June 23, 2024

NBA notebook: Joel Embiid finally finds what he’s been looking for in two-man game with Tyrese Maxey

There could also be nothing as enjoyable in regards to the 2023 Philadelphia 76ers because the thriving relationship between Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey. In the locker room, they’re a gregarious buddy-cop duo, buying and selling jokes and shoutouts throughout media classes. On the ground, they’ve developed a chemistry that has catapulted the Sixers to spectacular heights thus far this season with their 13-7 begin.

Maxey’s progress right into a bona fide NBA lead guard has been the important thing improvement for Philadelphia, however his relationship with Embiid has been a sight to behold as properly. The 76ers have the second-most environment friendly offense in the league. They are averaging 124.8 factors per 100 possessions in the non-garbage time minutes Embiid and Maxey share the ground, in accordance with Cleaning The Glass, and outscoring opponents by 8.6 factors. Their two-man game is vibrant and cheeky.

It’s a connection Embiid by no means had with James Harden. Last season, the 2 have been a drive, however the advantages dripped a technique. Harden assisted Embiid on 244 buckets, practically 100 greater than every other mixture in the league, but it surely was hardly reciprocated. Tobias Harris, De’Anthony Melton and Maxey have been all extra prolific beneficiaries of Embiid’s largesse. This 12 months, Embiid and Maxey have fashioned a symbiotic bond.

The two-man game between Embiid and Maxey has been a delight. Embiid remains to be the most important beneficiary. Maxey has assisted on 51 Embiid area objectives — second-most in the league — however Embiid has created 31 Maxey baskets, in accordance with PBPstats. That’s already practically as many made photographs as he assisted on with Harden final season (33).

Embiid has been wistful for the connection he shared with JJ Redick on the court docket in their two years collectively. Redick, in a podcast with Embiid three years ago, referred to as their dribble handoff motion on the left elbow “an unstoppable play.” In their dialog collectively, Redick promised Embiid would someday discover a new partnership simply as cagey and enjoyable. Embiid was uncertain. “I guarantee I will not,” he instructed Redick. But plainly Embiid has had his want granted.

“He kind of reminds me of what me and JJ had — that combination,” Embiid mentioned of his two-man game with Maxey. “He’s better at just attacking the rim. Can put it on the floor and is a great shooter. That’s a great combination. Just his patience in accepting what the defense has given him.”

The two now learn and react to at least one one other after they’re paired collectively in an motion. Embiid stays a menace. He’s a lethal midrange shooter, and defenses gravitate in direction of him.

But he’s additionally looking to cross extra typically and, in Maxey, he has a lightning-quick accomplice who can shoot with just a bit little bit of house or adapt to the protection and get downhill.

“It’s interesting,” Maxey mentioned. “It’s hard. It’s hard to figure it out. Sometimes, I can handle and he can set screens. If they’re in drop, I can shoot 3s. If they’re up, I can probably pass to Joel. There’s so many things we can do. I can play off the catch when he’s handling and he has the ball. Hats off to him, he’s been on me to be aggressive. He’s helped me. A lot. He’s set screens, and he’s looking for me and looking for all of us. Joel has really bought in, and we really appreciate that.”

That is an outgrowth of Embiid’s progress as a playmaker. He is averaging career-highs in assists per game (6.6) — that’s 2.3 extra assists per game than final season — and per 100 possessions. He is a extra prepared and fluid passer. Embiid believes the best teams are built around ball movement, and he’s backing it up.

Embiid’s presence is itself a weapon. Defenses can’t simply fixate on Maxey, at the same time as he flies round to take a dribble handoff or dance off Embiid’s actions to fling himself open. He’s 7-feet and 280 kilos and makes use of his physique as a protect to guard Maxey and provides him only a few extra nanoseconds to behave. Embiid is so giant and so deft that he may be the passer and the screener similtaneously Maxey orbits round him.

“I’m trying to make the game easier for him most of the time,” Embiid mentioned. “I’m not a hard roller that’s going to go out and catch a bunch of lobs and stuff, so I can compensate that with just holding the screen and just freeing him up and just making sure he has that space to create some separation from his defender. My whole thought process is just to get him better, try to get him easy looks. We gonna keep doing that.”

Embiid and Maxey hit one other degree final month throughout the 76ers’ deconstruction of the Los Angeles Lakers.

On this play, Embiid tosses it to Maxey, who’s wheeling round a pindown by Nicolas Batum, after which Embiid steps to his proper to make life tougher for Max Christie who’s trailing behind Maxey and making an attempt to maintain up. That creates the house for Maxey to take a dribble and fireplace.

