Sixers encouraged by Maxey’s playmaking growth as preseason begins
PHILADELPHIA, PA - Tyrese Maxey's growth as a playmaker and ball-handler has the ability to reinforce the Sixers' patience as they await a suitable James Harden trade.
If that aspect of his game grows enough to convince Philadelphia's decision-makers that he can be a lead guard, it would create far more flexibility as the Sixers tackle team-building models in the future.
Again, no pressure.
If that part of his game makes a leap and Maxey becomes an all-star, it might be the difference between Joel Embiid committing to the Sixers for another year or two and staying in Philadelphia far longer than that.
Again, no pressure.
It's a daunting task. One that is, in many ways, much more difficult than any of the leaps Maxey has already made in his career.
But, he anticipated that he'd need to address his playmaking and ball-handling at some point. So, he worked on it this past summer.
"Get into the paint. Create for a guy like Paul Reed. Get into the paint, get Mo Bamba a shot. Get De'Anthony Melton a shot or Tobias a shot or Danuel or PJ. Somebody like that. So, I think that was the biggest thing that I did," the young guard explained on the first day of training camp.
"I did a lot of four-on-four stuff, where I had to make reads and score. If the defense collapsed on me, then I'm kicking it out or, if the pocket pass is open, hitting the pocket pass. So, it's been pretty good."
He's still trying to learn the ins and outs of decision-making. Committing to certain decisions at the right times is something Maxey claims is more difficult than he had anticipated.
"I think one thing that I really got to figure out is, like, since I had the ball so much today in practice, I got to be comfortable with making certain decisions. Like, 'OK, it's my turn to score'. Manage the game. I think today was really good," Maxey said on Tuesday.
"I got into the paint, got a lot of guys open threes. Get some pocket passes with [Paul Reed] and Mo Bamba. Guys like that. Lobs and stuff. Today was pretty fun. It was cool. It's going to be a learning experience. I did it all when I was in high school. I did it all before that. And then Kentucky, I went to do something different. Here, I did so many different things now and in the fourth year that I'm in. So, I'm good. I'm happy."
His teammates have noticed the hard work paying off, and they're trusting that Maxey will find them.
"I've seen him become a much better passer. He's looking for the passes a lot more often. I'm, most of the time, the beneficiary of it. So, it's just good. I like to see it," reserve big Paul Reed said on Wednesday.
"Now, I feel like, when the season starts, we start playing these regular season games, he's going to make those same decisions and drop it off for me."
Maxey's change of pace and maneuvering of pick-and-rolls caught eyes in training camp. Not only is he making more passes, but he's working on different types of passes too.
"He's making some nice passes. Behind the back, pocket passes. I told him right before the summer started, 'You learn how to make those pocket passes, you're going to be an all-star. I'm going to make sure you're an all-star'. So, I think, you know, he's been working on his game all summer and he's done a great job," reigning MVP Joel Embiid told reporters on Thursday.
"He's got a long way to go. There's going to be a lot of challenges on the way. It's all about staying positive. Especially because when you play different teams and different schemes, you got to figure it out on the fly. That's hard. But, we're here to help him."
There will be no Embiid, James Harden, Melton, or Furkan Korkmaz in Sunday's preseason opener against the Celtics in Boston.
The ball will be in Maxey's hands.
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