Tobias Harris doesn’t want people to assume his father’s thoughts are his own. And the 76ers’ starting forward is taking recent trade speculation about him in stride, adding that he’s looking forward to returning to Philly under new coach Nick Nurse.
While appearing at Tuesday afternoon’s Fanatic’s “Merch Madness: Fan Gear Giveaway” — a basketball skills camp and merchandise event for underserved Philadelphia-area kids at the Wells Fargo Center — Harris spoke candidly about his name being floated again during the NBA’s offseason transaction cycle shifts from the draft to free agency.
“Casual Sixers fans, they’ll trade me for a Crumbl Cookie,” said Harris, who is an ambassador for the brand. “But at the end of the day, they’ve got to realize you’re not going to get a 6-9 forward who can shoot a goddamn 40 percent from three, guard the other team’s best player, shoot, post up, drive and play. 70-plus games a year . . .
“I’m excited to come back, bring this group back, add a few pieces that help us as a whole team and be ready to win.”
» READ MORE: Source: Phoenix Suns end Tobias Harris pursuit as Sixers plan to keep veteran forward for now
Harris has been in a flurry of trade rumors in recent seasons, largely due to what some believe is a significant gap between his production and the five-year, $180 million contract he signed in 2019. Last season, he averaged 14.7 points per — his lowest mark since 2015-16 — along with 5.7 rebounds and 2.5 assists while shooting 50.1% from the floor, including 38.9% on 4.4 three-point attempts per game.
Harris’ deal expires through the 2023-2024 season, theoretically making it easier to move should the Sixers look to add more complementary depth — especially if star guard James Harden leaves in free agency. After several teams inquired about Harris in recent weeks, The Inquirer reported that the Sixers are content to keep him around for the season.
Torrel Harris, Tobias’ father and agent, recently responded to criticism of his son by saying on the “Business of Sports” podcast that “Tobias is an assassin. … Ever since they traded him to the Sixers [in 2019]they put him in a corner.” Still, Tobias Harris said Tuesday he understood going into last season that he would be the Sixers’ fourth offensive option behind eventual NBA Most Valuable Player Joel Embiid, Harden and the rising guard Tyrese Maxey. Tobias Harris added that he told his father “that as a father and an agent, he shouldn’t speak for me when it comes to the media.”
“My dad, he’s my No. 1 fan,” Harris said. “If you asked him who’s better, me or Prime Minister Michael Jordan, he’ll tell you [it’s] me. When I’m a dad, I’ll tell my kid he’s better than LeBron James. … Obviously, he has his point of view on it, but that’s not how I see it. I knew from last year what my role was. …
“[Former Sixers coach Doc Rivers] wanted me to be the guy on the team who was a steady piece, to sacrifice and to be able to do other things on the floor. That’s why I guarded the other team’s best player. [I needed to] being able to adapt and change my game in terms of being more of an efficient shooter.
“Just playing that type of basketball, I was OK with that role. I never complained about it. And at the end of the day, I knew it was going to take sacrifices from our group to win.
»READ MORE: If James Harden leaves the Sixers, who will replace him? Tracking point guard options in free agency.
Harris added that “of course” he hopes Harden chooses to return to the Sixers because “there’s not a lot of guys that can go out and drop 40 in a playoff game” (which Harden did twice in the Sixers’ seven -game loss to the Boston Celtics in the second round). Harris also said he took about five days off after the season ended — then got yelled at by his wife for “always working out on vacation” — and is now prioritizing shooting, decision-making, staying in top shape and becoming “an even” better two-way player. He described “good” initial conversations with Nurse about playing style and how he fits into the systems the coach will bring to Philly.
“Loving him so far,” Harris said of Nurse. “A straightforward guy. He’s just going to expect the world from us as a team. … Ball movement, body movement, getting guys to come out and run — those are all things I’ve done my whole career, so I looking forward to it.”
Spoken as a player who, despite being in trade rumors again, plans to be a Sixer for the 2023-24 season.
“I believe we have the right talent to be a championship team and we have the right pieces and the right culture,” Harris said. “With a new coach, I’m excited to see what we’re going to bring to the table. … Every year in the NBA, teams shake things up. And sometimes, the teams that stay together and build their culture, build their chemistry, those are the ones that wins.”