Matisse Thybulle is more artistically inclined than the average NBA player.
He recently partnered with Red Bull to host a photo walk for Philadelphia-area photographers. He chronicled his and the Australian national team’s preparation for the Olympics this summer in well-produced YouTube videos. In short, Thybulle’s focus occasionally wanders from basketball.
According to Sixers head coach Doc Rivers, Tobias Harris wasn’t having any of that when he worked out with Thybulle during the offseason.
“(Thybulle) went down and stayed with Tobias and saw what a pro does, how a pro actually works in the summertime,” Rivers said Wednesday after Day 2 of Sixers training camp. “When we talked about it, he said he’s never seen anything like that — and that was the point. Tobias does these four- and five-a-days, all these different things, and it’s maniacal. You have to be up (early) for the workouts.
“I think Matisse was saying after the third day he called Tobias and said, ‘Let’s go later tomorrow, I want to go surfing,’ or something like that. Tobias said, ‘There will be no surfing this week.’ But it was good for him; it was great for Matisse. And he’s come with a whole different mindset. You can feel it. So I’m really happy for him. It’s good to see.”
An Olympic bronze medalist with the Boomers, Thybulle is one of many Sixers whose role might logically expand without Ben Simmons.
Tyrese Maxey has been playing with the starters, yes, but Thybulle is now the team’s undisputed premier perimeter defender. There are several clear routes to him starting this season in the event Simmons does not return. If the Maxey-Seth Curry backcourt is too diminutive to work defensively or if Danny Green’s three-point efficiency dips and the 34-year-old has problems dealing with star scorers, it’s not difficult to envision Thybulle sliding in.
Few NBA starting wings average 7.1 points per 36 minutes and shoot 30.1 percent from three-point range — Thybulle’s numbers last season — even if they’re extraordinarily gifted, ball hawk defenders. Improvement as a shooter would elevate Rivers’ belief in Thybulle.
“He’s been good,” Rivers said. “He really worked on his shot, which we’ve just got to keep working on, but there’s other ways for him to score. With his speed, I asked him: ‘You get one breakaway every 30 games. How is that possible with your speed? You should get two a game.’
“Yesterday he had one and we laughed at it. Today he had one. So I really believe when we get a rebound, he should be releasing, with his speed. And he can catch and finish. He’s starting to see that and do that. (His) straight line drives are better.”
For Thybulle, three-point success has often seemed to depend most on factors like rhythm, footwork, and having his legs set firmly under him. There’s nothing profoundly wrong with his form.
He thinks confidence is central.
“It’s definitely an area of growth for me and a focal point in my game that I’m looking to improve,” the 24-year-old said Monday. “The Olympics were a good opportunity for me to get out in a different setting and kind of grow my confidence, I guess, because that’s such a big part of shooting — believing in yourself to take the shot and make the shot. And all players have ups and downs with it, but for me it’s just trying to have more ups than downs, and then using that belief and turning it into confidence, and then turning it into results.”
Green sees exactly what was Thybulle was talking about.
“In this league, you can tell a player’s confidence level, and that can make or break a player or change a player’s whole game,” Green said Wednesday. “You can tell he’s come back a lot more comfortable — within himself, within the offense, playing his game and doing what he does best. He got a medal. I’m jealous of him. It was great to see. But he’s come back a more mature player and more confident player, and we’re going to need that from him."