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Sixers' Matisse Thybulle talks TikTok, reading, life in self-quarantine

Sixers' Matisse Thybulle talks TikTok, reading, life in self-quarantine

For Sixers rookie Matisse Thybulle, life during self-quarantine started out as it did many of us.

Reading books, including To Kill a Mockingbird and Freakonomics; workouts in which he did step-ups on his bed while holding a box (don’t worry, he’s since gotten his hands on some free weights!); yoga; meditating in the morning; walking outside when the weather was willing; and group chats and video calls with teammates, family and friends. He even built a Lego — a small Porsche, he said, that fits in his hand.

But unlike many of us, Thybulle decided not to spend his time binge-watching TV shows or movies.

“Because I want to do things that I don't (normally) have time to do, and I've always had time to find TV shows to binge-watch," he said in an interview Monday with NBC Sports Philadelphia. 

So, Thybulle did something that he says was completely out of his comfort zone, creating a TikTok account. It's something that he says still feels awkward for him, a guy who admits he's uncomfortable in front of the camera. 

“I know, it's pretty backwards,” Thybulle joked about his new hobby. “It's quite unfortunate.” 

And it takes a lot of time.

“The one where I was dribbling around in my jersey took all day — like, hours," he said with a laugh.

Thybulle has also gotten used to a new diet —he's eating gluten-free and dairy-free, thanks to his cousin that he’s been staying with — and figuring out a way to fill his competitive hunger without basketball games.

“For me, competition has always been largely an internal battle,” he explained. “Competing with myself, I find that a huge challenge and hugely rewarding if I can exceed expectations.

So how does he compete with himself while being isolated? He might pick an activity that he doesn’t necessarily enjoy doing, like stretching, tell himself he wants to reach a certain goal of being more flexible, and achieve it.

“Some days, it’s hard to motivate yourself to do something productive," he said. "I find it rewarding to actually not be a lazy bum and sit on the couch, and be productive. I find that's like competition.”

But along with making TikToks, reading books, practicing yoga, stretching and building legos, this time has given Thybulle even more opportunity to think.

Not just about basketball, though he’s been reflective of his rookie year.

As a whole, because you get so caught up in the day to day, preparing for each game, every micro-detail, you can lose sight of the big picture," he said. "To step back and embrace the fact that I made it to the NBA, I played in the NBA, I started an NBA game, I've scored, I've gotten steals, I've done all these things as a kid you dream of. ... For me, to be able to look back on a short season, but my first season, and see all the stuff that I achieved, it's cool. It helps put things in perspective.

He's also been thinking about life outside of basketball. 

“To think about what my life means, for me, and what I want to achieve, it has been eye-opening," he said, "and I think it will be cool once we can try to get back to a normal life, to see how people use what they have been able to learn about themselves during this time, and act on that once we are back out in the real world.

“I'm a strong believer that everything happens for a reason and that good or bad, there is something to be learned from it. I know that this has been a tragic time and really hard for a lot of people, but it has also given us a great opportunity to just remember the human aspect of life, that it is not just about your job or what your status is ... appreciating just what it is to be alive, be happy, be healthy, have friends, and people who you look after and who look after you. This has been a really difficult time for a lot of people, but this has also brought a lot of people together.”

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2020 NBA return format: NBPA approves return to play format

2020 NBA return format: NBPA approves return to play format

A day after the NBA’s Board of Governor’s approved a 22-team return to play format, the NBPA did so Friday evening, according to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium.

All 28 player reps approved the plan, which would see 22 teams head to Walt Disney World in Florida to finish out the 2019-20 season beginning July 31. The league will play eight regular-season games with the possibility of a play-in tournament for the eighth seed. The playoffs will follow the traditional format.

One of the new pieces of information presented Friday is that there will also be two or three preseason games before the season resumes.

On TNT Thursday night, commissioner Adam Silver said the league is in the “first inning” in its quest to return to play. The NBA suspended the season on March 11 after Utah Jazz center Rudy Gobert tested positive for COVID-19. 

According to Charania, players will undergo testing every day and there will be a minimum seven-day quarantine for any player that tests positive. If a player does contract the virus, play would continue.

“Of course we’ve always been looking for whether or not there is an appropriate and safe way that we can resume basketball,” Silver said, “and knowing that we’re going to be living with this virus for a while. … We’ve been exploring with the players whether there can be a new normal here.”

Another sticking point was a tentative date of Nov. 10 to start training camps for the 2020-21 season. Oct. 12 would be the last possible date for Game 7 of this year’s NBA Finals under this return-to-play plan. The NBPA told the players it’s “unlikely” the 2020-21 season would start on Dec. 1 and that it’s still being negotiated, per Charania.

With no fans in the stands, the two sides have also discussed pumping fan noise in courtesy of NBA2K.

The league and NBPA are still continuing to work out the health and safety details in the weeks leading up to a return.

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2020 NBA Draft profile: Jordan Nwora is a proven scorer, shooter

2020 NBA Draft profile: Jordan Nwora is a proven scorer, shooter

Jordan Nwora

Position: Forward
Height: 6-7
Weight: 225
School: Louisville

Six months ago, Jordan Nwora seemed like a lock to be selected in the first round of the 2020 NBA Draft. Nwora was the ACC Preseason Player of the Year, poised to lead Louisville to a big season and cement his status as one of the best players in all of college basketball.

By all accounts, he had a very good — if not great — junior season. Nwora averaged 18 points and just under eight rebounds per game for a Louisville team that finished with a 24-7 record. He was named First Team All-ACC and finished second in conference player of the year voting behind Duke’s Tre Jones.

Yet here we are looking ahead to the draft and Nwora is considered a fringe first-round pick who is more likely to be selected in the second round. 

So, what went wrong? There are a couple theories. One, Nwora struggled in a handful of marquee games last season. He scored just eight points on 2 of 10 shooting in a loss at Kentucky and was held to six points on 3 of 12 shooting at Duke a couple weeks later. To make matters worse, he scored a total of seven points in back-to-back losses to Georgia Tech and Clemson in mid-February.

There are also doubts as to whether Nwora showed enough improvement between his sophomore and junior seasons. Does he work hard enough? Is he committed to improving his game? These are questions that will follow Nwora as the draft approaches.

Strengths

Nwora is a proven scorer. He averaged 17 points as a sophomore and 18 points as a junior. He did so wearing a target on his back, particularly this past season. Opponents game planned to slow him down and he still put up big numbers against very good competition. 

He’s also a very efficient three-point shooter. Nwora shot better than 37 percent from long range during his sophomore year. He was even better last season, making 40 percent of his three-point attempts. His combination of size and shooting ability is very attractive to NBA talent evaluators.  

Weaknesses

Ball handling and defense top the list. Nwora should be an effective spot-up shooter in the NBA but his ability to create his own shot is questionable. His ball handling skills need significant improvement to be considered NBA-ready.

There are also legitimate concerns about his ability to defend on the pro level. Is he quick enough to guard smaller players on the perimeter? Is he strong enough to hold his own in the paint and on the boards? If Nwora ends up slipping to the second round, the defensive question marks will be the biggest reason why. 

Fit

Nwora could very well be selected early in the second round. The Sixers currently own the 34th and 36th picks and they need shooters. Nwora certainly fits that description. 
    
The Sixers could target him for his shooting ability and live with his shortcomings on the defensive end of the floor. Nwora to the Sixers isn’t a far-fetched scenario and definitely warrants serious consideration.  

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