Tyrese Maxey Shares Details of Private Conversation with Sixers Star Joel Embiid

Tyrese Maxey, Joel Embiid

Getty Sixers stars Joel Embiid and Tyrese Maxey are learning how to mesh in the absence of Ben Simmons.

The superhero vibes were palpable heading into Game 3 of the Eastern Conference semifinals. No one knew for sure whether Joel Embiid was going to suit up, not even his finger-crossed teammates. They all breathed a huge sigh of relief when they saw Embiid run out of the tunnel.

Tyrese Maxey sounded giddy during his post-game press conference as he relayed the story of seeing Embiid’s No. 21 jersey and custom-fitted mask atop his locker stall. He still had no clue on whether the Sixers’ big man was going to play until Embiid darted through the layup line during pre-game warmups.

“I was so happy to see No. 21 hanging up in the locker room with his mask or whatever,” Maxey told reporters. “He’s a soldier. He’s a soldier. He’s just … thumb, mask, I mean concussion, face, broken face, makes him look even uglier now. He’s resilient, man, MVP for a reason, just the attention that he demands is great for us, and it’s just a testimony to his will and his will to win.”

But as happy as Maxey was to see his teammate and friend back on the court, the mature 21-year-old was filled with emotion. He wanted to make sure Embiid was feeling good from a basketball perspective and on a personal level. Sometimes people forget that professional athletes are human beings, not superheroes.

“I just asked him a couple of times, are you okay? Do you promise you’re good?” Maxey said. “At the end of the day basketball is extremely important to all of us and it’s our job but you want somebody to be the best they can possibly be feeling in life in general. I didn’t want him to be in any type of pain or anything, so I always ask about him and checking up on him. But, like I said, he’s a soldier.”

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Sixers Hype Up Embiid for MVP Award

Embiid’s teammates don’t get the opportunity to vote for the MVP award. That job falls on the sportswriters covering the league – 100 media members, plus one fan vote – and those ballots were cast prior to the start of the playoffs. But players’ voices certainly count in the court of public opinion and the men who share the locker room with Embiid keep hyping their guy up.

“He put so much into this season, all the work that he’s put in,” Maxey said after Game 3. “His body of work demonstrates why he should be the MVP and for him to be able to play in the second round of the playoffs, in a big moment like this, and go out there and play well has been great.”

Embiid scored 18 points and grabbed 11 rebounds in 36 minutes. But his impact on the game extended beyond the box score.

“It’s not about him scoring 30 or 40 points – his presence alone gives us energy – his communication, his dominance is very important to this team,” James Harden said. “That’s why he’s the MVP, and we fed off that, and we got to just continue to keep pushing.”

Maxey Turning into Sixers’ Closer in 4th Quarter

Maxey was having a relatively quiet Game 3 until the lights got bright in the fourth quarter. He scored 21 points in the second half after going scoreless prior to the halftime break. The second-year guard went 7-for-11 from the field – 5-for-6 from the three-point line – in 39 minutes.

“I don’t really have to force anything,” Maxey said, “and when it’s time to make big shots I’m going to try and make some big shots.”

Which he did. Maxey checked back into the game at the 9:21 mark in the fourth quarter and put the Sixers on his back. He rattled off 14 points in the frame, including a dagger triple with 20.2 seconds left. He was sensational and needed to be after Jimmy Butler’s third-quarter outburst got the Heat back in it. It’s a credit to all those long hours in the gym that no one sees at 6 a.m.

“Confidence. Work ethic. Grinding when there’s nobody in the stands,” Maxey said on why he never looks shook. “Early 6 a.m. workouts when nobody’s around watching, I always say it helps you perform when you’re in front of thousands and now millions are watching on TV so that’s a testimony to the work and prayer. God got me, so I go out there and try and execute for my team.”

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