Photo by Austin Krell/The Painted Lines

Tyrese Maxey made his presence felt in his first Summer League action. He did not have such an opportunity in his rookie campaign.

Drafted almost one month to the day before his first regular season opened, Maxey missed much of his rookie training camp after testing positive for COVID-19. That didn’t stop him from stealing the hearts of Sixers fans everywhere the moment he stepped on the court.

Maxey had some lows that kept him out of the rotation at times during his rookie campaign. Namely, untrustworthy defense and a tendency to settle for floaters instead of leveraging speed to get to the cup kept him off the court at times.

Despite that, he ended his first season on a high note, serving as a spark plug for a Sixers team that was fighting to overcome an offensively flummoxed Ben Simmons. They could not overcome that gargantuan problem, of course. But, Maxey’s development was a distant light on the horizon at a time when storm clouds smothered the franchise.

Maxey has some basketball development to showcase on the basketball court in this trip to Las Vegas. But, his development is not all about basketball.

The second-year guard is exhibiting a leader’s mentality–a trait that excellent point guards must have. “Off-days aren’t off-days for rookies. Optional shooting isn’t optional shooting. You need to be there every single day and find a way to get one-percent better because you never know when your time’s gonna be called,” Maxey said of his advice to the incoming rookie class.

“There’s times where I’ve been playing, I didn’t play the whole first quarter. Second quarter with five minutes left to go. Coach is yelling my name because someone has two fouls. You got to be able to go out there and know the scouting report, know the plays, and be successful and try to help the team win. So, you just stay ready and wait for your moment.” 

That doesn’t mean there aren’t basketball issues for him to tend to. He grazed the 30-percent mark as a three-point shooter in his freshman season in the NBA. The Sixers are well-aware that that number needs to elevate significantly as his career progresses.

“For him, the number-one priority is running the team and being the point guard out there,” said Sixers Summer League head coach Brian Adams after the team’s 22-point victory over the Dallas Mavericks on Monday.

“But, also his ability to space the floor with the three. Whether it’s on a spot-up or just aggressive one-on-one, or in pick-and-roll. That’s definitely an area we’re trying to get him, especially if people go under the pick-and-roll. We want to make people pay and have people have to go over going forward.”

If Maxey is going to run a team and be a point guard, his teammates need to respect him as a leader. The sophomore guard poured in 21 points on 15 field goal attempts (3-for-6 on triples). He also stuffed the stat sheet with 5 rebounds, 4 assists, and 3 steals on Monday.

Maxey’s words won’t lose weight if he dominates the rest of Summer League the way he did the Mavericks on Monday afternoon.