Tobias Harris Stepped Into Crucial Leadership Role for 76ers During Quarantine

By Matt Gregan, Sports Talk Philly Editor

Things hadn't gone quite as planned this season for the Philadelphia 76ers, who stood at 39-26 and in sixth place in the Eastern Conference heading into the NBA's suspension due to the Coronavirus-19 pandemic. Tobias Harris, in an interview on ESPN's First Take, attributed some of the team's struggles to a lack of chemistry. The NBA's decision to suspend the 2019-20 regular season threw another hook at what was already a Sixers season filled with ups, downs and inconsistencies. 

Team communication became much more important once the season was suspended and players were forced to quarantine in their homes. Harris viewed the quarantine as a time to fix some of the team's chemistry issues, instigating Zoom calls and text messages throughout the members of the team to make sure everyone stayed in touch with each other.

"I think it’s just always important to make sure our guys mentally are in the right space. So just being a teammate, a brother — and we’re around each other for so long — so when we go into quarantine with the pandemic we had, I thought it was really important to keep us in the loop with one another, what we’re doing," Harris told reporters from Orlando on Saturday. "I also looked at it like, if we’re being honest, we didn’t have the best chemistry through the year with everything going on. So just to use the time to kind of build on that chemistry and help us grow a little bit together through the whole pandemic."

Harris has stepped into a leadership role for the 76ers this season, both on and off the court. While working to make sure the team stayed in touch throughout the quarantine, Harris also was vocal throughout the country's social unrest following the death of George Floyd. However, Harris wasn't the only player on the team to speak out during the Black Lives Matter social movement.

In addition to improving team chemistry on the court, those team Zoom calls also consisted of the team discussing different things that they could do to create a positive impact and add to the social movement. Harris, on Saturday, said that the team was still discussing some potential ideas for continuing to push ahead on certain initiatives. 

"We are definitely brainstorming on a lot of ideas to make real impact and real change and to do something that we know we’re going to be proud of at the end of the day, continue to push this message and keep it going," Harris said. "That’s on myself and teammates to gather up, huddle together, and come up with a gameplan on some initiatives we’re going to back."

One potential idea for the 76ers to take advantage of is the NBA's decision to allow players to replace the names on the back of their jerseys with statements supporting social justice causes. It is currently unclear if any Sixers will be participating in the jersey change.

For now, with the 76ers having begun their practices on Saturday, the focus turns back to the play on the court. Philadelphia has three scrimmages scheduled in the ramp-up to the resumption of the season.

Assorted Notes

  • While head coach Brett Brown still isn't sure exactly how he will coach the team once the season resumes, he did make it clear on Saturday that he has a plan for star Ben Simmons' minutes in both the scrimmages and once the season resumes. Brown said that he will be frugal with Simmons' minutes in the scrimmages before ramping up to play him his normal minutes once the regular games resume. Simmons missed the team's final eight games before the season was suspended with a nerve impingement in his lower back, but he says that he is feeling better and stronger than ever.
  • Ryan Broekhoff, the 76ers' newest addition, didn't make the trip to the NBA's bubble in Orlando due to personal reasons.
  • Matisse Thybulle gave everyone a glimpse into life in the NBA bubble in episode one of his series, "Welcome to the Bubble."