Matisse Thybulle knew he was starting because the 76ers were undermanned, but he was excited nonetheless.
The rookie guard was inserted in the lineup Tuesday night against the Detroit Pistons with normal starters Ben Simmons and Al Horford and reserve James Ennis having the night off.
“It’s cool enough to play in an NBA game," he said before the matchup. “But to start in an NBA game is pretty exciting.”
Thybulle had seven points, six rebounds, four steals and two blocks while starting alongside Josh Richardson, Furkan Korkmaz, Tobias Harris, and Joel Embiid. Coach Brett Brown stressed that Thybulle had earned the right to start under the circumstances.
“Matisse does things instinctively defensively that are unusual for a rookie,” Brown said. “I think that he can cover for a mistake.”
The coach has come to realize that Thybulle can make up for a reckless mistake or an inappropriate gamble by getting back to where he is supposed to be. The former University of Washington standout has also shown an ability to stalk balls in transition defense. Most important, Thybulle is ahead of the learning curve, defensively, in regards to most rookies Brown has coached.
But Thybulle said his role remained the same as when he came off the bench in the first three preseason games,
“So I have the same mentality: be able to play with high defensive intensity, get in transition, make threes,” he said.
Thybulle headed into Tuesday’s game tied with Richardson with a team-leading 2.7 steals per game. Thybulle was also tied with Norvel Pelle for a team-leading 1.3 blocks.
The 22-year-old said he knew he belonged even before training camp.
“When we started playing pickup and the guys were all around and I got a chance to play with them, I started to realize, ‘Hey, I kind of belong here,’” he said. "And having that realization was pretty huge for me, just even going into training camp. Then it just built after that.”