You don't have to be a star to be a fan favorite. It's something Mike Scott has learned from Sixers fans.
Scott had always been “the go-to guy” for all his teams growing up. When he was in grade school, high school, even at Virginia where he led the team in scoring his last two seasons.
Then he got to the NBA and that all changed. He didn’t get off the bench much his first two seasons in Atlanta. He was then part of a Hawks team that won 60 games under head coach Mike Budenholzer and featured veterans like Al Horford and Elton Brand.
After up-and-down stops in Washington and L.A., Scott new things had to change ... eventually.
Coaches always told me my role would be, if I wanted to earn more playing time, to dive for loose balls — kind of like (the Rockets’) P.J. Tucker, sort of do the dirty [work] that people don't want to do,” Scott said at a roundtable at the Sixers practice facility. “I always thought it was going to be scoring — I just like to score. Finally it clicked — it only took seven years for me to actually figure it out. Doing the dirty work, not trying to score 20 every night. Maybe I'll have six points, five rebounds, four assists. Do the dirty work, do every little thing and just play with energy.
Fast forward to his time with the Sixers and it seems like a perfect fit. Scott figured out his role and the way to star in it after being traded to Philly — and also won over the hearts of the fans with the Mike Scott Hive. With franchise players like Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons already in place, the Sixers needed to surround them with role players like Scott.
Scott admitted that he was "hype" when he learned he'd been traded here, but it wasn’t a sure thing that Scott was coming back this offseason. The seven-year veteran said he had offers from three or four other teams, but that Philadelphia was always his first choice if the sides could make it work. The Sixers retooled their roster yet again, adding Horford and Josh Richardson to a starting lineup that featured All-Stars Embiid and Simmons and borderline All-Star Tobias Harris.
Scott brought up Tucker during his media availability and it’s a solid comparison of roles. Tucker does all the “dirty work” and hunts threes while the star players on his teams do their thing.
“P.J. Tucker always comes to my mind, how he's always all over the place, doing the little things and not trying to force a lot,” Scott said. “He knows who the scorers are on his team. Same thing — I know who are our go-to guys are. Of course I'm going to play my game, but I'm not going to f— that up."
Scott didn’t arrive to this conclusion on his own. He learned from veterans like Horford, Paul Millsap and Kyle Korver during his time in Atlanta. Doc Rivers and Clippers assistant Rex Kalamanian told him before last season started that he needed to find ways to affect the game when his jumper isn’t falling. He took all of that to heart and is thriving in Philadelphia — with his teammates and the fan base.
The occasional big shot may happen — like the one he hit in Game 4 at Brooklyn — but Scott knows that’s not why he’s here.
Sometimes you just get caught up in trying to score,” Scott said. “I've always been a scorer — Virginia, high school, I was always the go-to guy. Coming into the league, I wasn't. I still just wanted to score. Maybe a coach told me this at one point but I don't remember, but it just always stuck in my mind from when I had a meeting with Doc, saying, 'Do something else.' That just stuck out. I'm pretty sure a coach probably did tell me [something like that] and I was probably just like, 'F— you. I wanna f—ing shoot.'
Luckily for the Sixers, it appears it all came together for Scott at the best possible time.
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