Tobias Harris turned and elevated after receiving a pass under the basket from Joel Embiid, lifting the ball high enough to punch it through the rim for the and-1. As he scowled in celebration, he looked back at the 76ers’ bench on the opposite end of the court of the United Center Sunday afternoon in Chicago.

“We were like, ‘It’s there every time. You just have to do it,’ ” coach Doc Rivers said of that sequence.

It was a literal high moment of a season for Harris that had often been inconsistent to disappointing, before a steady and significant upswing over the past month. But now arrives another stretch of uncertainty, with the trade deadline approaching Thursday afternoon and sources telling The Inquirer that the Sixers have explored trading Harris, who after this season has two years remaining on a max contract, to free up cap space for their summer pursuits.

» READ MORE: The Sixers fall 114-109 to NBA-best Phoenix Suns amid the ‘noise’ surrounding the trade deadline

“You’re just seeing everybody’s name [in trade rumors],” Harris said following the Sixers’ 114-109 loss to the Suns Tuesday night at the Wells Fargo Center. “I’ll just be honest, it’s one of those things. Trade rumors are always kind of eerie for guys around the NBA. But in this situation, I was reading an article today [and] there was like five guys on a top-10 list to be moved [or] whatever.

“And obviously, don’t get it twisted, that plays an impact on guys’ mental psyche, focus, all the way down the line. So we’ll see what happens.”

If Tuesday happened to be Harris’ final game in a Sixers uniform, he went out with a terrific performance.

He scored 30 points on 13-of-18 shooting and added seven rebounds and three assists in 41 minutes against the NBA’s best team. He made seven of his first eight shots, including a tie-breaking three-pointer that rolled around and in during the second quarter. He finished a layup that evened the game at 94 with about seven minutes to play, then found Embiid for a three-pointer that put the Sixers up 99-97 two minutes later. Another Harris shot from beyond the arc cut the Suns’ lead to 110-107 with 1 minute, 33 seconds remaining.

Yet after the game, Harris was upset with himself over a rebound that he initially secured but that Phoenix’s Jae Crowder poked away, which led to a Chris Paul three-pointer that gave the Suns a 103-99 advantage.

“That was a big play,” Harris said. “… I take ownership in that. You can’t turn the ball over in the fourth quarter, in general.”

Still, Harris and his coach agree that he is largely back to his old self, playing at a similar level as when he was a borderline All-Star last season. Entering Tuesday, Harris was averaging 19.8 points per game on 53.3% shooting and 45.1% from three-point range in his past 17 games, to go along with 6.9 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game.

His behavior the next two days, however, will mirror the most die-hard NBA followers — constantly refreshing the Twitter feeds of national NBA newsbreakers.

“Sometimes, those guys get it before we’ll get the call,” Harris said. “So that’s just what happens. I think everybody else is in the same position, as well, to be checking their phones to see what happens. This is our livelihood and our job.”

This is not new for Harris, an 11-year veteran who has been traded four times in his career.

The reason why Harris is currently in Philly is, coincidentally, partially because of Rivers. In addition to coaching the Los Angeles Clippers from 2013-20, Rivers was part of the front-office decision-making when they traded Harris to the Sixers near the 2019 deadline. Rivers on Sunday called that move a “business decision” to free up the books, because Harris was going to be a free agent and likely command a max contract. The Clippers, in turn, opened up the cap space to add Kawhi Leonard and Paul George the ensuing summer.

Sound familiar?

“We had a two-year plan,” Rivers said of the decision to trade Harris. “That one, we communicated early on. He pretty much knew it.”

Back then, Harris believed he was joining a championship-caliber Sixers team — and still believes that today. While in Philly, Harris has primarily been the third or fourth option on a team with Embiid, Ben Simmons and, briefly, Jimmy Butler. He got that max contract in the summer of 2019, which is often at the crux of the outside criticism he draws. He has never been an All-Star, though was arguably the event’s biggest snub last season when he nearly achieved the coveted 50/40/90 shooting percentage split on field goals, three-pointers and free throws while averaging 19.5 points, 6.8 rebounds, and 3.5 assists per game.

Simmons refusing to play for the Sixers after requesting a trade last summer, however, presented Harris with an opportunity to build on that career season and become the team’s second star alongside the MVP-contender Embiid.

However, Harris struggled with his shot early, making just 28.7% of his three-point attempts in his first 27 games played. He missed six games with COVID-19 in November, and believes aftereffects of the illness lingered for weeks. He has also been playing through shoulder tendinitis since that same month.

Frustrations bubbled to the surface during a Jan. 3 game against Houston, when Harris waved his arms to egg on a home crowd booing him.

Two days later, Harris quipped that “nobody died. I just got booed, right?” but added the experience taught him to “just to keep it cool all the way around and keep being who I am.” Around that same time, Harris had a talk with teammate Andre Drummond, who he also played with in Detroit, about “just trying to stick with it and continue to play his game. That it’s going to turn around,” Drummond recalled Tuesday. Harris also continued to trust his off-day routine and work habits that have earned him the nickname “The Machine.”

“Confidence in my own self [was] huge for that stretch,” Harris said last week. “And just putting [together] added reps.”

Harris’ numbers have surged since that early January Rockets game. But a consistent shift in playing style has been equally important to his turnaround.

Rivers constantly reminds Harris to be decisive with the ball in his hands, to get downhill with power for either a pull-up jumper or finish at the rim instead of settling for an in-between shot that the coach cannot even fully classify as a floater. When the Sixers’ offense discovered a new flow while adapting to playing without Simmons as its primary facilitator and pace-setter, that created more in-rhythm looks for Harris. When Drummond challenged Harris to score 30 points in a game Embiid missed against the red-hot Memphis Grizzlies last week, he responded with 31 in a dramatic overtime victory.

» READ MORE: Sixers’ Daryl Morey adores James Harden. Could that go too far in a Ben Simmons trade? | Mike Sielski

Yet perhaps Suns coach Monty Williams, who spent the 2018-19 season as a Sixers assistant when Harris was acquired, described his game best.

“Tobias is Tobias,” Williams said before Harris scored 30 points on Phoenix. “You tend to take him for granted, but you look at his numbers and his production and you’re like, ‘[That’s a really good player].’”

Harris was candid-yet-short with the media when his name first appeared in trade rumors last month, saying, “That already took too much energy out of me today and yesterday.” But he has talked more openly about it in recent days, understanding that “only a few players play for one franchise for the rest of their career, right?

“Teams make decisions and move players around, like how people move stocks around their portfolio,” Harris told The Inquirer before Friday’s loss at Dallas. " … You just got to stay present in the moment, because you can’t do anything about it. If you get traded, you get traded.”

Following the Sixers’ win in Chicago, Harris talked about continuing to develop chemistry with Embiid in the pick and roll. The next step, Harris said, was to connect on more lob passes for the big man to dunk.

“Once he sees the light with that,” Harris said with a smile, “I think he’s gonna do it a lot more.”

That is, as long as Harris is still with the Sixers after 3 p.m. Thursday.