76ers

Tobias Harris discusses Sixers’ chemistry issues, positive COVID-19 tests across NBA

Tobias Harris discusses Sixers’ chemistry issues, positive COVID-19 tests across NBA

Tobias Harris on Friday addressed a series of topics ranging from his concern over health and safety risks with the NBA’s plan to resume the season at Disney World to the Sixers’ chemistry issues this year. 

In an interview on ESPN’s "First Take," he spoke honestly about whether he believes the league should go ahead and restart play on July 30 in Orlando. The Sixers are scheduled to travel to Disney World on July 9.

“That’s a tough one for me to answer,” he said. “I would say that if we’re going to be safe, then let’s play. If the league, if my fellow brothers in the NBA want to go out and play, I’m with playing. I know my teammates, they want to go hoop, so I’m with my team to go hoop. 

“Do I think necessarily it’s the safest thing? No. That’s just straight up and down. I don’t think it’s the safest thing. You look around the world, the cases continue to rise. But that’s also on the NBA to make sure we’re in a safe environment.”

Harris called the announcement Friday from the NBA and NBPA that 16 players tested positive for the coronavirus (out of 302 tested) “not surprising,” in the context of a recent spike in United States cases

“You look around the world with cases continuing to rise now, you’re going to see an increase in cases, even with guys in our league,” he said. “The biggest thing for us is to just make sure we’re put in a situation where we can be healthy and we can go out and do our job and play. That’s how I look at it. It wasn’t surprising, the number.”

As usual, he gave a nuanced explanation for why he’s choosing to play, citing an opportunity to advocate for change and against racism and police brutality, as well as future financial harms for players if the season doesn’t conclude with a champion which he'd like to avoid.

“COVID-19 — our health, our safety — and then everything going in the world with pushing the message, Black Lives Matter, equality, police brutality, are both things, for me, that I’m heavily concerned about,” he said. “With the bubble … I have to know that I’m healthy, that I’m OK with going out there and I’m not going to be put at a high risk. And on top of that, I also have to take the responsibility as a leader of my team and as a player in the NBA to continue to push the message of what we want overall for the African American community, and that’s change. We have to use our platforms when we go to Orlando to continue to push this message.”

When the discussion shifted to basketball, Harris assessed what went wrong for the Sixers this year and why the team sits at 39-26, sixth in the Eastern Conference and below where it expected to be heading into the season.

I’ll just say, and I’ll keep it real, we haven’t had the best chemistry throughout the whole year. It took us a while to kind of get everyone together, we battled injuries from the start to the end. And right now, if we’re the sleeper, then we’re the sleeper. Truth be told, how we’re viewed, that’s someone else’s opinion, but I know when I look my guys in the eye and we have conversations, we have one goal in mind, and that’s to go out there and play and win a championship. 

“That’s the only view that matters to me. What people have to say about our team, I get it, because we haven’t met our expectations so far this year. But we have a new opportunity in Orlando to go out and just play ball, and really scratch a new surface of what we can accomplish.

In an interview Wednesday with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Michael Barkann, Charles Barkley had given the Sixers that same “sleeper” label and said he believed Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid will be the best two players in any Eastern Conference series involving the Sixers besides a matchup against Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Bucks. 

Despite the concerns he laid out, Harris insisted the Sixers can come away with a title in what might be the most unusual conclusion to an NBA season ever. 

 “I’ve always been in contact with all of my teammates throughout this process,” he said, “mainly just to make sure guys are in a good space mentally, asking, ‘Hey, do you want to go hoop out here? What’s your opinion?’ Not really holding much judgement to it. … I believe that when we go out here and go hoop, we have a chance to win a championship. We’re going to be healthy, a lot healthier than before — having Ben recovered and fully healed is big for us — and we’ve just gotta go out there and play basketball. 

“This for us is kind of like an AAU tournament. We’ve just gotta go out there and hoop, play our best and do what we do. But I really believe that we’re going to have a clear-cut shot to win a championship, and I stand on that.”

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2020 NBA schedule: Sixers set to play 3 scrimmages before season resumes

2020 NBA schedule: Sixers set to play 3 scrimmages before season resumes

The NBA on Saturday released its scrimmage schedule for the 22 teams participating in the league’s restart in Orlando. 

The Sixers are set to play three scrimmages:

July 24, 3:30 p.m. — Grizzlies
July 26, 12 p.m. — Thunder
July 28, 8:30 p.m. — Mavericks

The scrimmages are intended to serve as a final ramp-up into the resumption of the season. The Sixers, who began holding mandatory individual workouts at their practice facility in Camden, New Jersey, starting on Wednesday, are scheduled to arrive at Disney World next Thursday.

