CHARLESTON, S.C. — Tyrese Maxey was focused on getting stronger.
At media day on Monday, he said he worked on strength in the offseason because he wanted to try to fight through screens and improve defensively.
Consistency was key, Maxey said on Wednesday.
It would’ve been easy to jeopardize that consistency. Maxey spent the summer months floating between Los Angeles, Dallas, and Philadelphia. He lifted four times per week, making time to do it no matter what.
Dallas, Texas, Maxey’s hometown, presented its own set of constraints. He had to find different spots to get his workouts done because there was limited equipment available. Sometimes he had to go to Southern Methodist University. Other times, he had to go to his high school, where his former coach still works.
Whatever it took.
Maxey would call Skills Development coach Spencer Rivers and assistant coach Sam Cassell into the gym at the crack of dawn for workouts. “They’d call me ‘crazy’. They’re like, ‘Dude, why are we here at 6 o’clock in the morning? Like, I don’t understand’,” Maxey explained when asked to verify Doc Rivers’ stories of having to shut him out of the gym for working out too much.
“I’m like, ‘Man, it’s just how it is, man.’ Everybody has their own thing,” Maxey said.
He rationalizes his will to wake up before everyone else and work out as a psychological advantage over his opponent. As far as Maxey knows, no one’s getting up at 5 a.m. to go to the gym.
The younger Rivers and elder Cassell can thank Rod Clark, an assistant coach at the University of Tennessee, every time their alarms go off before the sun rises.
“I think it kind of started my 10th grade year of high school, in the summer. I remember I worked out with Rod Clark, who’s now at Tennessee, I worked out with him a couple of times. He just did this thing called The Breakfast Club. He got a group of guys together; one of my best friends, Chris, who goes to Oklahoma State now,” Maxey explained of where his early-morning habit originated.
“We would get up early in the morning, we would go over there. ‘Early’ then was like 7. And then one day, we spent the night at his house. And he was like, ‘Man, let’s go work out at like 4:30 a.m.’. He woke us all up. We were all in there asleep. He woke us up and we went in there and worked out at like 4:30-4:45 in the morning. And ever since then, I just felt like, I mean, when I got to Kentucky, I kind of organized a little Breakfast Club with my teammates. It just felt like my advantage. I just try to go out there and do whatever it takes, man. Whatever it takes to be the best I can possibly be to help the team that I’m on.”
The special club that Maxey carried from his grade school days to his lone season at the University of Kentucky and now the NBA has prepared him for whatever role the Sixers want him to play.
“Tyrese has been a scorer his whole life. I don’t expect him to be this great facilitator this year. That’s not going to happen. I want Tyrese to score,” Doc Rivers said on Tuesday. “But when a guy is open, I want him to see him every once in a while. But, he will. That’ll come. I’m patient with that one. I’d rather him be an aggressive scorer right now.”
Rivers suspects it could take years for Maxey to learn how to consistently make plays for his teammates. But, that doesn’t mean he wants his young guard to take a passive approach and allow James Harden to dominate the ball. Harden bringing the ball up was an imbalance Rivers noticed on the first day of camp.
“‘Who’s one and two?” Rivers asked Maxey and Harden on Tuesday.
“We’re both number one,” Harden answered.
“Oh, really?” Rivers asked.
Maxey laughed, aware of what Rivers was getting at with his rhetorical question.
Make no mistake, that’s a friendly banter intended to remind the starting backcourt to share ball-handling duties. They’re not going to find that balance in one day. It’s going to be a process. But, Maxey has had conversations with his head coach about it already.
“He talked to me a lot. He was just telling me I can’t just be running up the court, leaving James back there by himself all the time. It has to be a good balance, me on the ball and off the ball. He feels like that was one thing that he wanted us to work on, and I think we did that today. We did that well today. It’s great, it’s going to be a process,” Maxey said on Wednesday.
“It’s really good for us to have this training camp, though, because like we’ve been talking about, James only got to play 21, 22 regular-season games with us last year and we got thrown into the fire. We were successful, but we didn’t reach the goal that we wanted to reach. So, it’s good to have these days of training camp with just practice and the reps. You keep repping it, it’s eventually going to come to light.”
At the end of the day, talent matters first and foremost. Buying into one’s role is the finishing touch that makes the entree all the more rich in flavor. Maxey buys in because Harden and the rest of the team believes in him so heavily.
“I learned a lot, honestly, on the court and off the court. Like I said, I feel like I’ve known him for forever. It’s crazy, like we connected as soon as he got here. He’s like a big brother to me. And I really do appreciate everything he’s done for me. He’s really been on me about being aggressive, though, he’s really been on me about not deferring,” Maxey said of what he learned from working out with Harden this summer.
“He’s like, ‘Man, you have talent, you have skill, and you have will. So if you have those three things, you know we trust you, Joel trusts you, Coach Doc trusts you, and I know you trust yourself. You put the work in, so just go out there and bring it to life.'”