Slightly later in the primary quarter, Embiid units up on the wing and catches a cross from Maxey, who then runs proper again at him to the sideline. Embiid will get spicy this time round and goes with a no-look bounce cross to a spot that enables Maxey to catch, collect and step right into a shot, whereas Embiid chips at Taurean Prince making an attempt to recuperate.

This isn’t simply purposeful — it’s virtually premeditated and one thing Embiid has put thought into forward of video games like that one. He is studying the protection and Maxey and processing his response.

Even in the midst of his 50-point tour de drive in opposition to the Washington Wizards Wednesday, Embiid nonetheless had seven assists. He and Maxey discovered methods to improvise, like this saucy bounce by Embiid to cross Maxey into a protracted runner.

“We were talking about it; if the defense is trailing him, there’s no point of handing the ball off,” Embiid mentioned later that evening. “Just throwing the ball so he can get it on the run and attack or go right into his shooting pocket. It’s all about reading the defense and his defender. Sometimes I can lead the fakes and me attacking. It’s fun. I love playing like that. The two-man game is just fun, just passing the ball and run until you find whatever is open.”

Embiid had slightly extra enjoyable in the second quarter of Wednesday’s game. The two are in practically the identical spot and after Maxey provides a tough pretend to his left to attempt to shake Christie, Embiid goes between his legs to as soon as once more cross Maxey to a spot and away from a defender. Christie does an amazing job darting round Embiid, however Maxey has the benefit and makes use of Christie’s pace in opposition to him to step again right into a midrange jumper.

“It’s a lot of different reads that go on,” Maxey mentioned. “If he goes under, pop back. If he denies it, go backdoor. If he’s trailing me, I curl sometimes. It’s just a lot of different things that I can do off of that. It just comes with a lot of repetition, a lot of practice, a lot of film, and we’re going to keep trying to get better at that.”

This isn’t all one-sided in fact. Maxey creates for Embiid as properly. The 76ers star, regardless of his giant body, is such a proficient offensive participant that he can make the most of wherever the protection is. He can catch-and-pop, dribble right into a midrange jumper or simply catch and proceed to bludgeon an already-kneecapped protection.

Maxey makes use of his pace to assault defenders and drive the entire unit to break down on him. They have some concern of Maxey now too. That’s what occurs while you common 26.9 factors per game. Maxey and Embiid can join on a dribble handoff at full pace and in reverse instructions, permitting Embiid to go downhill in opposition to some poor large man who has to start out shifting his toes to cease a freight prepare. Or Maxey can drive and sit back out, the place Embiid lingers alone on the perimeter and may select to shoot or inflict a extra bodily punishment in the paint.

Undoubtedly, this two-man game will acquire some extra permutations as defenses adapt and Maxey and Embiid determine new wrinkles. But for now it’s already among the many many enjoyable issues about these 76ers, led by the reciprocity of their two finest gamers.


When the NBPA made its surprising choice to appoint a new leader final month, with Tamika Tremaglio out as its government director, it turned to a gradual hand to take management. Andre Iguodala spent greater than a decade on its government committee throughout his lengthy NBA profession and served as vp throughout the previous couple of years of in the league. He had seemingly stepped away from a labor place in retirement, working Mosaic, his enterprise capital fund. Iguodala mentioned it was a possibility he felt he needed to take.

“Just a unique opportunity brought on from the executive committee,” he instructed The Athletic. “I spent 10 years on the executive committee, done a lot of tremendous work with Chris Paul. And you know when Tamika decided that she wanted to explore other endeavors for herself, the players thought it was perfect timing, with my career ending, helping them continue to progress, continue to transition and helping out with that. So, it was just a unique opportunity to do that. I’m indebted to the players and servicing the guys, and it was a no-brainer.”

Iguodala took the title of appearing government director. So, will he pursue the job completely?

“We shall see,” he mentioned.

Sometimes, yow will discover pleasure in small locations throughout an NBA game. Like the graphics throughout a broadcast of a Sacramento Kings game.

Check out the scorebug in the decrease proper hand nook after Nikola Jokić hits the three. The little three fingers that go as much as signify that somebody has hit a 3-pointer — yeah, that’s the good things.

It appears that 3-point area aim graphic isn’t simply for Kings video games. They’re throughout every broadcast for groups on NBC Sports RSNs. NBC Sports Chicago makes use of it for Bulls video games. NBC Sports Philadelphia makes use of it for 76ers video games, as does NBC Sports Bay Area and NBC Sports Boston.

It’s a pleasant contact, and the little issues generally can brighten up a game.

(Photo of Embiid and Maxey: Tim Nwachukwu / Getty Images)