The occasional yawn joins the conversation between me and Tyrese Maxey. The 22-year-old guard is, presumably, a bit tired, and with good reason. He’s just returned home following a weeklong road trip in early March that saw he and the Philadelphia 76ers win four of five, including a nail-biting, come-from-behind victory of the league-leading Milwaukee Bucks. During that stretch, Maxey re-entered the starting lineup and tallied more than 36 minutes a night. His instantaneous afterburners and eclectic shooting prowess flummoxed every opponent, all while he was often tasked with picking up ball-handlers full-court. That’s quite the workload, even for a youthful trackstar like the Dallas native.
Since rejoining the starting lineup on March 1, Maxey’s morphed into a flamethrower, averaging 23.4 points on 70.1 percent true shooting. During that span, the Sixers are 10-5, with three of those losses coming while James Harden’s been sidelined the past week. On behalf of New Balance, which Maxey officially partnered with earlier this season, Dime caught up with the Philadelphia guard to talk about his go-to casual and on-court sneakers, what’s different about this year’s Sixers squad, and much more.
Just off the bat, I’m curious what you like about New Balances and what drew you to them as your sneaker of choice?
I think the main thing that drew me to the brand is, one, the family connection and just how the relationship that I created with people of the brand, and then, two, the comfort level of the on-the-court shoes are great for me. And I like the style off the court. They’re very stylish. They’re up and coming, they’re rising and a lot of people like them among young audiences, too, so, I’ve been very pleased.
What are you wearing on the court and then what are you wearing off the court?
On the court, I’m wearing like these PE Two Wxys. And then, off the court, I wear everything, man. I think my favorites are 2002. But the 1906s have been growing on me, the 993s, 991s have been growing on me. It’s been great.
Are you more of a guy who likes likes a flashy shoe to kind of draw attention to them or do you go more with the subdued colorways?
Well, I’m a big-time shoe person. I’ve always been a big-time shoe person. So, I like all colorways, like neutrals, the massive colorway, anything. I like for shoes to tell stories.
Did you have a history with New Balance growing up at all? Did you wear them on or off the court at all, or is this your first full dive into the brand?
This is kind of my first full dive, man. My uncle, he was a big fan. Since he moved out here to Philly, he’s been a big fan. He’s in it now. He’s been basically teasing me because I couldn’t wear them. But he had all of them. That’s how I was definitely getting on board. But it’s really up and coming, man. It’s funny, because now I see a lot of people in Dallas, and on that side of the country wearing them as well, not just the East Coast and that’s what it’s all about.
Are you are you getting your friends and family on the New Balance train these days?
Oh, yes, for sure. They know that if they come into my house or they step foot in Philadelphia and I see them, then that’s all they’re allowed to wear.
Shifting gears to the Philly side of things, as a team this year, you’ve had a knack for some some big comebacks. What is it about this team that leads to that resilience? And similar to that, the late game execution really seems to pop for you all. What are the driving forces behind those components?
I think the main thing with the resilience is that we’re together and we’re all set in the same direction. We all have one common goal in mind and everybody’s buying into their roles and what they have to do to be successful. And then, with the late game execution, we have multiple guys that can get you multiple baskets in a variety of different ways. James [Harden] can create for other, James can create for himself. Joel [Embiid] can, I can, you can post Tobias [Harris]. You got [De’Anthony Melton] who can knock down shots, Shake [Milton], Georges Niang hit 3s. We have so many different guys that can score and that can beat you. The variety of the options in how we can score the ball really makes us hard to defend.
A lot of those guys were on the team last year and maybe, the late game execution was good last year, but how do you think it differs for you guys this season?
Because I think this year we know what we’re looking for. I know last year, we acquired James like midway through the year, so I’m not gonna say we were just winging it. But we’re kind of just figuring it out. … It’s hard to be successful that way. But we were still successful, we made it to the second round. And now everybody knows where they want the ball and James knows what we’re gonna run late in games and everybody’s bought in, so, it’s been better.
You mention James. What have you learned from him, not only because he’s an accomplished scorer and passer, but also someone who’s, to an extent, filled a similar role to you, where he’s blended being a starter and coming off the bench. So, what have you learned from him in general, and maybe how to handle that balance of things in your role?
