this season.
With Embiid, you get much more than just the stats. He’s every bit of the Superstar that the team and its fans haven’t had since Allen Iverson was breaking down defenses and lighting up scoring sheets, and, with the exception of 25 games in 2009-10, that was fifteen years ago. Embiid has become the new Iverson to the city of Philadelphia. He’s engaging, entertaining, talented, and grown into a leader of the Sixers. Iverson was a man of the people; everyone loved him. Embiid is even more so as he’s been spotted in the past few years, jogging in the city, shooting hoops with kids at playgrounds, or just walking around the city.
With his ascension to the top of the scoring charts and players in the NBA, Embiid hasn’t lost that energy and enthusiasm that made him endearing to fans, even if he was injured or having bad games. Embiid, with arms outstretched after making a big play, is now the new version of Iverson holding his hand to his ear. He’s become an icon in the city, and he’s only been here a short time. Embiid has become this generation’s version of Shaquille O’Neal. He’s just physically bigger and stronger than almost everyone in the league. When he wants to take over a game, he does. He also does it with an energy and flair that has fans from all over the country coming out to see him play. He’s truly a superstar.
At the All-Star game, Embiid will be playing against the best in the league, and he will, without a doubt, want to show why he’s considered the early favorite for MVP. You’ll see some big dunks, you’re probably going to see a Eurostep, and he’ll want to show off the three-point range. He’s the complete package in the NBA as there’s no one that can match his skill-set, size, and personality. It wouldn’t be surprising to see Embiid win the MVP of the All-Star game, if he gets hot early, they won’t be able to stop him. This weekend is about putting on a show for the fans, and that’s something that Embiid has been doing all season for the Philadelphia fans.