The more he spoke, the more it sounded as if Tobias Harris had accepted that playing with James Harden has altered his role.
After missing 13 of 18 shots in Harden’s first two games with the 76ers, Harris spoke about getting fewer shots and not playing the role he is accustomed to. But instead of complaining, the standout power forward said his job is to do whatever is needed from him.
“We have an opportunity to fight for a championship and do what we can to win basketball games,” Harris said Tuesday after practice. “So your players, including myself, [doing] different things are going to [contribute] to winning basketball. It could be just being a leader in chemistry all the way down the line. That’s what winning basketball is all about.”
Harris averaged 15 shots and 18.6 points per game and had a large portion of the offense run through him before Harden made his debut on Friday.
But in the last two games, most of Harris’ touches have come off catch-and-shoot scenarios. As a result, Harris played out of rhythm and looked lost during stretches. He averaged nine shots and 9.0 points in those games.
The six points he scored on 2-for-9 shooting in Friday’s 133-102 road victory over the Minnesota Timberwolves tied a season low. However, Harris has had open looks. He has just missed them.
“I think my looks have been good,” Harris said. “Obviously, you know, I would love to make every single shot. But with time, I’ll begin to see where these looks come from during the course of the game and see where I can impose my will at times as well.
“But the ball is going to flow how it flows. And I’ve got to just be ready for whenever the opportunity comes my way and be OK with that. And I am.”
Harris said he’ll be fine with that as long as the Sixers (37-23) keep playing hard and enjoying their time together on the floor.
There was a point late in the fourth quarter of Sunday’s 125-109 road victory at the New York Knicks when it appeared Harris found his shot.
He was 0-for-6 from the field before knocking down a corner three-pointer with 4 minutes, 02 remaining and giving the Sixers a 115-107 cushion. He added a cutting dunk and another late three-pointer to finish with 12 points on 3-for-9 shooting.
“It’s not really a finally type thing,” Harris said of finding his shot. “Through the course of the game, I’m taking the looks that are presented to me. And those were presented and I was able to capitalize on them. So it’s not really a finally.”
The Sixers led most of that game against the Knicks. They also had a commanding lead in the second half against the Timberwolves. Harris said he had no plans on pressing and looking for his own shot.
“It’s been two games and the ball is going to flow in different ways according to matchups and how teams play us,” Harris said. “As a player, I have to be OK with that as well. As a group, we have to be OK with that because different guys are going to have different nights, different mismatches out there, different matchups.”
One constant since Harden joined the team has been his ability to find teammates with spectacular passes. Harris quickly realized the point guard is really good at finding ways to make defenders make mistakes.
“You see Matisse [Thybulle] get a bunch of cuts and lobs at the rim,” Harris said. “Tyrese [Maxey] is getting out in transition. He’s hitting Joel [Embiid] in pick-and-rolls, all the way down the line of how he plays.”
Georges Niang called Harden a basketball savant. He said the perennial All-NBA selection, whom the Sixers acquired from the Brooklyn Nets in a Feb. 10 trade, is always focused on the little things that can make him better.
“People only see the outside and the step-backs and the things that he does,” Niang said. “But he’s really detailed in his practice and his game to help all of us, not only himself. I think that’s been a pleasant surprise for me, especially because it’s someone who’s a really good passer but can also take a lot of attention away from a lot of our guys.”
That could benefit Harris, who thrives in transition. One would assume that Harden will ignite his transition offense and help him get more shots.
Harris is not concerned, stressing that it’s only been two games and that he’s not worried about offensive points and production.
“Everyone has this notion of you’ve got to score this many points or that,” Harris said. “I get it, but at the end of the day like I said, I’m a winner and I [contribute] to winning basketball. If that is me taking 15 shots, if that’s me taking eight shots, it is what it is. As long as we’re winning basketball games, that’s what the name of the game is about.
“A lot of people don’t like to hear that, but that’s the predicament we’re in now. We have a lot of firepower, especially with James and Joel on the team.”