I’ve learned a lot from James. He’s been great. He’s been great on and off the court. On the court, for sure, he’s taught me so many different things. He’s taught me to be confident. He’s taught me to be myself. He’s just really helped me be someone who can go out there every single night and perform at the highest level, and help our team win. He still helps with confidence, as far as telling me that he’s here to help me. He said that from day one. He said he wouldn’t be here to hinder my progress. He’s gonna only be here to help and I think he’s done that, man. He’s kinda taken me under his wing and helped me be successful, even more successful than I was before.
Obviously, you’ve re-entered the starting lineup, but what are the differences for you in terms of maybe the reads, the looks, the angles you get and all that when you come off event bench versus when you do start games? How does that differ for you?
It’s only different because you don’t know when you’re going to go in sometimes. You don’t know who you’ll be in with or you don’t know you’re getting rhythm, movement, things like that. But you gotta figure it out. Either way, whatever it is, you have to go out there and be successful with it and help win your team win games. I think I’ve done that for the most part.
You’re enjoying a nice groove here personally. What do you think’s been working particularly well for you lately?
I’ve cleared my mind and just kind of went out there and played basketball like I know how to play. I think at the beginning of the year, I was playing the same type of basketball. Injuries are hard. You gotta get back to your rhythm and being 100 percent. So, I mean, that kinda took a toll and then change of rotations and stuff like that. Once you get back into swinging things, then you start playing your best basketball.
You mentioned your playoff appearance earlier a bit last year. What did you learn or what did you take away from from that experience as a full-time starter for the first time? How, if at all, did it inform or influence your offseason plan?
I think the main thing was, I was like a feature guy, so I got to see how the defense was guarding me, and then I went into the offseason knowing how they were gonna guard me in the playoffs, not just being a guy who comes in off the bench as a role player. In the playoffs, you’re trying to make other people beat you than the guys that are scoring a lot. So, you put a lot more attention on those guys. So, when I’m in there with Jo and James, a lot of attention goes on them because they’re as great as they are. But [the defense] still had the concern and a game plan for myself and Tobias. And then, when they’re out the game, [the defense is] playing me different ways. So, I think the main thing is I learned how to attack other teams’ game plan and still get to what I want to do and not let them take me out of what I want to do on the offensive end.
Was adaptation or adjustment something you also noticed? I just think back to that Toronto Raptors series and the different ways they closed out on you throughout the six games, mixing between hard and soft, sitting on your right or left side, etc.
Adjusting is one of the biggest things that guys do in the playoffs, especially because it’s game by game. And they try to throw different things at you. Sometimes, they’re gonna closeout hard. Sometimes, they want you to shoot threes. Sometimes, they want to get the ball out of your hands quicker. Sometimes, they want to try to attack you on defense to make you more tired. there’s different ways to find ways to adapt in the playoffs and try to win games. And that’s the biggest thing that you have to do. But you got to be able to adjust to whatever the defense throws at you. That’s why you’re putting in so much work in the offseason, so now that you’re prepared for everything. You’ve covered everything and you’re ready to face whatever defense or whatever offense or whatever the trials and tribulations that you had to face out there in the playoffs.
What was the focus for you of the offseason to build on year two and and go into year three, as you continue to grow with with James and Joel at the helm?
One of the things I focused on a lot was, of course, shooting always. Playing with Joel and James, a lot of those catch-and-shoot opportunities will present themselves. Then, this year, I’ve been able to play-make a little bit more when I’m not in the game with James or when I’m not in the game with Joel. So, I think that has gotten better as well and then also just being stronger, fight through screens defensively a little bit more. Get a lot more and-ones and be able to read the game better.
You mention the shooting. We’re two years into you being quite prolific from deep. Are there certain types of threes that you feel more comfortable with this year that you didn’t necessarily think was in your arsenal last year?
I feel like creation threes have been good for me. Like, when I get an iso or a one-on-one opportunity late clock, that’s one of the biggest things that I worked on. Being a primary ball-handler or a secondary ball-handler or someone who’s gonna be in the game for a lot of possessions, there’s a lot of times where you get the ball with 6 or 7 seconds or 5-3 seconds left and you have to create a shot for yourself. And I think that’s one of the things that I’ve really grown at.
I know you like to stepback going left. Has James helped you at all with the step back? Has he given you any pointers or tips on that particular shot?
Yeah, a little bit. But most of that just came from film and just seeing how defenses are guarding me going left, going right and then, being able to get into somebody’s body to create that separation.
That just goes back to the adjustment thing, huh?
This interview has been lightly edited for clarity.