Paul Reed Victory Tour: Trust, Confidence Building in Sixers Backup Big Man

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Tre Mann (23) drives against Philadelphia 76ers forward Paul Reed Jr. (44) during the first half of an NBA summer league basketball game Thursday, July 7, 2022, in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Jeff Swinger)

Philadelphia 76ers backup big man Paul Reed was the breakout star of Game 1 amid calls for the continuation of the Paul Reed Victory Tour. He brought infectious energy off the bench, fighting tooth and nail for loose balls and rebounds while showing off a little ambidexterity.

Out the mud – a story by Paul Reed

Perhaps inspired by Rudy Gobert, Paul Reed clutched a key rebound early in the fourth quarter and dribbled the ball behind his back before switching hands and laying it in for two points. It wasn’t the most graceful move, but it was effective. And it drew an immediate reaction from Joel Embiid after the Sixers’ 121-101 victory.

“He made a great move, you know, behind the back that we probably don’t want to see again,” Embiid told reporters. “I’m just kidding. He can do whatever he wants. Whatever works, I guess he’s got to keep doing it. He was great.”

Reed’s impact was undeniable regardless of how it looked. One minute after the circus play, the 6-foot-9 fan favorite scored a reverse dunk off a feed from James Harden to put the Sixers up 102-83. The sold-out home crowd went into a frenzy as “Bball Paul” chants broke out at Wells Fargo Center. Reed finished with playoff career-high 11 points on 5-of-6 shooting along with four rebounds and two steals in 12:53.

“A couple dunks, a couple of steals, a couple of rebounds,” Reed said. “That’s what Paul Reed do.”

Head coach Doc Rivers extended the love to all his energy guys, lumping Paul Reed in with De’Anthony Melton, Jalen McDaniels, and PJ Tucker. That group combined for 77 tough minutes that didn’t show up, statistically, in the box score.

“I thought our energy guys played a big part in this game,” Rivers said. “I thought those four guys had a huge imprint on why we won tonight.”

P.J. Tucker Cussed Reed Out at Halftime

If Reed looked more aggressive in the second half, it’s because he was. Tucker voluntarily took credit for Reed’s big game in the post-game locker room, telling reporters he had a heart-to-heart with him at halftime. And it wasn’t of the warm and fuzzy variety.

“I cussed Paul Reed out at halftime. I felt like he didn’t have the energy, he wasn’t getting there on time and doing a lot of things,” Tucker said. “He came out in the second half and responded, so I told everybody I was going to curse Paul out every halftime.”

Reed scored back-to-back baskets upon checking in for the first time to start the second quarter of Game 1. Outside of that, he was about as undetectable as Ben Simmons who failed to make the trip due to injury. Then, in the fourth quarter, Reed was unleashed.

He gobbled up four rebounds – two defensive, two offensive – in the first four minutes of the frame. There was never any thought of bringing Montrezl Harrell in until the game was way out of hand.

“He got a lot of rebounds, his energy was good, he was in help, he had good switches, the finishes,” Tucker said of Reed. “He was just night and day. We need him. I’m aways going to stay on him, because we really need him.”

Bring Out the Band for the Paul Reed Victory Tour

Reed’s droolworthy night occurred nearly one year to the day when Rivers swatted away questions about the youngster earning minutes over former backup big DeAndre Jordan. He had just dropped 25 points in 21 minutes – albeit in a meaningless regular-season finale where the starters didn’t play – and the masses were hungry for more. Not Rivers.

“Not gonna go in the Paul Reed victory tour,” Rivers told reporters on April 10, 2022. “So don’t start. We’re trying to win a world championship, man.”

Rivers relented and gave Reed the bulk of the backup minutes behind Embiid in the postseason last year. While he didn’t show he deserved a victory tour, the experience definitely earned him some trust from the coaching staff and from James Harden. According to Rivers, the one-time MVP was reluctant to have Reed anchor the second group because his offensive game was a work in progress. Harden preferred Harrell.

“Early in the year, James wanted no one else on the floor but (Montrezl Harrell), because he felt he was the better offensive player,” Rivers said, via NBC Sports Philadelphia. “We’ve tried to convince him that we need defense too with that group. I think Paul in particular has kind of grown in James’ confidence.”

AP Photo/Jeff Swinger