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76ers’ Matisse Thybulle ineligible to play Raptors in Toronto

Matisse Thybulle Philadelphia 76ers v Toronto Raptors

TORONTO, CANADA - OCTOBER 4: Matisse Thybulle #22 of the Philadelphia 76ers drives to the basket during a preseason game against the Toronto Raptors on October 4, 2021 at the Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2021 NBAE (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/NBAE via Getty Images)

NBAE via Getty Images

The Celtics and 76ers refused to confirm they were fully vaccinated ahead of a potential playoff series against the Toronto Raptors. Unvaccinated players can’t travel to Canada.

That set off waves of reporting and speculation – mostly about Boston, which played in Toronto without Jaylen Brown, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum and Robert Williams last week. Tatum said he’s vaccinated. Williams is reportedly vaccinated. An earlier report said “League sources indicated” Brown and Horford were vaccinated. However, “at least two frontline players are not vaccinated,” according to Gary Washburn of The Boston Globe.

Now, Philadelphia – playing in Toronto tomorrow – takes its turn under the microscope.

Effectively but not quite directly revealing his vaccination status, the 76ers listed Matisse Thybulle as out, “Ineligible To Play.”

Philadelphia is in a three-way tie for second in the Eastern Conference, though fourth when considering tiebreakers. The Raptors are fifth. In addition to the 4-5 matchup, the teams could also meet in the 3-6 matchup. Toronto is only one game ahead of the sixth-place Bulls, and Chicago holds the tiebreaker.

Thybulle is one of the NBA’s best perimeter defenders. The starting small forward plays 25 minutes per game and provides a defensive element otherwise lacking with guards James Harden and Tyrese Maxey. It’d obviously be a big blow not to have Thybulle in two or three games of a playoff series.

There’s room to debate whether Canada’s restrictions are appropriate, especially with coronavirus numbers relatively low. But this is the reality facing NBA players and teams.

If nothing else, the 76ers’ transparency is commendable. That said, this also might at least partially explain why they didn’t include Thybulle in the Ben Simmons-James Harden trade, as unvaccinated Nets couldn’t play Brooklyn home games at that time. When explaining the trade, 76ers president Daryl Morey called keeping Thybulle “critical” and hyped the wing’s Defensive Player of the Year potential.