Former Kentucky standout Tyrese Maxey expected to be a lottery selection in the 2020 NBA Draft after his freshman season with the Wildcats.
But Maxey’s lack of experience and size shied teams away from him. The young guard slipped to the early 20s before the Philadelphia 76ers scooped him.
In tears on draft night, an emotional Maxey promised the Sixers and the city of Philadelphia that they wouldn’t regret welcoming him in.
Through his first two seasons, Maxey has stayed true to his word.
While Maxey didn’t burst on the scene as a rookie standout in the NBA last year, he showed flashes as a rotational piece. In 61 games, Maxey averaged eight points and two assists while shooting 46-percent from the field and 30-percent from deep.
Maxey was thrown into the deep end as Philly’s three-time All-Star point guard Ben Simmons held out from the team during his sophomore effort. When it was sink or swim time for young Tyrese, the former first-rounder thrived.
In 74 starts, Maxey doubled his production while shooting more efficiently. After spending an average of 35 minutes on the floor, Maxey put up 17 points per game and produced four assists per game while shooting 48-percent from the field and 43-percent from three.
Maxey’s strong work ethic hasn’t been understated throughout his first two years. And as Maxey’s work behind the scenes shined bright under the lights, 76ers head coach Doc Rivers feels that fans should celebrate the season Maxey had even after the Sixers came up short this year.
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“I think we should celebrate Tyrese,” said Rivers on Thursday. “He grew up in front of our eyes. So, there are a lot of good things that we can take out of the year. The bad thing is we’re not going to be the winner. You know, there’s only gonna be one of those, by the way. And we’re just not going to be it.”
While Rivers feels fans should celebrate Maxey’s success in year two, the soon-to-be third-year guard has taken the loss to heart and will use his playoff shortcomings as fuel going into the offseason.
“I just love the kid,” said Rivers. “I think you know that. I’ve only said it 100 times, and he is still learning how to win too. He’s learned how to execute and come out of timeouts and run the right plays. You know, he may have to be a point guard at some point. Right now, he’s more than two, which was good for him. But he has a lot to learn. I will say this with him; he will learn it because he’ll outwork every single person this summer. My guess is he’s already planned his summer, and that’s why you love a kid like that.
The following afternoon, Rivers addressed the media for the final time of the 2021-2022 season. That’s when he revealed that he received a late-night call hours after the Sixers were eliminated from the playoffs. The caller? A disappointed but motivated Tyrese Maxey.
“I’m proud of all of our guys, honestly, whether they reach their expectations or not,” Rivers said. “As a coach, you judge them on their effort. Tyrese, in my opinion, has a chance to be a special kid. You know, I’m sitting at home last night, and it’s one in the morning, phone rings, and it’s him, so.” [Long pause].
Clearly choked up, Rivers couldn’t finish his sentence regarding the call he got from Maxey. Although Doc is never one to reveal the specifics of player-coach private conversations, one can only assume that Maxey’s call to Rivers just once again proved he’s ready to make a significant leap in year three, where he’ll more than likely start for the 76ers again.
Justin Grasso covers the Philadelphia 76ers for Sports Illustrated. You can follow him for live updates on Twitter: @JGrasso_.
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