Sixers media day takeaways and tidbits on Tyrese Maxey, P.J. Tucker, more

Seven takeaways and tidbits from Sixers media day on Maxey, Tucker, more originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

If you include president of basketball operations Daryl Morey and head coach Doc Rivers, 21 Sixers spoke with reporters on Monday.

As usual, media day featured ample optimism along with a few pieces of notable information and a few laughs before the start of training camp Tuesday in Charleston, South Carolina.

While not entirely comprehensive — we’ve got a story on James Harden here and more coverage to come — these tidbits and takeaways touch on much of the day at the Sixers’ practice facility in Camden, New Jersey:

Injury updates 

The Sixers announced Monday morning that P.J. Tucker underwent an offseason arthroscopic procedure on his left knee, has been cleared for on-court work and will take part in training camp. Tucker reiterated that he’s good to go.

“I’m doing great,” he said. “Time-wise, it made sense to go ahead and get it knocked out. It’s been six weeks and I’m fully cleared and back on the court doing everything. So I’m excited.”

Georges Niang expressed no concerns about his own left knee. After Niang sat out the Sixers’ final two regular-season games last year with a “left patella tendinopathy” designation on the NBA’s official injury report, his knee bothered him during the playoffs and he shot just 4 for 25 from three-point range in the second round.

“I had a little bit of bruising in my bone in my knee, and that took a little while to heal,” Niang said. “But I got a good summer under me. I’m fully healthy, I’m cleared and I’m ready to play. I think I know what needs to be done and what’s going to be asked of me moving forward, and I think we’re all going to be able to accomplish those things.”

After undergoing right thumb surgery and having a procedure on his left index finger in May, Joel Embiid was lighthearted on the subject of his health.

“I’m feeling great. I was in bed all summer,” he said with a laugh. “But I’m feeling great. Healthy, ready to go, ready to compete. It’s going to be fun.”

Furkan Korkmaz’s update was less typical.

“I had a little nerve damage starting since All-Star break of last year,” Korkmaz said. “That gives me a little bit of losing the sensation in my fingers and stuff. It was a little bit about the injury, too, and then I lost my rhythm, my mechanics changed a little — it was little changes I was feeling, but we couldn’t really tell what was going on.

“During the summer, I had enough time to look at what was really going on and then treat it. I had rehab for almost two months. I had good time to get better and now I’m feeling good. I’m feeling better. I cannot wait to just go out there and play.”

Over the 2018-19 and ’19-20 seasons, Korkmaz made 39.0 percent of his threes. He began well last season but failed to sustain any shooting success following a 2-for-18 game against the Bucks on Nov. 9. From that point on, Korkmaz went just 25.1 percent from three.

Maxey not the lone hard worker 

As everyone expected, Rivers lauded Tyrese Maxey’s exceptional dedication to improvement.

He placed two other players in the same category, though.

“Listen, he’s put in the work,” Rivers said of Maxey. “I’m not really as focused on individual expectations as you (reporters) probably are, because you have to write about it. I’m more focused on team and trying to be the best possible team. So on Tyrese, I just feel like he’ll play a big role in that. And the work that he’s done with (assistant coach Sam Cassell) and my son Spencer (Rivers, a Sixers skill development coach) has been amazing.

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“Between him and Paul Reed — and Matisse (Thybulle) — no one has outworked those three guys, I can guarantee you that. Now, you can put in all that work and you still need another year for it to come through. But he’s done everything — more — than we’ve asked him to do.”

Maxey shared his press conference with Reed and, as the 21-year-old fielded just about every question, kept finding ways to praise Reed for being “extremely competitive” and working “extremely hard.”

Reed, by the way, claimed that he’s increased his vertical leap by eight inches — from 28 to 36 — and said, “I”m just going to keep going up.”

Talking about vacation? 

Intervention was necessary to prevent Maxey from excessive hours in the gym.

“Sam called me probably 10 times,” Doc Rivers said. “My son even rang my doorbell one time with Sam. They weren’t invited, is what I’m saying, but they came to have a sit-down about calling him, making him shut it down. Man, it’s hard to shut a guy down like that. Paul Reed, too. It’s kind of hard, but they’re young and you kind of let them do it.”

Vacation doesn’t sound like it was Maxey’s cup of tea.

“This year I took my first vacation ever, and that was ridiculously … it was too long for me,” he said. “It was too much doing nothing. But it was great. I got to spend a lot of time with my family; my entire family went with me. I was blessed to have a lot of fun with them.

“But it’s a part of becoming a better professional — knowing when to take off, knowing how to rest your body, knowing how to recover. The medical staff really helped me. They’ve helped me a lot. They’ve been on me about recovery and all those different things, and taking time off. You’d rather somebody tell you to pull back than somebody have to try to ramp you up.”

New teammate Montrezl Harrell has a similar stance.

“My summer regimen is not really any regular one,” he said. “I literally think I play basketball all year round. I don’t vacation. I haven’t vacationed since I came in the league, honestly. I’ve never been to a vacation spot. I literally go to any league I can find. I’ve played out here in a couple of leagues before — the Brotherly Love, the Danny Rumph tournament, AEBL, Drew League.

