76ers

Matisse Thybulle set to return to Sixers 'a little bit smarter, little bit better'

Matisse Thybulle set to return to Sixers 'a little bit smarter, little bit better'

CAMDEN, N.J. — Matisse Thybulle literally ran over to his media availability after practice Wednesday.

It’s the first time the charismatic rookie had spoken to reporters since suffering a right knee bruise and sprain against the Wizards back on Dec. 21.

How is he feeling?

“You didn't see me run over here? I feel great,” Thybulle joked. “I really do, I feel good. I'm excited, everything should be the same tomorrow.”

After being a full participant at practice Wednesday, Thybulle is expected to return to the lineup Thursday against the Celtics — and come back a little wiser.

It wasn’t easy for Thybulle to sit and watch the last seven games. While he was out, the team incurred a four-game losing streak, it’s worst of the season.

But it wasn’t all bad. While he watched from the bench, he took mental notes. He also prepared for every game as if he would be out there.

“Really what we did is tried not to change anything,” Thybulle said after practice Wednesday. “My pregame routine, aside from working out, was the same. I still went through the scouts, still went through the game plans. Tobias [Harris] still gave me the iPad with the plays, it was still the same thing because there was no reason for me to get out of that routine.”

The veteran Harris has really taken the 22-year-old Thybulle under his wing. They sit next to each other on the team plane and their lockers are close by. Thybulle describes Harris as a “big brother” that’s helped him adjust to life in the NBA, on and off the court.

Harris was glad to see his rookie back at practice and wanted to make sure Thybulle didn’t miss a beat.

I always want him to stay locked in and still present yourself as if you're playing,” Harris said, “get to the arena the same time if you were going to be playing, stay in your routine. I think routine is big over the course of the season and not getting out of that. I am always throwing the iPad to him with the personnel in there and quizzing him a little bit after, so just making sure his mind is locked into each and every game, so when he comes back it's second nature and the same thing and he can walk right back into it.

And how does he do on those quizzes?

“He does good. He's about a B+ student right now.”

Brett Brown was also glad to see his impressive rookie back. Thybulle’s propensity to gamble defensively has led to momentum-shifting plays. It’s also led to the occasional frustrations from his head coach.

Thybulle has talked since training camp about walking that “fine line.” It’s a balance he’s constantly looking to find.

Brown is hoping Thybulle’s time observing will help him in his return to the court.

I always enjoy the conversation with him, where I would say to him, ‘This is really a good experience,” Brown said. “You probably don’t realize it, but this is part of your career — you will be injured. And how you take advantage of it will be important.’ And so the vision line that you have in a suit vs. you sitting on a bench, it’s all different. You’re going to feel things, you’re going to see things, you’re going to have a set of experiences that you just wouldn’t have had otherwise. 

“He and I always talk like that — ‘What do you see? What have you learned? What do you think?’ I enjoy the dialogue. I enjoy it with everybody, and I especially enjoy it with young guys. There were always interesting conversations that we would have — pretty high-level conversations. ... I hope that kind of globally, holistically, in the world that we live in basketball-wise, he’s just a little bit smarter, little bit better, little bit more polished.

Thybulle has carried himself differently from most rookies since he came here. There’s a reason GM Elton Brand had the Washington product targeted and ultimately traded up to acquire him.

He’s taken everything in stride. The injury was just another wrinkle to his first NBA season.

“It helped me just not take it for granted,” Thybulle said. “Just being injured, and also just being on the court, watching people make the mistakes that I usually make out there and seeing how you can avoid those — that was something that I actually picked up on a lot.”

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Sixers Talk podcast: New-look starting 5; What food would you break quarantine for?

Sixers Talk podcast: New-look starting 5; What food would you break quarantine for?

On this edition of Sixers Talk, we discuss which food we'd break quarantine for, the Sixers' new-look starting five and much more.

(2:16) — Richaun Holmes forced to quarantine after leaving the bubble for food.
(10:28) — Two players test positive for COVID-19 while inside the bubble.
(15:54) — With Shake Milton at point guard, it sounds like Sixers are leaning toward a new starting five.

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Why Shake Milton could thrive in strange NBA playoffs this year

Why Shake Milton could thrive in strange NBA playoffs this year

On March 1, Shake Milton introduced himself to the NBA world by dropping 39 points on the Clippers in L.A on national TV.

Not bad for a guy that was told he was out of the rotation before an injury to Ben Simmons thrust him into the starting lineup.

But that seems to be the story of Milton. He’s unflappable. Whatever his life or career presents him, he keeps moving forward.

As the Sixers continue their training camp at Disney World to prepare for the resumed NBA season, Brett Brown has been using Milton as his starting point guard, moving Simmons to the four. That means the 23-year-old that’s played 52 career NBA games appears to have the inside track on a starting job for a team looking to go on a deep playoff run.

No pressure or anything there.

There are people that just thrive in these circumstances. You can throw them in intense situations, and they act so calm you have to wonder if they even have a pulse. Milton’s imperturbable demeanor has likely helped him get to where he is. 

He was a freshman in high school when he lost his father. Myron Milton was just 43 when he passed away suddenly. The two were close and basketball was a big part of their bond. His dad told him to “just go out there and play like you’re the best player on the floor,” Shake said to NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters.

The Oklahoma native was recruited to play at SMU by former Sixers coach and Hall of Famer Larry Brown, who said he “got lucky” in landing Milton over the likes of the University of Oklahoma and Indiana. Milton had a strong college career but that’s also where injuries became an unfortunate part of his story.

Milton suffered a hand injury that limited him to 22 games his junior year and final season for the Mustangs. A back injury presumably caused him to slip to the back end of the draft. After making strides at the NBA level his rookie season, he suffered another hand injury. Just three games into the 2019-20 season — and when it appeared he had a legitimate chance at a spot in the rotation — a knee injury sidelined him.

Ironically, injuries are what led to his next prolonged NBA opportunity. When Simmons went down, Milton stepped in and produced in a big way, averaging 17.8 points and shooting 60.4 percent from three over his last nine games before play was suspended.

All the injuries and time spent with the Delaware Blue Coats has led to this moment, where he could potentially be the team's starting point guard in the postseason.

“You won’t find a better kid than him, and somebody that really trusts the process,” Larry Brown said as a guest on the Sixers Talk podcast in May. “And Philly did a remarkable job with him. Playing in the G League in Delaware, Shake told me was huge. …

“The greatest thing is they had patience with him. They had some injuries and you never know when the opportunity is going to be there for you to show you can play.”

Milton has rewarded that patience already. Now, he’ll have to try to carry the momentum he built before the season was suspended onto one of the biggest NBA stages.

But it’s all part of Milton’s story and why if anyone can do this at a young age and with so little NBA experience, it could be him.

“There’s a poise that he has as a person that I’m assuming everybody on this call that has interviewed him feels,” Brett Brown said in a video conference call with reporters Tuesday. “And I think that can help him navigate through a pressure situation of the NBA playoffs. I do believe how he’s wired from a human perspective can help him deal with that environment I think in a more calm way.”

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