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Matisse Thybulle could be most improved Sixer after a summer of putting in the work

Sixers president Daryl Morey: “Matisse has been the most consistent player in Camden this summer, putting in countless hours on his game that will for sure pay dividends going forward."

Sixers guard Matisse Thybulle during warm-ups before the Sixers played the Detroit Pistons on Sunday, April 10, 2022 in Philadelphia.
Sixers guard Matisse Thybulle during warm-ups before the Sixers played the Detroit Pistons on Sunday, April 10, 2022 in Philadelphia.Read moreYONG KIM / Staff Photographer

Matisse Thybulle could be the most improved 76er.

The expectation is that the guard will be a fully available and a valued two-way force for a team determined to contend for the NBA title.

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That’s a result of all the offseason work Thybulle has put in, trying to improve his offensive game. Also helping is Canada’s plan to drop its COVID-19 vaccine requirement by Friday. The policy change will allow all unvaccinated players, such as Thybulle, to enter the country, meaning that he will be allowed to play against the Toronto Raptors on Oct. 26 and 28 at Scotiabank Arena.

» READ MORE: 17 pressing questions for 17 Sixers players ahead of the NBA’s unofficial start

So, on Monday at the team’s media day, we will see a fitter version of Thybulle. The 25-year-old has added seven pounds to his now 6-foot-5, 206-pound frame.

He said he’s also improved his offensive game.

Thybulle spent time the summer working out with Portland Trail Blazers perennial All-Star Damian Lillard and renowned shooting coach Phil Beckner in Phoenix among other cities. Improving his outside shooting was one of his focuses. He also went to Los Angeles to work on his ball handling and finishing around the basket with Chicago Bulls All-Star DeMar DeRozan under the direction of ball-handling wiz Johnny Stephene, aka Dribble2Much and HandleLife Johnny.

He’s also spent a lot of time at the Sixers’ practice facility in Camden working out in front of team executives and staff members.

Thybulle’s goal was to have the Sixers see for themselves the work he put in and the offensive improvements that he’s made.

And it worked.

“Matisse has been the most consistent player in Camden this summer, putting in countless hours on his game that will for sure pay dividends going forward,” said Daryl Morey, the Sixers president of basketball operations. “We are excited about his future.”

» READ MORE: How will Thybulle be remembered as a Sixer if he’s traded this summer?

Taking his chance

This offseason marked the first one in which Thybulle was able to focus on improving his offensive game. He was unable to do so following his rookie season because of the pandemic lockdown and extended season in the bubble. Last summer he was with Australia’s Olympic basketball team, winning a bronze medal in Tokyo.

“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle said of his offseason. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked.

“And I had a meeting with [Sixers coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”

Don’t get it twisted. Thybulle didn’t lack effort in the past.

“It’s just a different feeling you feel when you can see how much more of yourself when you are giving to your craft,” he said, “and to the team and surrendering to the work and living to whatever the outcome can be.”

At the conclusion of last season, Thybulle had not progressed offensively to the Sixers’ satisfaction. In the postseason, he was left wide open for shots while defenders left him to double-team one of his teammates.

He also missed three road games in Toronto in the Sixers’ first-round series because he wasn’t vaccinated.

» READ MORE: Sixers’ Matisse Thybulle explains why he’s unvaccinated: ‘I considered all avenues’

He was vilified by Sixers fans and later shopped in potential trades during the offseason. The Sixers tried to acquire Houston Rockets wing Eric Gordon and were using Thybulle as an asset, even attempting to get a third team to participate, according to multiple league sources.

But Thybulle didn’t allow the trade discussions to break him.

It became a catalyst for him to make the improvements needed to be made.

Besides his steady presence at the team practice facility, he even met the team in Las Vegas for workouts and cheered on the Summer Sixers during July’s NBA Summer League.

“To me, it was just surrendering to whatever the outcome was going to be,” Thybulle said. “It’s funny because I’m going to say that I decided to be completely selfish.”

Thybulle chose to do everything he could do mentally and physically to be the best version of himself as a player and person.

He’s learned that it’s more about the journey than the destination.

“At this point, I would always want to stay in Philly,” he said. “And if it’s up to me, that’s always going to be my choice.

“But considering that I’ve realized the reality of how far out of my control it is, if I do get traded or something does end up happening, I can look at myself in the mirror at the end of the day.”

The year ahead

With that said, he’s eligible for a five-year, $188 million extension with the Sixers.

Asked if he thinks he should be extended, Thybulle, who started 50 of 66 games last season, said “absolutely.”

“You call it a part-time starter,” he said. “But I call it having been a starter for over half a season for one of the best teams in the NBA that had very serious championship aspirations. I don’t think that’s a small feat. And I think that is absolutely deserving of an extension.”

» READ MORE: Ben Simmons talks Sixers exit, Philly fans, not dunking, and mental health on JJ Redick podcast

This past season, Thybulle was a NBA All-Defensive second-team selection for the second consecutive campaign. Not bad for someone who averaged 25.5 minutes.

He was fourth in the league in steals with 1.7 per game. He also averaged 1.1 blocks. He became the first non-full-time starter to make an All-Defensive team in consecutive seasons since Nate McMillan in 1994 and 1995.

But that doesn’t mean that, for Thybulle, things weren’t tough mentally this past season.

He went from a beloved Sixer and media darling to a despised villain when news broke on April 6 that he wasn’t vaccinated. He was blasted in the media and booed at home games. Aside from going to his safe haven, the two-acre park on reclaimed vacant land near his Northern Liberties residence, Thybulle was greeted with unpleasantries in the Philadelphia area.

As far as trade stuff and just these articles and everything that has been said about me in the media, it made me doubt what I brought to the table,” he said. “It made me actually question what my value was to the team.

“And having been back around the team, playing pickup and stuff and surrendering myself allowed me to connect to seeing myself and seeing what I bring and acknowledging I’m valuable.”

Now, he’s determined to be a more complete player than his career averages of 4.8 points and 32.4% on three-pointers would indicate.

» READ MORE: Sixers’ Matisse Thybulle does the little things on the court, in his life, in his community

“In short, I couldn’t be happier in the way Tisse has attacked the summer,” Rivers said. “He’s been one of our hardest workers. He’s worked both on the things we needed him to work on the floor, and on his body and strength.”

And perhaps the best part is there’s nothing restricting his availability for all 82 regular-season games and potential postseason appearances with Canada dropping its vaccinating restrictions.

“It’s a beautiful thing,” Thybulle said. “I mean, that weight became unbearable at times last year with the criticism. And that one decision [not to get vaccinated] shifted a narrative around me. I didn’t know it was going to that extent.”

He never wanted to not be able to play and help his team. He never wanted them to doubt his allegiance to the Sixers and how devoted he was to helping them win an NBA title.

“Now, it’s just a matter of me doing it,” he said, “and showing up and doing the work.”