76ers

Matisse Thybulle seems like the real deal — and not just because of the Blue x White Scrimmage

Matisse Thybulle seems like the real deal — and not just because of the Blue x White Scrimmage

WILMINGTON, Del. — GM Elton Brand had to trade a second-round pick to the Boston Celtics to move up to No. 20 to draft Matisse Thybulle.

At the time, there was concern that Brand had showed his hand with his interest in Thybulle, allowing Danny Ainge to take advantage of the situation.

If Thybulle plays in real NBA games the way he did at the Sixers’ annual Blue x White Scrimmage Saturday, nobody is going to care about that extra pick.

On a day where we got our first look at the Sixers’ gigantic starting five at the 76ers Fieldhouse in Wilmington, Delaware, that wasn’t the story. 

It was the rookie out of Washington that stole the show.

I hated him on defense. I hate him,” Ben Simmons said with a laugh. “So far he's been amazing. His length, the way he plays the game, he runs the floor, makes the right reads and he can just play the right way.

Simmons wasn’t the only one to have high praise for Thybulle. Everyone that spoke during the postgame availability was asked about Thybulle — and they were all glad to heap praise on the 22-year-old.

Coming into his first NBA camp, gaining the respect of his veteran teammates was his goal.

“It's a good feeling and that's what you set out to do when you get here,” Thybulle said. “That was my goal through open gym and training camp and this game, was just trying to like feel for myself I belong but just establish for the rest of guys I fit in with them. To hear you say that they're saying that is a pretty good feeling.”

If you saw Thybulle play at Washington, you would’ve seen this potential. If you’ve been following along during camp, none of this surprising.

In the first quarter Saturday, Thybulle had a nice strip of Al Horford but then front rimmed the dunk on the ensuing fast break. That was truly the last low moment of Thybulle’s day.

The second quarter was the Matisse Thybulle Show. He wrecked the game for Simmons and the Blue squad. There were at least 10 instances in which Thybulle got his hands on the ball defensively in the second period alone. And even that feels like a conservative guess.

The highlight of the day was when Josh Richardson thought he had a wide-open transition three on the wing. Thybulle came out of nowhere to smack the ball a few rows deep into the crowd. It was a highlight reel among the countless plays Thybulle made Saturday.

“At practice, we chart and reward in the way that we score games, deflections. And he shines in that area in practice,” Brett Brown said. “And there was clear carryover to this game. And oftentimes deflections can produce steals, too. When you charted, and we did, the number of times he got his hand on balls or came up with steals, it was elite.”

While he did make a couple nice offensive plays — a three off the dribble and a spinning floater in the third quarter — that’s not his forte. He was drafted as a wing with 3-and-D potential. That’s the role that Brand and Brown envisioned.

The lack of offensive game is part of what led him to becoming such a willing and strong defender. He learned at a young age that the defensive end of the floor is where he’d earn minutes.

Offense never came naturally for me as a kid,” Thybulle said. “So my dad would always just harp defense because he's like as long as you can play good defense there'll always be a place for you on the court. And just from a young age, I took that and just kind of ran with it.

Sure, it was just a scrimmage but it certainly isn’t isolated. This was what Thybulle did in college. This is what he’s been doing during training camp. This is why Brand was willing to part with an asset to a rival to make sure he got Thybulle.

In a game-like atmosphere, Thybulle looked like a guy ready to help a team with championship aspirations.

“We know in training camp it's been hard for guys to get like a flow or rhythm because there's been so much stoppage,” Thybulle said. “So it was fun to just get out there and get a feel. And yeah, just wreak a little havoc.”

If Thybulle considers what he did Saturday a “little havoc,” him wreaking a lot of it must be something.

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Shake Milton on NBA return: 'I don’t really think we should be playing'

Shake Milton on NBA return: 'I don’t really think we should be playing'

It wasn’t surprising to hear Joel Embiid say he “hated the idea” of the bubble or Mike Scott voice his displeasure for the NBA’s jersey idea.

It was mildly surprising to hear second-year guard Shake Milton take the strongest stance when it came to the NBA’s decision to resume the season.

I don’t really think we should be playing,” Milton said in a video conference call with reporters Tuesday, “but I think the NBA is doing all that they can to make the environment as safe as possible. My teammates want to play so we’re going to go down there and try to win.

When asked why specifically he thought the league shouldn’t resume play, he provided a poignant response.

I think [the spread of the virus], and then also I feel like there’s a lot of other stuff going on,” Milton said. “There are issues going on right now in the world that are way bigger than a sport, way bigger than the game of basketball. I feel like we’re on the cusp of finally having people tune in and really try to listen and try to understand more about the things that are happening in our country. I feel like the moment is too big right now and I don’t want the game of basketball to overshadow it.

