For the past four seasons, the Philadelphia 76ers knew that they would have the ball in the hands of Ben Simmons, and he would run the offense the way it was designed.
With Simmons forcing his way out of town, the Sixers have to rely on other options.
On Monday, they turned to second-year guard Tyrese Maxey to run the offense. While Maxey is a point guard, he is not exactly a true point guard: He looks to score more than anything.
In Monday’s preseason loss to the Toronto Raptors, Maxey committed four turnovers and had a tough time getting the team into its sets. It is clear he has work to do.
“Oh, yeah,” coach Doc Rivers stated after the loss. “He’s got a long way to go. He’s just a second-year guy. He played one year in college, one year in the NBA, so we’re not threatened by that at all. I thought Shake (Milton) didn’t play great tonight, but he will, too. So those are the two guys that have the ball in their hands.”
The Raptors are led by veteran guards Fred VanVleet and Goran Dragic, and they employed a pressure defense against Maxey. They used a lot of aggressive traps to bother him, disrupt the offense and force turnovers.
“I thought the pressure bothered him tonight,” Rivers added. “We probably weren’t thinking about it, when’s the last time he’s been picked up in his life at a guard? It’s rare and they did that. You can see it bother him a little bit, but that’s something he’ll be able to handle. I have no doubt about that.”
Of course, this is all new to Maxey. Heading into his second season, he was expected to be the backup to Simmons. Now he is being thrust into a new role. He will have to learn to get the ball to Joel Embiid, Danny Green, Seth Curry and others as he continues with his point guard lessons.
“It’s literally just reps,” said Maxey after the loss. “I think we practiced four or five times until the game. This game makes six. This is the sixth time just playing with a different group, playing at a different pace. It’s gonna take time, but I have the ultimate confidence and they help me a lot. Seth, Tobias (Harris), Danny, Joel, everybody. They help me a lot, and I trust in them and we’ll figure it out.”
Granted, it did not help that Embiid and Harris missed the game. Those two will initiate a lot of Philadelphia’s offense and sets will run through the two of them.
“Just truth be told, the guys who are gonna have the ball in his hands the most would be Tobias and Joel in the half court,” Rivers did add. “Not having those two guys affected us.”
Nonetheless, the Sixers will need Maxey to learn from this performance and continue to grow for them to have success during the 2021-22 season.
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