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Sixers Notebook: De’Anthony Melton hoping to be healthy enough to join the fray

CAMDEN, N.J. — De’Anthony Melton, who has battled a back injury that has limited him to 38 Sixers games and yo-yoed him in the lineup, practiced Wednesday. Coach Nick Nurse declared him a game-time decision and is optimistic he can play in Game 3 against the Knicks Thursday night at Wells Fargo Center.

Melton all but said he wouldn’t declare himself ready if he wasn’t able to contribute.

“Once that last time I went down, obviously doubt creeps into your mind,” Melton said. “But I try to stay optimistic about it. Just taking it day by day and being real diligent about it, (that) there’s a chance I could come back and a chance I could come back and help my team. I don’t want to be out there trying to play and doing a disservice to my team.”

Melton averaged 11.1 points, 3.7 rebounds and 3.0 assists this season. The 25-year-old guard could provide a boost to the second unit offensively, and he’s another plus-defensive presence to throw at the Knicks’ array of guards. Melton averaged 7.9 points and 24.9 minutes in 11 playoff games last year.

He has played only 11 games since Christmas. The back-and-forth that has been particularly difficult – four games in, then three out in early January, before games Jan. 10 and 12 landed him on the shelf for six weeks. He was back for three games in late February, then not again until Game 80. He played barely 20 minutes across two games, then missed the first two of the playoffs.

Melton could offer scoring depth for a team dearly missing it from the backcourt. Buddy Hield has two points in 26 minutes this series. Kelly Oubre is just 5-for-14 for 14 points in 65 minutes. Melton also brings an energetic presence.

“There’s never been a moment where he’s been down,” Tyrese Maxey said. “He’s worked every single day to come back. He hasn’t given up. And as a teammate, all you can do is appreciate something like that. And if he’s able to come back, I think he can change a series.”

Melton admits the process hasn’t been easy. Recovery after a game or even a taxing practice remains an issue.

But the six-year vet in his second season in Philly believes in the 76ers’ potential. He wants to be a part of realizing that.

“I feel like when this team is fully healthy and we get everybody healthy, I feel like we’re the best team in the league,” he said. “I feel like we’ve all felt like that, even from the beginning of the year.”

• • •

For all the campaigning that those around him did, Maxey didn’t let Tuesday’s announcement of the NBA’s Most Improved Player Award affect his off-day down time.

He did, however, step away from the Game of Thrones episode he was rewatching on his couch once he heard the TNT broadcast, on in the background, mention him as the winner.

“Once I heard, ‘oh Tyrese Maxey,’ I was like, let me get up, pause the show and do the interview,” Maxey said Wednesday after 76ers practice at the team facility. “It was great.”

Maxey epitomizes the award, the 21st overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft who has gone from bench contributor to starter to All-Star. He went from 20.3 points, 2.9 rebounds and 3.5 assists last year to 25.9/3.7/6.2 this year in 70 games, on a team that traded away James Harden and endured Joel Embiid missing more than half of the season.

Moreover, Maxey’s work ethic to assiduously improve his game fits the ethos of the award, which he reflected in his gratitude.

“It means a lot to me just because it’s something I preach, something that I live by,” he said. “It’s not fake. It’s not something that I started last year. I’ve been saying that for a very long time. My pops has been on me about it – he always says, proper preparation prevents poor performance. So for me, it does really mean a lot and it’s just a testimony to the work.”

“I think he certainly deserved it,” Nurse said of Maxey. “I don’t keep too close of tabs of who else in the league is in the running for those kinds of things. But he certainly had a great year. I think a year ago, we were saying, it would probably be a year for him to step up, and he’s certainly done that in a number of ways. He’s not done stepping up yet this year.”

Maxey thanked a lot of people, including the organization for taking a chance on a guard from Kentucky who now looks like an utter steal. He shouted out a number of the veteran backcourt influences he’s played with in Philly.

Among them was James Harden. However prickly a presence Harden could be with others in his occasionally malcontented stint in Philadelphia, that never applied to the 2022-23 NBA assists leader’s dealings with Maxey.

“He never wanted to step on my toes,” Maxey said. “He always wanted me to be aggressive. And shoutout to him. I appreciate him.”

• • •

Your daily Embiid knee update: “Pretty good,” Nurse said. “He’s OK.”

Move along.

Maxey (illness) is still congested but feeling better. While Sunday night was rough, he never seriously considered missing Game 2.


Source: Berkshire mont

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