Perhaps lost in the shuffle of so many things being shared on social media was Milton posting something that seemed a bit out of character for the soft-spoken 23-year-old. 

Milton is a native of Owasso, Oklahoma, a northern suburb of Tulsa. The 23-year-old has shared various posts about the city and the Tulsa race massacre that occured in 1921 as well as posts about Breonna Taylor, the Louisville EMT who was fatally shot by police while sleeping in her apartment.

While he’s glad to see the league wants to keep the message in the public scope, he’s curious to know how they’ll do it.

I think [the NBA trying to highlight racial injustice is] good — I think we should definitely do it,” Milton said. “I want to know how we’re going to go about doing it, that’s really my concern. I heard ideas about the names on the back of the jerseys and putting stuff on the court, but I kind of want to see what the NBA is actually going to do. That’s cool and all, but that’s kind of like the same as having a T-shirt where you see somebody’s face and it says RIP on the back. That’s only going to take you so far. So I’m interested to see what else the NBA has planned and what else they’re going to do.

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Sixers' Joel Embiid doesn't believe in the NBA's restart plan

Sixers' Joel Embiid doesn't believe in the NBA's restart plan

Joel Embiid intends to travel with the Sixers to Orlando for the NBA’s resumption, but he is not confident in the league’s plan and does not endorse it.

On a video conference call Tuesday, the All-Star center explained why he does not support the NBA heading to Florida during the coronavirus pandemic in an attempt to conclude the 2019-20 season with a champion.

I hated the idea,” Embiid said. “I feel like with everything that has been going on, it’s unfortunate what’s been going on in the world. Obviously people look at it in a different way. There might be some other reasons behind everything going on. To me, that part never mattered. To me, all I want is to stay healthy and stay safe, keep the people around me safe. I want to make sure I’m able to live for a long time and not have any sort of consequences in the future from this if I were to be in a situation where I was getting the virus. 

“Unfortunately, I’m not a big fan of the idea. But then again, I’m going to do my job. I’m not going to let the city down. I’m going to represent my city — that’s what I’ve always done — my family, my teammates. The mindset doesn’t change. It doesn’t matter the fact that I don’t like that idea and I still don’t believe in it. I don’t think it’s going to be safe enough.

“Because I know I’m going to do the right things, I know I don’t ever do anything, I only play video games, I’m always home — I don’t do anything. But then again, I don’t trust those other guys to do the same. But, like I said, I’ve gotta do my job.

The Sixers will travel to Walt Disney World on Thursday and are scheduled to resume play on Aug. 1 against the Indiana Pacers. There’s been a spike in coronavirus cases in Florida, which reportedly has raised concerns around the league. Positive coronavirus tests during the NBA’s Phase 2 protocol have prompted several teams to shut down their facilities, including the Bucks, Heat and Clippers. 

There have been over 2.9 million confirmed coronavirus cases in the United States and over 130,000 coronavirus-related deaths in the country, according to NBC News

Embiid said he considered opting out but felt obligated to play. 

I thought about it,” he said, “but then again, I wouldn’t let my teammates down. I play in a city that’s tough and I consider myself as being tough … I’m not going to give up that easily. If you told me that the current trend is that people are getting sick and a lot of people are dying, obviously you don’t know what's going to happen and you don’t want to be in a situation where you put your life at risk ... and all that stuff, just for what? The money and all that stuff. At the end of the day, basketball is not all that matters. I've got family, I've got myself to look out for. That's all I care about.

"At the end, when it’s all said and done, basketball shouldn’t define me. I should be looked at as just Joel Embiid the person. Like I said, it’s unfortunate but I want to represent my city. I've been here too long. This is my opportunity. I believe we have a great chance of winning the championship. Still not 100 percent sure, but that's what I'm thinking. I want to represent the city. I don’t want to let my teammates down, I don't want to let anybody down. I’ve been working too hard for this and I've just got to keep pushing and hope for the best. 

Embiid sees no reason why he personally will have any trouble adhering to the NBA’s health protocols, which detail everything from testing procedures to physical distancing mandates to approved recreational activities. But he’s somewhat skeptical that more outgoing NBA players will follow all precautions to minimize the risk of coronavirus exposure. 

“I look at myself and I’ve been doing this for quite a bit now — six, seven years,” he said. “Like I said, all I do is play video games and stay in my room on the road, or even when I’m home. Just stay home, play video games, do what I've got to do. Just being with my family. 

“And obviously we’re all different. Some guys like to go out and some guys like to do stuff, (there are) some guys that like adventure. So that’s the way I’m thinking. I know myself. I know I’m not going to put everybody else at risk, but the question is, is everybody else going to do the same? And just being around this business, I surely don’t think so.”

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