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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A sneak peek at the Sixers' 2019-20 City Edition jerseys

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A sneak peek at the Sixers' 2019-20 City Edition jerseys

It appears we got our first peek at the Sixers’ 2019-20 City Edition uniforms.

Though the uniform won’t officially come out until Wednesday morning, team president Chris Heck gave us a sneak peek Tuesday during the last night of the 76ers Crossover: Art Exhibition.

The design is similar to the 2017-18 version, but with “Philadelphia” written and the copper stripe down the side. The copper stripe appears to be an ode to the Liberty Bell. Before Heck entered the exhibit, he said the jerseys would “tell a story.”

Apparently, that story is America’s. We’ll likely get more info when the uniforms are officially released.

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Sixers' imperfect fit has led to growing pains offensively

Sixers' imperfect fit has led to growing pains offensively

CAMDEN, N.J. — Through 13 games, the Sixers’ offense has been far from a well-oiled machine.

There are plenty of factors contributing to that. Joel Embiid missing four games hasn’t helped. Ben Simmons missing two hasn’t either.

But the biggest factor — other than perhaps Simmons’ unwillingness to shoot — is time.

Brett Brown, who slyly remarked, “I have no idea what you're talking about” Tuesday on reports that he’s in talks to coach Team Australia in 2020, has often cited Christmas as a time when he expects things to start to come together. Though he was vocal about his disappointment with the team’s defense in their loss last Friday in Oklahoma City, Brown is feeling good about that end of the floor.

But offensively, with his team’s size, it can be an awkward fit. Al Horford is figuring out how to play with a center as dominant as Embiid. Josh Richardson is learning how to play next to a 6-foot-10 point guard that doesn’t shoot from the outside. And Tobias Harris is still figuring out exactly what his role is.

It’s up to Brown and the players to figure it out, but it won’t happen overnight.

“But at some point, when somebody claims that part of the floor, other people have to react to like, well, that real estate's bought,” Brown said. “That takes time. And forget the coach on the sideline saying it, I bet if you ask the players, they'll give you heartfelt -- I hope -- answers on the truth and this is my point: You don't just click your heels [and win], even with talent. 

“This is a different type of team. It's not like you got a traditional point guard, a bunch of shooters, you know Joel Embiid and a stretch four — it's not that. It ain't that at all. I like what I got. I like the people, I like the talent, but it's not a perfect fit that happens straightaway. And that's not an excuse. That's just the way I truly see it.”

Horford’s struggles while playing next to Embiid are evident. His best minutes as a Sixer have been when being used at the five with Embiid out. He’s also shooting just 31.6 percent from three after connecting on 38.2 percent of tries during three years in Boston.

Though he wasn’t as willing to give a timeframe for things to come together, he echoed his coach’s sentiments about the team’s offense — and defense.

“I think we're just a unique team,” Horford said. “We want to play a certain way and it's more in the paint, bully ball and scoring at will with that. We need to continue to find ways to be efficient scoring in the paint but also hitting shots. But I always go back to defense. The more comfortable that we feel defensively I think that'll take us out of a lot of jams and put us in good position.”

There’s little doubt this team was built more for April and May than it was for November. We’ve seen stretches of how good they can be defensively when all five guys are engaged and on the same page.

One area where they should certainly be better and that can help them when the games get tougher is getting to the line. They're 21st in the league in free throw attempts per game. With their size, this should be a team that lives at the line.

Why is there such a disparity on a nightly basis?

“It's a trick question. I don't want to lose no money so ain't going to say nothing,” Harris said. 

When the reporter clarified that it was not a trick question, Harris gave a layered response.

“Look, my whole career I've haven't been really able to get to the free throw line at a consistent rate that I would like to. I've watched film, done a lot of studying how to draw those files and whatnot. It's still a work in progress. I'm not a flopper so I think that kind of like hinders me sometimes a little bit. 

“I think we can find some more ways to kind of get to the free throw line a little bit more [as a team]. Maybe that's limiting some midrange jumpers and getting all the way downhill. Maybe being more physical. But we'll work at it.”

Like everything else with the 2019-20 Sixers, it’s a work in progress.

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