Impressive Maxey has trio of 35-year-olds invested in him originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia
Everyone on the Sixers is older than Tyrese Maxey, a smiley 20-year-old who loves his job.
However, the team’s three oldest players — the 35-year-trio of Anthony Tolliver, George Hill and Dwight Howard — are especially affectionate toward the rookie.
With Ben Simmons (back tightness) and Seth Curry (left hip injury recovery) out Saturday night, Maxey started for the seventh time this season and had 22 points, five rebounds, four assists and two steals in a speedy, skilled performance. Howard couldn’t wait to talk about him after the Sixers’ win over the Pistons, the team’s eighth straight.
“Mad Max! I call him Mad Max,” Howard said. “He’s a demon. He gets out on the court and he causes havoc. He gets downhill; he was getting to the basket. I think he’s getting his touch and he’s getting a little bit better of a feel for the game of basketball.
“This year has been really tough for a rookie. He had no summer league and not a lot of practices, so for him to come in and do what he’s doing — playing big minutes when guys like Ben and Seth are out — I think he’s stepped up and he’s done a great job. I’m really proud of him.”
Tolliver and Hill are less ebullient than Howard, though they’ve both been happy to dispense wisdom.
“He’s been great,” Maxey said of Hill last month. “Ever since he’s been here, even when he wasn’t active to play, just talking to me and helping me — just being a guard in the NBA today. He played a couple low-minute games with me and while we were going at each other, competing extremely hard, he’s still teaching me. He’s teaching me different ways to score, different ways to defend, and that’s while we’re going at each other. The competitive spirit is high whenever you lace them up. I really do appreciate him.”
Hill was evidently impressed by what he saw in those low-minute scrimmages.
“I like the kid a lot,” he said. “I think he’s going to have a bright future in the NBA. I like his speed. … He listens. He’s going to be a really good guard. I just try to do the things and tell him the things I’ve learned from some of the great players I’ve played with — the good and the bad on and off the floor, just so he can be a better player.”
About two hours before his first game as a Sixer, Tolliver put up jumpers and then sat down to watch film with Sixers video coordinator DJ MacLeay and Maxey, who looked like he could’ve been his nephew. Even after getting up to speed on the Sixers’ schemes, Tolliver continued running through his pregame routine at the same time as Maxey.
On his 11th NBA team, Tolliver has shared the floor with hundreds of players. Maxey has several qualities that stand out to him.
“He’s a heck of a player,” Tolliver said on May 2. “He’s going to be a special kid in this league, special player in this league for a long time. Crazy speed, crazy athleticism — something you can’t teach. Just the nuances of the game, as he gets better at those, that’s going to be his determining factor. How high and how wide can his greatness spread? As he learns his game and as he learns how to create for other people and do those things, the sky’s the limit for him. He has unbelievable potential.
“Great kid, great personality, hard worker. You have those things and you add the ability to go out and learn — and not just the ability to learn, but actually wanting to learn those next phases. He could easily just say, ‘You know what? I’m really good at scoring. That’s what I’m going to do.’ And he could make a great career from just being a great scorer. But if he really wants to meet his highest potential, which I think he does, I think that he’s going to continue to listen and learn about how to become a phenomenal point guard.”
As Tolliver suggested, Maxey’s ability to run an offense and distribute the ball to his teammates will likely be scrutinized down the road. One encouraging sign in the present is his 7.7 turnover percentage outside of garbage time, which ranks in the 90th percentile of NBA combo guards, per Cleaning the Glass. He’s adventurous in the open floor but rarely reckless.
The Sixers’ 35-year-olds all appreciate how good Maxey could be, though they care about this season, too. Maxey has been on the Sixers’ rotation bubble throughout the year. Just how much will he play in the postseason?
Head coach Doc Rivers said Saturday the Sixers would “not blink at playing 11 guys if we need to.”
Joel Embiid has an opinion on the subject.
“I loved it,” Embiid said. “He’s been on and off the whole season. I feel like he should be playing. The last couple games that he’s played, he’s been amazing to watch, and he’s been doing a great job. That’s someone that when he got here, I felt like he had a lot of potential and I felt like I needed to help him. And he’s a hard worker, and he’s showing up. You see what he did tonight.
“He has that potential but sometimes you’ve just got to wait for your chance, for your turn, and that’s what he’s been doing. He’s been patient and whenever his name is called, he shows up and he does a great job.”
In an answer that no doubt would’ve pleased his veteran teammates, Maxey touched on that same idea. Perhaps, in a decade and a half, he’ll be in Howard or Hill’s shoes.
“… The season’s been great; we’ve been winning,” he said. “Like I’ve been saying, my job on this team, my role on this team is to always stay ready. Always stay ready no matter the circumstance, and always step up and not let it be a letdown, and help the team win.”