Even in a stacked Eastern Conference with Boston, Miami, Brooklyn (contingent on the returns of Kevin Durant and Kyrie Irving) and Milwaukee all posing significant threats, it would be foolish to count out the Sixers, who seem confident as ever heading into the upcoming 2022-23 season. Perennial MVP candidates Joel Embiid and James Harden always give them a chance to win, but what makes the Sixers really dangerous is the emergence of Tyrese Maxey, a rising star coming off a breakout postseason, where the 6’2” guard averaged 20.8 points per game on efficient 48.4-percent shooting. Nobody is more excited about Maxey’s potential than Doc Rivers, who considers him among the most talented players he’s ever coached.
“He’s the most impressive young player I’ve had in 21 years of coaching,” Rivers raved on the VC Show with Vince Carter earlier this week. “His work ethic is beyond belief. Many times, already this summer at least 2-3 times, we’ve had to tell him to go sit down somewhere and go relax.”
After barely seeing the court as a rookie, Maxey took his game to another level last season, upping his scoring average from 8.0 to 17.5 points per game. Maxey’s sophomore leap was no accident says Rivers. In fact, Maxey recently took his first vacation, a concept so foreign to him that he asked Rivers’ son, Sixers skill development coach Spencer Rivers, for advice.
“He asked Spencer, ‘What do you do on vacation?’ Spence was like, ‘You relax.’ And he’s like, ‘For how long? How many days?’” said Rivers. “Last week he’s back in L.A., working out. And the first thing he said was, ‘Vacation’s too long, Coach. Can’t do it that long.’ And I’m thinking, man, I love this guy.”
Maxey, a former five-star recruit who spent his lone collegiate season at the University of Kentucky, experienced plenty of growing pains early in his Sixers tenure. But even when his shots weren’t falling, Rivers could see Maxey’s drive and determination, traits that have quickly propelled the 21-year-old to stardom.
“His rookie year was up and down. You saw him, he struggled a lot, struggled with his shot. But you’ve been in the gym before with guys that never miss, but then didn’t make shots in the game. And some of those guys you’re like, ‘He’ll get it.’ And he was one. I said it all year, ‘This guy can shoot,’” said Rivers of Maxey’s development from year one to year two. “You just knew eventually it would click on, and it really has.”