Congratulations to Tyrese Maxey on his first all-star nod, but a bigger challenge awaits
In the pilot episode of the hit medical drama series ER, Dr. David Morgenstern tells Dr. Mark Greene that he "sets the tone" for the emergency room staff as they treat an attempted suicide by one of their own.
Eight seasons later, a terminally ill Greene tells Dr. John Carter the same thing - "you set the tone" - as he departs the emergency room for the final time.
It's a simple line, delivered multiple times throughout the life of the show, that carries bone-chilling weight. It's a passing of the torch; the unofficial promotion of a new leader in the Chicago hospital.
A morbid opening to a basketball column, I know, but it draws parallels to the Sixers' current predicament.
No, Joel Embiid isn't passing a torch. He's not taking off a Sixers uniform any time soon. But, at the same time, who knows just how long it will be before Embiid and his ailing knee take the floor for the Sixers?
Time is not going to stop for the local basketball team. No matter how good they've looked when Embiid has been healthy this season. No matter how good Embiid, himself, has been when healthy. No matter how much they fall, if any further, in the wake of Embiid's absence.
This knee injury, which the Sixers have left undefined until further notice, is tossing the team into the deep end of the pool and instructing them to sink or swim.
Accolades come with new pressure. Big paydays come with new responsibilities. Tyrese Maxey hasn't gotten his big payday just yet, but he's officially an all-star.
Congratulations are in order for the young guard. It's his first selection, and he's the first player drafted outside of the lottery in the class of 2020 to make an all-star team. All before he signs his second NBA contract, no less. It's a huge deal for any player.
But with that accolade comes new responsibility. Being silenced for long stretches of playoff series is no longer passable. Bouts of indecision and passivity deserve criticism. The occasional stinker is inevitable; multi-game stretches of disappointing play will be viewed as not carrying his weight.
Being an all-star is a graduation of sorts. Maxey's days of being just a high-level role player are over. Now that he's shed that label in favor of all-star status, his job is to carry the load until Embiid can take the floor again.
It's on Maxey to set the tone. The Sixers' season may depend on it.
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Gallery Credit: Josh Hennig