If there’s one positive that’s emerging from the entire COVID-19 mess that forced the Philadelphia 76ers to play with a skeleton crew on Saturday night against the Denver Nuggets, it’s that they have something promising in Tyrese Maxey.
The 20-year-old rookie guard taken 21st overall out of Kentucky dropped 39 points in 43 minutes of action as the Sixers played with only seven players after Seth Curry tested positive for the virus in Brooklyn — forcing the team to quarantine in New York until Friday.
In reality, this is a game that shouldn’t have been played at all. Sixers head coach Doc Rivers himself said that the game shouldn’t have been played, but the NBA moved forward with it anyway, creating more uncertainty around what already looks like shaky COVID protocols.
At least Rivers got to see the Sixers’ new star in the making get big-time minutes in the loss.
“He was great,” Rivers said. “We needed him to be and we told him that before the game. He didn’t do it in a way where it looked like he was searching shots. He did it in a way where he ran the offense and got it in the flow. I’m really happy for him and not only just his scoring, he really didn’t turn the ball over, he had a great assist night, he had a great rebound night, he did a lot of things for us tonight.”
His 18-of-33 shooting night to go with seven rebounds and six assists looks as though it’s Maxey’s coming out party, at least for the head coach, who believes the sky is the limit with the youngster.
“I’m telling you, he’s going to be a terrific player,” Rivers said. “He’s going to keep getting better. He’s going to keep getting smarter by just playing with all these vets and it was actually a good team … [Denver is] a very clever basketball team in the way they play through [star forward Nikola] Jokic and all the cuts. I guarantee you, he learned something from that today, for sure.”
Issues often arise when it comes to younger players sharing the basketball effectively while carrying the offensive load. For Maxey, that wasn’t the case — which shows maturity beyond his years.
“I don’t think it was difficult,” Maxey said. “I know I had to hunt my shot just a little bit more because it was needed, but [my teammates] put in a lot of work… I definitely wanted to get them involved as well. I want them to have this opportunity for all of us. I want them to show what they can do as well. I still want to play within the offense and do everything in my power to help us win the game.”