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NBA summer league: How Matisse Thybulle shined in Sixers' loss to Pistons

NBA summer league: How Matisse Thybulle shined in Sixers' loss to Pistons

The Sixers finished their regular season summer league slate on a losing note.

Matisse Thybulle had his best performance, but the Pistons remain undefeated after a 96-81 win Wednesday afternoon at Cox Pavilion in Las Vegas. The Sixers fell to 1-3.

Here are observations from the loss.

• It didn’t take Thybulle long to get his hands on the ball on defense. On the first possession, Thybulle nearly created a fast break on a steal. A few minutes later, he did just that.

He continues to look every bit the disruptive player he was at Washington. While most gave credit to the zone for Thybulle’s crazy steal and block stats, the Sixers’ 2019 first-round pick anticipates as well as anyone and is incredibly quick once he recognizes where the ball is going. He had a pair of steals and a number of deflections.

The one clear weakness in Thybulle’s game is ball handling, but he’s looked more comfortable in that regard as the summer league has gone on. He carried out a fake dribble handoff at the top of the key that he then took to his left for a two-hand dunk.

He also had a nice dribble drive before halftime that he dished off to Zhaire Smith, who drew a foul. He had three assists and just one turnover.

His shooting stroke continues to look good. He was 2 of 4 from three and 2 of 2 from the line. He finished with 12 points on 4 of 8 overall.

• Marial Shayok returned to the lineup after missing Monday’s loss with a knee injury. The 2019 second-rounder and recent recipient of a two-way deal continued to show off his offensive ability. He made two threes, including a nice pull-up in transition.

He’s also shown the ability to operate as a ball handler in the pick-and-roll. There’s still a rawness to Shayok’s game. He needs to work on his decision making and shot selection (he finished just 4 of 14), but there’s plenty to like here.

• Smith got off to a slow start offensively but made a couple plays that should excite Brett Brown and the Sixers.

He made a pair of threes, but his most impressive shot came midway through the third quarter. He pulled up around a screen and nailed a midrange jumper off the dribble and looked natural doing so. One of his threes was also off the bounce. 

We all know about Smith’s elite athleticism and defensive prowess. If he can become a confident and consistent shooter, that could make him a legitimate contributor this season. He was 4 of 8 for 11 points.

• Norvel Pelle and Christ Koumadje continue to commit fouls at an unfathomable rate. Both players show ability on the defensive end with their ability to protect the rim and on offense as rollers and finishers. But they both lack discipline and have a long way to go if they want to help an NBA team. They combined for five blocks, but 13 fouls.

• Shake Milton was out with an ankle injury he suffered Monday against the Thunder. It was clearly not the summer league output he would’ve liked to have. He showed his ability to run the offense but struggled mightily with his shot — a skill he showed off frequently last season in the G League. Milton is locked in for the next four years and will have plenty of time during training camp and the preseason to prove he belongs. 

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Brett Brown calls out Sixers' turnover problem: 'Until we fix this, this is a house built on sand'

Brett Brown calls out Sixers' turnover problem: 'Until we fix this, this is a house built on sand'

Brett Brown has been asked about turnovers many times during his six-plus years as head coach of the Sixers. They are a concern, he has acknowledged often. 

“Our turnovers continue to haunt us and we can’t let it go,” he said in December of 2016.

“It is on me, and it keeps us up late at night,” he admitted a little over a year later.

On March 13, 2018, Brown said of the Sixers’ turnover woes, “As a team, we have to get better. Some of it I have to own.”

So, in one sense, what Brown had to say Sunday night about the Sixers’ turnovers shouldn’t be shocking. He hasn’t shirked away from this problem. And, for the most part, it’s been an issue that’s gnawed at the Sixers throughout his tenure. The team has finished either 29th or 30th in turnovers in the NBA every season under Brown besides last year, when they were 25th. After recording 20 turnovers Sunday in a 114-106 win over the Hornets, the 6-3 Sixers are last in the league with 18.8 turnovers per game. But Brown’s comments Sunday were perhaps as impassioned as we’ve heard him on the subject.

