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December 07, 2022

Tyrese Maxey itching to rejoin Sixers, still working through injury

Maxey is still recovering from a fracture in his left foot and it remains unclear when he'll return to the court.

The Sixers expected to have a couple of important days of practice this week, three days separating their loss vs. Houston and their upcoming game against the Lakers. The idea seems better than the current reality, at least according to the head coach.

"We didn't do much, we didn't have enough guys, I think we had seven guys who could practice today," Doc Rivers told reporters on Wednesday.

Though that number was a slight exaggeration in light of the style of practice — the Sixers had a film and light work day, not a rigorous workout — there was one bit of good news for Philadelphia on the injury front. 76ers guard Tyrese Maxey was spotted out on the floor Wednesday, and in workout garb to boot. 

Behold, Maxey with a hairstyle reminiscent of his high school and college days:

Maxey is recovering from a small fracture in his left foot. 

If there's hope for this group on the horizon, it stems from the return of their young, shining light, who adds a different dimension to the team when he's on the floor. 

So far, the team has been fairly tight-lipped on his progress. A team official reiterated to PhillyVoice on Wednesday that he's out of the boot and progressing well, but no updates have been provided beyond that. That follows a sort-of-ominous assessment from his coach, who spoke on the young guard after practice. I'm going to include the questions here for full context:

REPORTER: What is Tyrese able to do at this point?

RIVERS: Today he ran, still not jumping though, which is a concern. Did not sprint, so I don't want to get it—but he did run up and down the floor, he's not been able to do that. I guess the only concerning thing is he's not able to jump yet. That would mean he's a way away, to say the least. 

REPORTER: Does that mean, is he getting any shots up at all?

RIVERS: Starting two days ago. He literally, he's been going nuts, stir crazy is the better word. You know, calling us, FaceTiming us, 'I don't know what to do,' sit at home and watch TV, I mean I don't know what to tell you. But at least today, he was so happy because he can shoot, and he hasn't been able to touch a ball, which for him, he's young. he probably has never done this.

REPORTER: So you said way's away, you think he'll be back this month?

RIVERS: I don't know any of that. A way's away for me is two games, three games. If I gave you a two week thing, I don't even know what I'm talking about, I just know when you haven't run and jumped, it makes sense.

Clear as mud, in other words. That lines up with the noise that came out on the injury right after the news broke — the team said Maxey would be reevaluated about two weeks out from the injury, and that date passed this past Saturday, December 3. But reporting elsewhere and here at PhillyVoice put Maxey on a timeline of roughly 3-4 weeks. The longer side of that timeline would have him back at full go around December 17.

(Looking at the schedule, that would knock him out for an upcoming four pack of games against the Lakers, Hornets, Kings, and Warriors, giving him a chance to return against the Raptors on 12/19. The three-day break between the Warriors and Raptors games would also allow him to get some hard practice reps in with the group before jumping back in the lineup.)

The two players dealt with different foot injuries, but we can at least look at James Harden's recent return-to-play path as a rough guide. Harden spoke to reporters at the practice facility on November 17, which was his first day he was able to shoot post-injury. His first game back after that milestone was two weeks and four days later. If Maxey followed that exact same timeline from shots to game readiness — and again, these are different injuries for different people — it would make his earliest return date December 23 against the Clippers, knocking him out for five more games in the weeks ahead.

Regardless of where the timeline settles, Maxey's return to the floor feels absolutely imperative for the Sixers, who have struggled to build a cohesive identity while cycling through lineups and players through the first 24 games of the season. We have passed the quarter mark for the year and don't have any real grasp on who this team is. They got high-scoring Harden to start the year, but that coincided with a lethargic Joel Embiid on defense. We got a dominant run from Embiid and excellent defense during Harden's absence, but basement-level offense from the group.

Aside from his ability to score in bunches, Maxey brings a level of youth and positivity that it feels like this group needs to work through the mid-season churn of the NBA. It's a big ask to expect him to help set the tone of the team with veteran leaders driving the ship, but the impact of his presence is undeniable.

For the sake of his health and the watchability of the team, here's to a swifter return than his coach seems to expect.

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