It was during his third NBA stop, with the Detroit Pistons, that newly acquired 76ers forward Tobias Harris had a heart-to-heart talk with his coach that jump-started his career.
“Stan Van Gundy came to me and said, ‘I need you to shoot more threes instead of slashing, and I need you to shoot like six to seven a game,’” Harris recalled at Thursday’s press conference to introduce three of the newest Sixers. “He said, 'You have to be willing go 6-for-7, 4-for-7, but you also have to be willing to go 0-7 and not second-guess any shot.’"
Harris’s three-point shooting was less than 32 percent in his first 4 1/2 seasons, before Orlando traded him to Detroit in February 2016.
Since then, Harris has been markedly improved as a three-point threat, which is why the Sixers acquired him Wednesday from the Los Angeles Clippers. The 6-foot-9 Harris is averaging 20.9 points and shooting 43.4 percent from three-point range, both career highs, in 55 games this season.
The Sixers also acquired center Boban Marjanovic and forward Mike Scott in the deal, while sending Wilson Chandler, Mike Muscala, and Landry Shamet to the Clippers. Los Angeles also received the Sixers’ 2020 protected first-round pick, Miami’s 2021 first-rounder, and Detroit’s 2021 and 2023 second-round picks.
That is a lot of inventory for Harris, who was the centerpiece of the deal and can be free agent after the season.
Van Gundy’s encouragement at the beginning of the 2016-17 season gave him the push he needed.
“That gave me the confidence, and I ran with it from there to the point I am at today,” Harris said. “To get the confidence from your coach was big for me going forward, and that really helped out.”
Harris, 26, is on his fifth team in the league, starting with the Milwaukee Bucks after one season at the University of Tennessee.
He seemed to indicate that he would be more than content to stay in Philadelphia for awhile.
“This team has made a big trade for myself, and, hopefully, we can make this a long-term partnership, and we can make it work, and I am excited for that,” Harris said. “I know one thing that can handle things is if we win basketball games, so that is just the key focus right now.”
Harris is elated to move from a team that is battling for the eighth and final spot in the Western Conference to one that has serious aspirations in the Eastern Conference.
With 28 games remaining in the regular season, the key is to get adjusted to the Sixers’ system as quickly as possible. He began getting a crash course on the team philosophy when he went out for dinner Wednesday with coach Brett Brown.
“He said [he’d] let me go play my game and kind of just figure things out on the fly,” Harris said. “I think when you have a team with this much talent, you see what works out there and feed off each other on the floor.”
Harris is more than happy to blend in on a team that will have one of the best starting lineups in the NBA, featuring Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, Jimmy Butler, and JJ Redick.