This is what I tell the team: Until we can fix this, this is a house built on sand. It is fool’s gold. And we have to find a discipline and a better way to control that. Because the turnovers in the first half, some of them were live ball, a lot of them were just getting things batted out of our hands. We can’t fool ourselves — this is a problem. This is a problem. And we need to own it. I’m the head coach, I’ve gotta find a way to fix it. There needs to be a level of accountability with the players. And that’s that. It’s not anything that we take lightly — we don’t dismiss it. The times are over when you’re looking at some of the young guys and you can justify it. You can’t do that anymore. It’s time that we get better at that. And the players know it. They understand it. But we better fix it.

Like in years past, there are a variety of reasons the Sixers have committed this volume of turnovers. Joel Embiid inflated the number by coughing it up eight times in the Mile High City. There are two new starters in Josh Richardson and Tobias Harris, and some new players coming off the bench. As Brown said, though, youth is no longer a good excuse. 

“That’s definitely our biggest flaw right now,” Richardson said. “I think sometimes we get careless. And I think sometimes we get too unselfish, too. On possessions where you get a decent look and pass it up and then we end up turning it over. It’s like, could we really have gotten a better look at it? But I think that’s a good problem to have. I think we’ve just gotta watch the film and figure out what we’re doing wrong outside of that.”

It’s possible to turn the ball over a lot and still go far as a team. Last year, Monty Williams — at the time an assistant with the Sixers, now the head coach of the Suns — noted that “being in the top five or even the top 10 in turnovers does not guarantee you success.” 

The Sixers have mitigated some of their turnovers by being the best offensive rebounding team in the league. They’re also forcing 16.8 turnovers per game, over four more than they did in 2018-19. The turnovers hurt, but perhaps not as badly as they would for a team also losing possessions in those other categories. 

“That’s been our biggest thing this year,” Tobias Harris said. “A lot of them have just come from — like myself today, I had two travels in the beginning. We’re going to find each other and our spots and how we want to play, things we can do to execute better. If we can just limit to half of those, protect the ball a little bit better, I think that will help us out a whole lot.”

Cutting their turnovers in half would lead the Sixers to be the best in the league at taking care of the ball, so that’s likely not a realistic goal. But Harris’ overall point is fair. It’s not this simple, but if the Sixers could, in each game, eliminate an unforced turnover, an excessively unselfish turnover, and a “new guys getting used to each other” turnover, that would go a long way. 

The NBA started officially recording turnovers in the 1977-78 season. No team has both led the league in turnovers and won an NBA title since then. 

“I think a lot of them were guys mean[ing] well and trying to make certain reads,” Horford said. “We’re just not necessarily clicking how we need to be. Maybe some plays are there … we’re just getting to know each other. Also, we have to be more conscious about taking care of the ball. I believe that as the season goes on, we’ll be fine.”

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Sixers' Josh Richardson opens up about mental health: 'It's tough to dig yourself out of that hole'

Sixers' Josh Richardson opens up about mental health: 'It's tough to dig yourself out of that hole'

After being traded from the Miami Heat to the Sixers this summer, Josh Richardson admitted he was in a "hole" with his mental health.

“It’s one of those things you constantly have to think about," Richardson said. "You have to consciously stay on your mental health, because if you don’t, you can look up and you’re depressed or you’re just not in the right state of mind. I’ve seen guys succumb to that. It’s tough to dig yourself out of that hole. I was there, to be honest. I was there this summer for a while. I got a therapist and I’ve been trying to work that out."

In an open interview, which you can watch above, Richardson discussed the challenges of being diligent about mental health in the highly competitive environment of the NBA, and explained why he tries to “embrace the negative.”

NBC Sports Regional Networks has launched a multi-platform campaign on mental health and men's health, HeadStrong: Mental Health and Sports, for the month of November. You can find more information about the initiative here

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