Maxey and Harden, Blue x White 2022; photo by Austin Krell/TPL

Sixers guard Tyrese Maxey is expected to miss three to four weeks with a small fracture in his left foot, a Sixers official confirmed to The Painted Lines on Saturday evening. The rising young guard will be reevaluated in three to four weeks and updates will be provided as appropriate. 

The third-year guard sustained the injury in the first half of Friday’s win over the Milwaukee Bucks, stepping awkwardly on Jevon Carter’s foot on a drive to the basket. Maxey left the game after shooting a pair of free throws, favoring the foot and wearing anguish on his face, and did not return. 

The Sixers are now without both of their opening night starting guards, with James Harden about halfway through his month-long stint on the shelf with a foot injury of his own. With Tobias Harris sliding into the team’s offensive structure as a fourth option on most nights, any offense not running through Joel Embiid is running through the two guards. So, losing Maxey, alone, for an extended stretch is a brutal development. Being without both guards could very well have catastrophic consequences for the team’s offensive product.

The Sixers’ goal for now is simple — find ways to tread water on a day-to-day basis. “You can’t do what you [regularly] do. I’ve learned that,” head coach Doc Rivers said before Saturday’s game against the Timberwolves when asked whether it’s better to mold the team’s foundational principles to the available personnel or continue to operate as the team normally would.

“You just got to do what you need to do to try to win that night. It becomes a “that night” mindset. Each night, everybody has to be ready to play different spots.”

Just as with any significant adversity in life, it serves the Sixers no purpose to try to solve every new problem created by these absences at once. The only thing they can reasonably do is take it one day at a time. For now, expect a promotion in the pecking order for Tobias Harris and, of course, an even larger volume of touches for Embiid.

You can make the case that perhaps treading water without Maxey is a bit easier than treading water without Harden. Maxey obviously provides a major punch in both efficient scoring and spirit, capable of injecting life into both his teammates and audience with acrobatic finishes at the rim or timely three-pointers and then retreating on defense with a smile on his face. As adept a shot-creator as he is for himself, Maxey’s playmaking for others is not taking the Sixers to new heights at this stage of his career. 

The Sixers have taken pride in their defense with Harden out, riding that side of the court to a 4-2 record while he recovers from his foot injury. Still, they’ve missed Harden’s playmaking dearly, the offense taking a noticeable stumble without his running the operation. Even with Maxey out for an extended stretch, they only have to navigate approximately two weeks without Harden’s dynamism on offense. While they figure to be only halfway through Maxey’s absence when Harden returns, they can breathe a little bit under the assumption that the bearded guy’s return will boost everyone else’s offensive game a little bit.

The Sixers have adjusted to life without Harden, rising up to third in the NBA on defense with their play on that end over the last six games. They’re going to have to adapt more until reinforcements arrive in the coming weeks. Expect some more playmaking freedom for De’Anthony Melton and a longer leash with Shake Milton’s decision-making, Philadelphia’s guard depth running thin with the two starters missing time. 

For now, Embiid is going to be the fulcrum of everything they do, even more than he already was. It’s their only chance.


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