WESTBURY, N.Y. -- This has been an eventful summer for 76ers forward Tobias Harris.
It kicked off when he agreed to a five-year, $180 million contract on the first day of free agency on June 30.
Harris was also selected to USA Basketball’s training camp for the FIBA World Cup, which will be staged Aug. 31 to Sept. 15 in China.
As honored as Harris was to be selected, he withdrew in advance of the team’s Aug. 5 mini-camp in Las Vegas. Harris was among several NBA standouts who withdrew from the USA team.
On the surface, Harris -- who should be an even more vital part of the offense with the departure of Jimmy Butler -- would have greatly benefited from being involved with the team and facing top-flight competition in practice.
During a Wednesday morning interview with The Inquirer, before he would conduct the third day of a four-day free basketball and life skills camp for youngsters in Long Island, Harris said he felt withdrawing from the national team was the best decision for himself and the Sixers.
“For me, the last two seasons playing every game is a lot, and a lot goes into my summer and training, and with free agency, that was [more than] a whole month where I wasn’t able to play contact-wise,” Harris said.
The 6-foot-9 Harris is known for his durability, having played 82, 80 and 82 games in the past three seasons. In each of the previous two seasons he was dealt near the trade deadline, having been traded from Detroit to the Los Angeles Clippers on Jan. 29, 2018.
Harris, 27, who is entering his ninth NBA season, was traded to the Sixers on Feb. 6 from the Clippers. For the Sixers, he averaged 18.2 points and 7.9 rebounds in 27 regular-season games. In addition, he appeared in all 12 of the Sixers’ playoff games, averaging 15.5 points and 9.1 rebounds.
Their season ended May 12 with their 92-90 loss at Toronto in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference semifinals.
It turns out that Harris really needed a breather after that final game.
“When this past season ended I wasn’t truly healthy, so I wanted to take the time to rest," he said.
It is a big commitment to play this summer for the U.S. team, especially since the World Cup ends approximately two weeks before NBA training camps open.
“It’s a lot,” Harris said. “I definitely want to be out there representing my country, but for myself and the team the best decision was to get fully healthy.”
Next year is an Olympic year, and Harris could again face the possibility of being invited to the USA basketball camp. The Olympic Games will be held July 24 to Aug. 9 in Tokyo.
“I want to be out there like any basketball player,” he said. “If the opportunity comes around next summer and I am healthy, it is something I would love to be part of.”
Harris says he will likely come to the Philadelphia area to begin training with his teammates sometime next month, well before the start of training camp.
“I wanted to gear myself this summer for a long run this upcoming season,” Harris said. “I wanted to make sure my body was fully healthy to the point I am now.”
About the camp
Harris’ camp is unique in that there is more than just basketball. On Wednesday, before taking the court, the campers attended sessions on meditation and nutrition, and also took part in a yoga workout, as did Harris.
There were a total of approximately 85 girls and boys, ages 11 to 18.
Harris is known for his dedication to helping others, especially youngsters, and was among 10 finalists for the 2018-19 NBA Community Assist award. He was truly in his element at his camp.