Tobias Harris’ Feud With Philadelphia 76ers Fans Is Making His $180 Contract Even More of a Disaster
The Philadelphia 76ers have been burdened by the Ben Simmons saga since the beginning of the season. However, a case can be made for Tobias Harris’ spotty performance being the larger of the two issues.
Harris is shooting the ball worse than he ever has since first wearing the Sixers jersey in 2019. On top of his lackluster play, the 29-year-old is lashing out at critical fans booing the underperforming veteran. Given his exorbitant contract, the 76ers couldn’t be in a worse spot.
Tobias Harris is having one of his worst offensive seasons
With no Simmons, Philadelphia needed a superstar campaign from Joel Embiid and a steady, productive season from Harris. Embiid has been business as usual — even if it’s in just 25 games — while Harris has seen a steep decline.
The 11-year veteran is averaging 18.3 points, his lowest mark since he was a sixth man with the Detroit Pistons in 2016-17. However, the greater concern lies in his efficiency, where his 45.0% field-goal rate is the lowest of his career. Additionally, he’s hitting a paltry 28.7% of his 3-point attempts.
Harris’ shooting woes were non-existent at the start of the season. The former Tennessee Volunteer shot 50% or better from the field in each of Philadelphia’s first six games. However, his last seven outings have shown a far more gruesome tale:
- December 16 at Brooklyn: 3-of-17
- December 20 at Boston: 7-of-13
- December 23 vs. Atlanta: 5-of-14
- December 26 at Washington: 10-of-16
- December 28 at Toronto: 3-of-12
- December 30 at Brooklyn: 4-of-14
- January 3 vs. Houston: 6-of-15
Even with a couple of decent nights sprinkled in, Harris is shooting just 37.6% over his last seven games. It’s a far cry from where a player like him needs to be for the 76ers to really make some noise in the Eastern Conference.
76ers fans and Harris are fed up with one another
Philadelphia sports fans are passionate, to say the least. They will loudly support the players who live up to their lofty expectations and bash the ones who fall short. This year, Harris is falling into the latter category.
The 76ers returned home on Monday and soundly defeated the shorthanded Houston Rockets 133-113. Embiid had a spectacular 31-point triple-double while Furkan Korkmaz dropped 24 points and 11 rebounds. Harris managed to score 14 points, but only went 6-of-15 while missing all of his three 3-point attempts.
Before a strong second half, the Sixers were down by one at halftime. The first half ended with Harris missing a layup, falling to 3-of-10 from the field. He then started to receive a smattering of boos from the home crowd and gestured at them to continue.
Then in the fourth quarter, Harris hit a turnaround shot in the paint to further extend Philly’s lead. However, as the fans gave their applause, the veteran was caught on camera saying what appeared to be, “Don’t f****** clap. Don’t f****** clap.”
Assistant coach Dan Burke spoke to the media after the game and revealed a conversation they had with Harris at halftime about blocking away the noise from displeased fans.
“He’s maybe since I’ve been here one of the surprise guys for me. How professional he is, what a genuine good guy he is,” Burke told The Athletic. “He leads by example, not very vocal. So, when I saw him raise his hands when they were booing — we talked about it at halftime, the only thing that matters is who’s in that locker room.”
Tobias Harris’ problems are keeping the Philadelphia 76ers from being a championship contender
Seeing the 6-foot-8 Harris struggle is something Philadelphia can’t be happy about. Especially since he’s only in the third year of a five-year, $180 million pact signed during the 2019 offseason.
Harris has never really had to be a top scoring option on any playoff-caliber team. So now, as Philly’s de facto number two behind Embiid, he is facing more pressure from defenses than ever. And in games that Embiid misses — which there are multiple every season — Harris gets more of the defensive focus.
The 11-year veteran is also falling short with his own defensive responsibilities. His -1.2 defensive box plus-minus is the worst of his career to date, as he has constantly struggled to stay with his man and get back on defense.
There are, of course, factors at play beyond his control. Clearly, Simmons’ absence means a great deal to the team. As long as the star point guard is sitting out and no trade is reached, the more offensive pressure it puts on Harris to pick up the slack. Elsewhere, the forward was playing at a high level to start the season before a bout with COVID-19 cost him six games.
Just a few days into 2022, the 76ers are a modest 20-16. But in order to elevate from middle-of-the-pack playoff team, two things need to happen. First, a Simmons resolution must be reached once and for all. And two, Tobias Harris must improve on both ends of the court.
All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference and contract figures courtesy of Spotrac.