After a more than shaky start to the season, things are going surprisingly well as of late for the Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers have gone 8-1 since James Harden returned to the court and 8-0 over their last eight games — including an undefeated seven-game home stretch. All this while missing one of their most important players, Tyrese Maxey.
According to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, the wait for Maxey’s return may just be around the corner, as he could return to the lineup as soon as this Friday’s matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans.
While the Sixers have more than held their own without their young star, there is surely excitement around the idea of his return. Prior to suffering his foot injury, Tyrese Maxey was once again playing the best basketball of his life, averaging 22.9 points per game, 3.5 rebounds, and 4.4 assists (all career-highs), while slashing 46.2/42.2/73.8 over 15 games.
Had Maxey not suffered the ill-fated foot injury over a month ago, he would likely be receiving All-Star consideration. While it’s certainly disappointing that this is not the current case, the good news is at least that he seems set to return and will have a chance to reacclimate himself to this Sixers lineup as they look to continue their climb to the top of the Eastern Conference.
Also, according to Shams Charania, when he does return to the Sixers, Tyrese Maxey will be placed on a minutes restriction. Though, that does not appear to mean much, as James Harden played over 38 minutes in his first game back while also on a “minutes restriction.” Hopefully, Maxey is given proper time to ease himself back into basketball shape.
With the team’s recent success, specifically Harden’s success alongside De’Anthony Melton, there have been rumblings that Maxey should come off the bench when he does return to action. More than likely that will not be the case. In his mere two-and-a-half seasons, Maxey has proved that he is a fixture of the team’s future, not some chess piece to be moved on a whim. There is a very simple solution for this problem — resting Maxey early in games and staggering him and Harden — and as that’s the case, there’s just no sound reason to risk any relational harm by starkly adjusting his role.
That’s not to say that Maxey couldn’t begin off the bench in his first few games back in action. Sixers’ head coach Doc Rivers stated that he “sees all scenarios” when it comes to the young Sixer coming off the bench. The possibility is clearly there but this should only be temporary, if at all for the young star.