“I don’t put the basketball down. I’m blessed to be able to play this game and call it my job, so I don’t try to spend too much time away from it. I think I probably take the first week off to give my body some time to just relax, sit down with my kids and not move, just be around the house. But then after that week or two, I’m right back to it.”

Harrell revealed Monday that Sixers legend Allen Iverson reached out to him “like three hours after” he signed a two-year, minimum-salary deal with a player option in Year 2. In 2020, Iverson had tweeted his congratulations to Harrell on winning the NBA’s Sixth Man of the Year award.

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“I actually did get a phone call from him, man,” Harrell said. “That’s crazy. I saw my phone and I instantly kind of knew it was him off the voice. That was big. It just shows the people that actually put this uniform on, come through here and were once a Sixer will always be a Sixer — that’s big. It’s just a huge honor, really.”

Toughness a lot more than a good snarl 

The Sixers plan to be a physical team that will check many of the boxes generally associated with toughness — contesting rebounds ferociously, applying bothersome ball pressure, welcoming trash talk and enjoying “ugly” aspects of winning.

In Tucker’s mind, toughness often intersects with steadiness.

“I don’t know if I can give you the exact answer of what it is,” he said. “I think it’s different for everybody. I think people see somebody and they’re making a mean face and they’re yelling, they think they’re tough. That’s not toughness. It’s being accountable, reliable, not backing down every night. Different assignments, it doesn’t matter. Being available — not being hurt; being able to go out there and compete.

“There’s so many different facets that go into being tough. But for me, the biggest toughness is the mental toughness to be able to play in an NBA season, play all games — most games — and play in the playoffs. That consistency, I think that’s the biggest thing about being tough.”

House, who’s played exactly half of his NBA games next to Harden (102 of 204), believes excellent effort is the main ingredient required next to the 10-time All-Star.

“The decision (to join the Sixers) was made based on me knowing the roster, doing research and talking to my agency,” House said. “And of course James’ ability to pass the ball, look for others — willing to turn down a layup … to kick it out and get someone else going. That’s always the type of connection he builds with his shooters … and people that are going to play hard.

“The only thing he wants you to do is just play hard. You play hard and be you, there’s nothing else he can ask from you.”

Birthdays galore 

In addition to getting married, Tobias Harris’ 30th birthday was a summer milestone.

“I don’t know how I’m saying that right now, because I asked Jaden Springer how old he turned yesterday and he told me 20, and I was like, ‘That’s crazy,’” Harris said. “It just goes to show, the NBA … when I came in the league, I was 19 years old. It goes by fast, but it’s an amazing time. To go into my 12th season in the NBA is a true blessing for me and I’m excited.”

With Shake Milton turning 26 years old Monday, the Sixers found time amid their various media obligations to celebrate. Unlike his own birthday in August, Harden did not toss any cakes off the side of a yacht.

Harris still keen on letting it fly 

Harris’ stated goal after the Sixers’ February trade for Harden was to play his part in “winning basketball.” An important component was accepting the catch-and-shoot three-point opportunities that came his way; Harris took 2.7 catch-and-shoot triples per game before Harden’s first Sixers appearance and 4.1 per game after his debut. 

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Harris said Monday he intends to “let them go even more this year in different situations on the floor.” He’s also been cognizant of releasing his jumpers quicker.

“I was noticing in a lot of the film prior that I just wasn’t letting the ball go fast enough in certain areas on the floor and hesitating a little bit,” he said. “But just letting it fly, letting it go and living with the result was probably the biggest adjustment.”

On paper, playing next to Tucker might mean further adjustments for Harris with more minutes at small forward. However, he doesn’t envision meaningful change based on a position shift.

“In Doc’s system, honestly, the three and four are pretty identical,” Harris said. “Probably the only adjustment would be who you’re guarding defensively. Last year I guarded twos, threes, fours, so I don’t think it’s that much of an adjustment, to be honest. … When we played in L.A. (with the Clippers), myself and Danilo Gallinari were the three-four and we never really labeled ourselves as three or four; it was just forwards. I think that’s kind of the same adjustment here. Obviously we’ll see what positions we’re in offensively as a group, but in terms of playing the three or the four, they’re pretty identical.”

(Legal) recruiters 

Morey unsurprisingly opted against commenting on the NBA’s ongoing investigation into the Sixers’ offseason moves. 

He did mention that Doc Rivers and Cassell played a “really key role” in Harrell joining the Sixers.

As for Harrell, he was playfully cautious with his language when asked whether Harden had pushed him to come to Philadelphia.

“I don’t know what you’re talking about, man,” he said. “I think that’s called tampering. Ain’t that a rule or something like that? I have no clue, man. I really have no clue. But it’s good to be back in a situation with familiar guys that I’m used to. I’ve seen James throughout the summer up there at Rico (Hines’) runs and just passing through, being in the city of L.A. That’s a lot of times where I work out with my trainer, Rico Hines. I’ve seen him a couple of times, man.

“Later on, the last couple of days leading up to it, he definitely started calling a little bit. I think I talked to him and Tobias a little bit, but that was already basically set in stone. They kind of knew it was about to happen, really. … It just feels good to get back with familiar guys that I’ve been around for a while; I played with James before, played with Tobias before. It feels good to be back around familiar faces, not only with the coaching staff but also guys you’ve shared the floor with, as well.”

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