Brett Brown said Wednesday he’d like his team to be at a “B” fitness base that he can help improve to an “A” by the time seeding games start. It’s been challenging for many players to stay in shape because of restrictions related to the coronavirus. Matisse Thybulle, for one, said Thursday he doesn’t like running but it was his “only choice.”

"It’s obviously not basketball-type conditioning,” Thybulle said, “but it kept me at a cardio fitness level to where now that we’ve come back and started, and I’ve started doing my basketball workouts, I have a really solid baseline to build off.”

The hiatus has allowed Ben Simmons to recover from the back injury that sidelined him for the Sixers’ last eight games, and Simmons noted he's added muscle and feels more explosive.

Al Horford also said, “I probably wasn’t where I wanted to be this season” in terms of health, and that the time off has been helpful for him. 

Below is the Sixers’ schedule for the final eight games:

Aug. 1, 7 p.m.: Indiana
Aug. 3, 8 p.m: San Antonio
Aug. 5, 4 p.m.: Washington
Aug. 7, 6:30 p.m.: Orlando
Aug. 9, 6:30 p.m.: Portland
Aug. 11, 4:30 p.m.: Phoenix
Aug. 12, 6:30 p.m.: Toronto 
Aug. 14: Houston 

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How bubbly Matisse Thybulle is taking things in stride during bizarre rookie year

How bubbly Matisse Thybulle is taking things in stride during bizarre rookie year

Matisse Thybulle was his usual bubbly self Friday. The Sixers’ rookie literally hopped — like he actually jumped into his seat — on a video conference call with reporters. He signed off by calling all of us nerds.

The 2019 first-round pick was having a standout first season before play was suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic. Though his playing time had fluctuated, head coach Brett Brown said earlier in the season that he was grooming the young wing for the playoffs.

Still, Thybulle won’t take anything for granted as the team prepares to leave for the Disney World “bubble” next week.

“For me, every time I get out on the court, it’s a challenge to maintain, to keep my spot on the team,” Thybulle said. “And then with keeping the spot, you can never be stagnant.”

On opening night, Thybulle was asked to defend All-Star guard Kemba Walker. Walker had given the Sixers problems in the past and the rookie didn’t get off to a great start, committing two quick fouls. As the game went on, Thybulle settled in and showed the defensive prowess the Sixers drafted him for.

All season long, Thybulle has done well to take things as they come during a bizarre rookie year. He’s planning to take that same mentality to Florida.

Nobody really knows what’s going to happen," Thybulle said, "nobody really knows what to expect, or how things are going to go, or what anybody or any team looks like. Instead of setting expectations for myself or what I think the experience is going to be like, it’s been just trying to take each new step of this process as a new challenge, and then figuring out, when I get there, how I’m going to get through it.

"If you want to look at all the unknowns, you’ll just go crazy. Taking what I know and what I can control and trying to make the best out of that.

What we know about Thybulle is he has a propensity for disruption on the defensive end. He leads all rookies in steals — by a healthy margin — and is fifth in blocks. He’s one of only eight players in the NBA to have at least 80 steals and 40 blocks.

In order to get so many deflections and wreak havoc defensively, you need to be in top shape. If you’ve seen Thybulle’s Tik Tok adventures from early in the quarantine, you know that he lives in a small apartment and didn’t have the opportunity to keep up with basketball activities.

So, he turned to the only form of exercise he thought could help — even if he didn’t enjoy it.

“I don’t like running. I really don’t like it,” Thyulle said. “But through the quarantine, it was like my only choice. ... It’s obviously not basketball-type conditioning, but it kept me at a cardio fitness level to where now that we’ve come back and started, and I’ve started doing my basketball workouts, I have a really solid baseline to build off. In a matter of two weeks, I feel like I’ve gotten back into really good shape and I think it’s going to be easier to build on after this.”

Thybulle has been given a bunch of tough assignments this season. While he’s looked like a rookie at times, when he’s kept his fouls down and his three-point percentage up, you see a player that should be able to help come the postseason.

And in a year where nobody knows what the NBA playoffs will be like, it could be to the rookie’s advantage during his first postseason run.

“I think what I’ve heard about the playoffs is a little different than what the playoffs are going to look like this year,” Thybulle said. “Obviously, I’ve heard amazing things. Especially playing in Philly, I’ve heard so many great things about having our fans behind us.

"We’re finding ourselves in a situation where that’s not going to be the case, so I think it’s going to be new for everyone, even vets who have been part of the playoffs, trying to get a feel for what this is going to be like. But I’m open to the challenge and I’m excited for what’s in store.”

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