August 25, 2023
As messy as the fallout between James Harden and Sixers president Daryl Morey seems to be getting, Tyrese Maxey is trying to stay level through all of it.
Because for him, one on side is a friend and mentor trying to get what he wants in the time still afforded to him in the NBA, while on the other is his team still very much on a mission to try and compete – whether it's with or without Harden.
It's complicated, and unfortunately, as Maxey put it on his podcast on Friday, not the Sixers' first rodeo on something like this either.
An excerpt of what the rising Sixers guard said on his latest edition of the "Maxey on the Mic" podcast:
"Of course, I'm watching it because I'm not going to sit here and say I didn't see any of it. I'm not going to sit here and say I don't go on social media. I'm not gonna sit there and tell that lie. I saw it, and it's just interesting.
"I will say this about the situation though: To each his own. James, he's a professional. He's doing something for a reason, and you just have to sit back and understand what he's doing as a friend. But then as a teammate and as someone a part of the organization that I'm with right now, you have to prepare for whether James is gonna be there or not gonna be there. That's just the nature of it. That's really just the nature of it, and it happens. It's not like – it's crazy to say this – but it's not our first rodeo, honestly. That's funny to say, but it's life.
"And, you know, James is his own individual. He's able to do whatever he pleases, and honestly, like I said, I'm prepared right now to play with him or without him. That's just the business side of it. It's no love lost because I love James to death. If he decided he was gonna come back and play with us, I think there's nobody in this organization that would be upset about that. But you just have to understand what he's going through and pray for him as a brother." [iHeartRadio]
That first rodeo is alluding to the lengthy Ben Simmons saga from two years ago, and probably no one on the Sixers, or within the Philly fan base, expected to be going through a similar situation again, much less so soon.
And yet, here we are.
After taking what was seen at the time as a significant pay cut only to end up unhappy and with another playoff failure, Harden opted into this 2023-24 player option with the Sixers, but only on the basis that president of basketball ops Daryl Morey would work with him to facilitate a trade.
However, the months went by, a trade never happened (well, at least not yet), the Sixers ended up pulling back on trade talks from a lack of competitive offers, and Harden grew impatient – going on to call Morey a "liar" and stating a refusal to ever work with him again at an Adidas Basketball event in China, which then drew the ire of the NBA and a hefty fine.
The whole thing has left fans equal parts frustrated and exhausted, and the team itself stuck between a rock and a hard place in trying to find ways to keep themselves competitive and chasing after an NBA title with reigning MVP Joel Embiid at the forefront.
It's getting late in the summer to still try and figure something out as well – training camp starts in roughly a month – leading to concern that this coming season for the Sixers might end up a total wash, though that isn't an idea Maxey is willing to entertain.
"You know, people ask me, like, 'If James doesn't come back, do you see this season as a wash?' I don't think, in the position that the Sixers are in, we can't ever see a season as a wash. We have talent, we have the reigning MVP on our team. We have to go out there and expect to win and expect to still try to complete our goal." [iHeartRadio]
He added that a the silver lining should Harden not return will be the added opportunity it will create both for himself and other players, mainly in the rotation.
And in Maxey's case especially, he definitely seems set to take another major step entering year 4, which depending on how it goes, might launch him into NBA stardom ahead of being due up for a new contract.
So yeah, Maxey knows the situation right now is messy, but he's trying to stay as level as he can through it.
"I can't let that stop the progress," Maxey said. "I can't let that stop what we're doing, I can't let that affect myself, and if anyone's taught me that, it's him. That's the funny part about it. I know if he's not gonna play, he's gonna be rooting for me to be the best version of myself because that's just the type of brother he is. He's a great person, and we love him for that."
You can check out the full episode of Maxey's podcast below:
Follow Nick on Twitter: @itssnick
Like us on Facebook: PhillyVoice Sports