The Sixers will not have close to a full-strength team for their preseason finale Friday night against the Pistons.
Tobias Harris (right knee soreness), Matisse Thybulle (right shoulder soreness), Shake Milton (right ankle sprain) and Grant Riller (torn meniscus in left knee) won’t travel with the team to Detroit, head coach Doc Rivers said following Thursday’s practice.
However, Rivers does not seem to think it likely that any absence will be long term. The Sixers will open their regular season next Wednesday in New Orleans.
“It’s part of the plan,” he said. “If this was the playoffs, Tobias would be playing — let’s put it that way. We just felt like, let’s get ahead of it, make sure there’s no lingering problems. Actually, everyone who’s out other than Shake and Grant … would be playing (tomorrow night) if it was a playoff game. … But we feel like building them up.
“We play Friday, we have Saturday off, we have three good days of practice. We are hoping every single guy is on the practice floor by Sunday. That’s what we’re looking forward to.”
Tyrese Maxey returned to practice after missing Monday’s preseason win over the Nets with a left adductor injury. He said he’s at “100 percent.”
The 20-year-old guard began training camp as Ben Simmons’ replacement on the Sixers’ first unit. Now, Simmons’ holdout is over and he’s back in Philadelphia, doing individual workouts until he clears the NBA’s COVID-19 protocols. As of early Thursday afternoon, Rivers did not know whether Simmons would join the Sixers in Detroit.
With Simmons’ status uncertain, so is Maxey’s, to a lesser extent — even if there are zero doubts about his desire to play for the Sixers.
“You’ve got to be mentally focused, mentally locked in,” Maxey said. “At the end of the day, this is a job and whatever the situation is, you have to be ready and be prepared for it. Last year I think was the biggest test of my life as far as not knowing when I was going to play, not knowing where my role was going to be.
“But one thing I always told myself is I’m always going to stay ready for the moment and do whatever I need to do to help this team win. And that’s just my message again this year.”
In theory, handling whatever job is thrown at him might be a bit easier for Maxey thanks to an adjustment in Rivers’ offensive approach.
Rivers confirmed Thursday that he’s planning to run fewer set plays this year, instead encouraging his team to have more “organized random” action, with five players on the perimeter and vast space to drive.
“It’s actually helped me a lot the last couple days, for sure,” Maxey said. “(Rivers) has given me a little bit of freedom as far as any time I feel I can get in the lane, get in the lane and create plays for myself and create plays for others. So that kind of takes stress and a little of the thought process off, and it just helps you play as far as feel for the game.”