Has Tobias Harris’ complicated time in Philadelphia come to an end?

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris reacts after making a basket during the second half of an NBA basketball game against the Boston Celtics, Wednesday, Nov. 8, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Matt Slocum)

As the final buzzer sounded, the New York Knicks celebrated their 3-point victory in Game 6 of the Eastern Conference first round, while the Philadelphia 76ers walked off the court defeated; Tobias Harris may have walked off the court for the final time.

It is widely expected that Tobias Harris will move on from Philadelphia in free agency this offseason after a complicated five-and-a-half years. In Harris’ likely last appearance in Philly red, white, and blue, he played 29 minutes, scored zero points, and shot 0-2 from the floor. This game represented the inconsistency he displayed during his five-year run. In an elimination game, his squad needed more from him, but he wasn’t able to deliver.

The good of Tobias Harris

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Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid (21) celebrates with teammates Tobias Harris and Danny Green (14) after making a tie-breaking 3-pointer against the Toronto Raptors during overtime in Game 3 of an NBA basketball first-round playoff series, Wednesday, April 20, 2022, in Toronto. (Chris Young/The Canadian Press via AP)

When Tobias Harris was traded in February 2019 from the Los Angeles Clippers, he was expected to be a main cog in a team that was going all in on a championship. He joined a starting lineup of Joel Embiid, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons, and JJ Reddick. He came in as a floor spacer and someone who could score the ball and create his own offense when needed. During the summer of 2019, Harris inked a 5-year deal worth 180 million dollars to stay with the Sixers and be a main part of the future of the franchise.

He had some good moments early in his Sixers career during the run in the 2019 playoffs, the 2020 Covid season, and the 2021 season in which he was a borderline all-star. During the 2021 season, in his first year being coached by Doc Rivers on the Sixers, he flourished, averaging nearly 20 points per game and pulling down 7 boards per game. He was beat out by New York Knicks’ forward Julius Randle for an all-star spot but was much deserving.

Harris was an iron man of sorts for the Sixers during his tenure, being depended on to suit up for every game he could. With Joel Embiid being the anchor but dealing with countless injuries and missed time, Harris played as much as he could to be as reliable as possible. He played in over 70 games every season aside from the Covid-shortened season, in which he played 62 of 72 games.

The bad of Tobias Harris

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Philadelphia 76ers’ Tobias Harris, right, reaches for the ball before Atlanta Hawks’ De’Andre Hunter could get to it during the first half of an NBA basketball game Friday, Dec. 8, 2023, in Philadelphia. (AP Photo/Chris Szagola)

Harris has also had some bad moments during his tenure in Philadelphia, and that is what fans will remember him for. With the debacle of the summer of 2019, the Sixers offered him a 5-year contract worth 180 million dollars. At the time, it was one of the highest-paying max contracts offered, and with that came a lot of expectations that were hard to live up to. The expectations from fans were high, and they hoped he could be the second or third option on a championship team.

He showed glimpses early but his last few years have been tough for the team, as they depended on his scoring so much. Once James Harden arrived via trade, Harris’ touches decreased but so did his efficiency. Harris could not be depended on and become the fans’ punching bag, although sometimes it was not warranted. His scoring average dropped to 14.7 and 17.2, respectively, these last two seasons, and his unwillingness to shoot quick trigger threes hurt the offense.

When Joel Embiid went down with a meniscus injury in January, many hoped Tobias Harris would step up. Instead, most nights, he looked like a deer in headlights and didn’t provide the one-two punch with Tyrese Maxey. It looked bad when the Sixers were hit with the major injury bug after the trade deadline, on most nights it felt like he was a no-show. He looked like he was checked out, ready to head to his next destination. With his tenure ending with his scoring zero points, it feels poetic in a way.

Trouble adapting

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LOS ANGELES, CA – JANUARY 17: Philadelphia 76ers Center Joel Embiid (21), Philadelphia 76ers Guard James Harden (1), Philadelphia 76ers Forward P.J. Tucker (17) and Philadelphia 76ers Forward Tobias Harris (12) huddle during a NBA game between the Philadelphia 76ers and the Los Angeles Clippers on January 17, 2023 at Crypto.com Arena in Los Angeles, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire)

Harris’ tenure in Philly and inconsistent play could be due, at least in part, to the constant changes he faced as a Sixer. He had two different front office leaders (Elton Brand and Daryl Morey), three different coaches (Brett Brown, Doc Rivers, and Nick Nurse), and a multitude of roles.

Harris went from the third or fourth option in his first 27 games as a Sixer to being the second scoring option behind Embiid to being relegated to a 3-and-D type player with James Harden. He made legitimate strides on defense during his last few years to try to become a wing defender and quick-trigger shooter, but he never looked comfortable and always reverted to the old Tobias Harris.

Harris is now at the end of his contract. With him likely exhausted by the fans and his name in trade rumors, it is likely the best time for him to move on, as it is for the Sixers. Tobias Harris has had some great times in Philadelphia, even if they’re and will get an amazing tribute video when he returns, but the breakup is near. Sometimes, that is just the way the cookie crumbles.