Matisse Thybulle’s life had been fixated on basketball. He’d studied film and scouting reports, attended shootarounds and practices, traveled on planes across the country with his teammates and played in 57 games as an NBA rookie.
That’s no longer the case. With the NBA season suspended because of the coronavirus pandemic, Thybulle explained Monday in a remote interview with NBC Sports Philadelphia’s Serena Winters that basketball is now a much smaller part of his life.
It’s really limited,” he said of his basketball activity. “I’ve felt guilty because I haven’t really been doing much of basketball at all, just because I don’t have access to a gym and I care about my neighbors enough not to pound a basketball through my apartment building. I’ve been looking at other NBA players, seeing what they’re doing, what they’re saying. It seems to be a trend, that a lot of guys, they don’t have access. And if they do, they’re too worried to be around people or be exposed to too much. It’s going to be interesting to see what we’re all looking like once we come out of this.
This season, Thybulle’s rookie campaign, has perhaps been the most bizarre one in league history. On Opening Night, he guarded the Celtics' Kemba Walker and admitted it was “intimidating,” remarking that he’d played before as Walker in NBA2K. In late March, Thybulle was back playing virtual basketball, falling to the Suns’ Mikal Bridges in a 2K matchup both teams streamed on Twitch.
“It’s not my area of experience,” he said with a smile. “You want to get a Rubik’s Cube-solving contest? I’m pretty sure I’ll win. I’ll take any NBA player, I’m pretty sure I can win that. But in terms of video games, I’ll do it socially to talk with my friends and hang out with my friends, but I’m not good.”
While he hasn’t been entirely separate from his teammates during this time — the players have stayed in touch through a group chat and a couple of team Zoom calls, he said — Thybulle has mostly been isolated in an apartment with his cousin. The 23-year-old had plenty of time to meditate, do yoga, read, workout and consider life outside of basketball (see story).
When he’s had a chance to play a miniature version of basketball, though, it hasn’t gone very well.
“I ordered a little mini hoop that I put on my door,” he said. “If you saw my TikTok, you’ll see that I’m not too good at shooting on it. I think I went 9 for 100. … Not my best day.”
In the time he’s not bricking mini hoop jumpers, Thybulle said he has thought some about how the NBA might change moving forward. As a rookie, it’s an especially odd position to be in — considering how all the rhythms and habits you’d finally become comfortable with could change.
“I think about it, but I’d just gotten used to the NBA,” he said. “I was just starting to figure it out and be good, and then everything gets changed and uprooted. I don’t know what could work. But I think it’s an interesting opportunity for the NBA to make some changes that maybe they’d wanted to make or been meaning to make and hadn’t had an opportunity.
“There could be some changes that could stick for a while, or there could be some changes that we don’t like, and then we just go back to the regular thing. But I think it’s an interesting opportunity to just try out some different things, because we’ll have to, honestly.”
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