Philadelphia 76ers Forward Tobias Harris Responds to Boos, Shows Signs of Shedding Slump
ORLANDO — The last member of the Philadelphia 76ers in the locker room after handling his postgame media duties, Tobias Harris was mobbed by his teammates in a joyous celebration behind closed doors.
Sure, the 76ers were plenty happy that they rallied in the fourth quarter to beat the Orlando Magic to push their winning streak to five games. But, on this night, the Sixers were ecstatic for Harris, who finally showed signs of breaking out of a slump by scoring 22 points, grabbing nine rebounds, and handing out four assists.
Harris’ frustration over his lingering shooting woes bubbled over two nights earlier when he glared up at the jeering crowd at Philadelphia’s Wells Fargo Center and waved his arms as if to tell the fans, “Bring it on.”
On Wednesday, on the heels of Philadelphia’s league-best 14th road victory, Harris was happy to have teammates pulling for him and celebrating his big night.
“It was a good feeling coming in the locker room and knowing the guys want to see you be your best,” Harris said in his postgame news conference. “That’s what sports are about and what Philadelphia 76ers basketball is about — picking one another up and supporting each other. It’s a close group, a great group of guys we have, and we want to keep this thing rolling.”
In the midst of what he called “an up-and-down year,” Tobias Harris allowed his frustrations to boil over
Tobias Harris came into Wednesday shooting just 28.7% from 3-point range, and Philadephia 76ers fans have been letting him hear about it of late. It didn’t seem to matter that Harris had six assists on Monday or that he had racked up a career-best 30 assists in a five-game stretch while struggling to make shots. When the fans mockingly jeered, Harris uncharacteristically lost his cool.
“It was obviously frustration,” Harris said of motioning toward the fans. “I understand that the (76ers) fan base boos at times, but they also cheer for us louder than anybody. I don’t want anybody to get it twisted — I love our fan base, and I love the excitement coming into Wells Fargo Arena. But with cheers and with praise, we have to take criticism, as well. At that point, I was completely frustrated, for sure.
“Something I learned from it is to keep my cool and keep being who I am,” Harris continued. “I’ve had what you can call an up-and-down year for myself thus far. But I don’t think anybody in that arena is harder on me than I am on myself. I work my a** off to get to the point where I can play well. I will get to the point where I’m playing the type of basketball that I’m comfortable with and tonight was a step in that direction.”
Harris’ game has been impacted the most by the holdout of star guard Ben Simmons, Doc Rivers said
Philadelphia 76ers head coach Doc Rivers passed his COVID-19 test on Tuesday night and rejoined the Sixers in Orlando on Wednesday morning. His first mission was to meet with Harris, work on the forward’s psyche, and get him playing instinctively again. He liked what he saw from the 6-foot-9 Harris against the Magic.
“I loved it. He played quicker. There was no hesitation,” Rivers said. “When you get into a funk, you hesitate on everything, and then it’s too late. We showed him and talked about it, and then we just told him, ‘Just go and attack.’ I thought he did that every time (on Wednesday), and it was good.”
Rivers thinks that Harris — a player who thrives in the open court because of his rare combination of size and speed — has been the Sixer most affected by the season-long holdout of star point guard Ben Simmons. With Simmons pushing the pace last season, Harris was able to get more easy looks in the open court to spark his game. Without Simmons, Harris has had to try to get himself going in more half-court sets where his shooting struggles often become more magnified.
Harris thinks brighter days are ahead for both him and the Philadelphia 76ers
Following the Philadelphia 76ers’ win over the Orlando Magic, Tobias Harris was asked if anyone, in particular, helped him get through this rough patch, and he took a lighthearted approach to the whole fan incident.
“At the end (of the day), nobody died; I just got booed, right?” Harris said before breaking out in laughter.
In some ways, Harris is a victim of the massive payday the 76ers awarded him a couple of years ago. When the Sixers gave up several assets to get him in a trade with the Los Angeles Clippers, it was inevitable the versatile forward was in line for a big payday. But few ever imagined that Harris — someone who has never made an NBA All-Star team — would be making nearly $36 million this season, $37 million next year, and $39 million in 2023-24, according to HoopsHype.
Harris is confident he can soon get back to being the kind of player who offers superstar center Joel Embiid support and makes the 76ers multidimensional. Then, he said, he’ll be able to laugh about his struggles.
“Everybody goes through rough patches in careers,” he said. “But when I get up out of this, it’s going to be a good story to tell other people about resilience, fighting through it, and finding balance.”
All quotes in the article were obtained firsthand.
Statistics courtesy of ESPN.com
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