Watch any Philadelphia 76ers game and it doesn’t take long for your eyes to snag on Tyrese Maxey, the team’s smiling, zippy, consistently chatty guard. Now in his third season with Philadelphia, Maxey has made himself into the team’s go-to energy guy, dug in on the defensive end of the floor, and continues to be a captivating offensive player.
Dime caught up with Maxey in Salt Lake City over All-Star weekend to chat about his recent cameo in a new Starry commercial, what the definition of “energy guy” is to him, learning from vets like P.J. Tucker, and being the exuberant tether between James Harden and Joel Embiid.
How many takes did it take to do your amazing cameo in the new Starry commercial, where you’re so shocked to see Keke Palmer kissing the man made out of Starry soda?
Honestly? I’m going to be honest with you. That was really my reaction when they were showing me the actual video. I was like, what? But it took maybe two or three tries, cause I had to drop the ball too. But my face, that was all real.
That was authentic.
That was all authentic!
Did you like the whole commercial set up?
It was great, it was amazing. Starry’s different, man. The whole little set up was amazing. It felt like family.
I wanted to ask you about energy. You’re such an energetic player, you’re so enthusiastic on the court, it’s kind of your calling card. But how do you keep that up? Especially when you have the days where you’re not feeling so naturally up?
I’ll say this, the energy’s pretty authentic. I really do love playing basketball. I love being around the game. Being able to play basketball every single day, I have nothing to be upset about. I have a great organization behind me, great teammates, great coaching staff, and people that believe in me. So I try to put as much faith in them as they do in me.
I know Doc’s been asking you to dig in more on the defensive end, going after every possession, doing the little things. How do you work on that?
You just kind of put yourself out there, effort-wise. I feel like I’ve always — I give everything I have to the game. And it’s always trying to do little things to get better every single day. And that’s just one niche that will help now and in the long run as well.
Who are you working with, and what do you do with them to improve there?
I workout with Spencer Rivers, my player development guy, and then Sam Cassell. Those two are the main guys. Tyler Lashbrook watches a lot of film with me. We work on a lot of different things. Summer time is the time you get to work on your personal game, but during the season I have to work on — because I play so many different roles — being able to catch and shoot the ball when I’m out there with James [Harden] and Joel [Embiid], being able to play off of James, off of Joel. Then I gotta work on being the handler, cause I’m in a lot of those situations when James is on the floor. So I’ve got a lot of different roles to work on. But it’s been great, and I love it.
Modern NBA, you’ve gotta do a little bit of everything —
Yeah, you do.
— you’re obviously honing in really well in that sense. But are there adjustment periods where it feels like, maybe these skills are clicking, but the next thing isn’t quite there yet? How do you keep your brain straight, basically?
Yeah! Yeah, it’s a process, though. It’s really a process. It’s an everyday grind and you get one percent better every day at whatever you’re trying to get better at. And I’ll say this, the NBA is an ever-changing situation, and you have to be prepared for anything. I think I have a good mind, and coach Cal [John Calipari], he did a good job at Kentucky in preparing us for that. And I think it’s served me well so far.
Do you like the dynamic you’ve established with Joel and James? You’ve hit this great alchemy between the two of them.
Yeah, it’s like, I try to pump them up as much as possible, you know? They are kind of reserved guys sometimes, not in an older way, but they’ve been around for a long time. So I just try to bring in some fresh air to ‘em. And then the court I try to help them as much as possible. They lean on me a lot to produce in the game, and try to help score and help defending and help with the energy as well. I just go out there and do my best every single night.
I know this may be a harder thing to define, but what does it mean to you to be an energy guy, what’s your own stamp on that title?
Energy guys are different. My energy is just my attitude and my positivity towards the game. And then you have another energy guy like my teammate, Paul Reed —
BBall Paul! That’s an active energy guy. So the energy that I bring is just a positive attitude, someone who’s going to always be smiling. Always be happy to play the game, but is extremely competitive and likes to win. So that competitiveness and that happiness and that joy, it trickles down to others.
The Sixers are a pretty gritty team, do you find that every clashes with the happy, upbeat energy you bring?
No, it’s kind of perfect. Because, I’ll use myself as an example. I worked extremely hard to get where I am, and I think everybody in Philadelphia, especially the fans, they work extremely hard to get their tickets, or provide for their families, so that’s kind of how we correlate together. We see each other eye-to-eye when it comes to that aspect of life.
Going back to the defensive mechanics a bit, are there guys you look around the league and think you would hone your skill set to, or you like what they do?
I think the biggest thing is you try to find different ways to be impactful. And I think my way of being impactful is I pressure the ball really well because of my quickness and my speed, I can be disruptive, and then I can also communicate because I like to talk. So those things are what I can bring to the defensive table.
How have you worked on your defensive reads?
Having feel for the game. I think as a player I’ve been taking more chances at getting steals. We have Joel Embiid behind us, so sometimes we can take a little bit more chances, [laughs] he’s going to cover up for our mistakes. Him and P.J. Tucker. So that’s a good thing, having those two behind us.
I was going to ask about P.J., it was a short-lived experience but I miss having him in Toronto, he’s a great guy to have around.
He’s a great guy.
Have you learned a lot from a vet like him?
Yeah, you learn a lot from him man. He’s well-seasoned in the league. He knows what he’s talking about. He respects the game and when you have vets like that, who respect the game, who are successful — he’s been to the last three Conference Finals, maybe even four when he was with Houston, and you just got to respect that. He’s a winner. He’s going to dive on the floor for a loose ball, he’s going to guard whoever he needs to guard, he’s going to talk and communicate. And even when he’s not playing, he’s always going to be on the bench cheering you on and coaching you up. I have nothing but love and appreciation for P.J. Tucker.
Do you look at someone like that in terms of career longevity? How to adjust your skillset when you need to?
Like I said, it’s an ever-adapting, changing environment. So it’s like, if you don’t catch up to the game, the game will leave you behind. And I think, we’re talking about P.J. still, he’s found ways to stay relevant. On the defensive end, he shoots the corner three really well, great locker room guy, and he’s a winner. Guys want him on they team, especially a winning team, they really want a guy like P.J., when you have a guy like that it just builds your team’s resume and team camaraderie.
What are your plans for the rest of the weekend?
I’m going to do this, hang out here for a second. Then I’m going to go home and spend some time with my family, kind of decompress and get ready for the second half of the season. It’s going to be a big push.
Do you like the chaos of this weekend?
It’s cool! Yeah. You get all of the guys together, the brotherhood together. Everybody only sees us competing on the court but at the end of the day we’re all colleagues and we’re all pretty cool with each other. Competition is great and all but this is one big family.