After missing the past four games with left ankle soreness, 76ers guard Seth Curry was back in the starting lineup Saturday against Sacramento.
Curry is in the midst of a career season, averaging 15.8 points per game on 50.9% shooting from the field, including 41.7% on 5.5 three-point field-goal attempts per game. He is also averaging four assists and 3.4 rebounds and has become a dangerous scorer in the two-man game with All-Star center Joel Embiid.
During a season with numerous injuries and players in health and safety protocols, the Sixers’ roster has been replenishing throughout the week. Defensive stalwart Matisse Thybulle returned from a shoulder sprain for Tuesday’s victory over New Orleans, while veteran wing Danny Green came back from hip pain for Thursday’s win against the Lakers.
When asked if having nearly a full rotation available, head coach Doc Rivers acknowledged it feels a bit strange but added roster instability has hampered nearly every NBA team this season.
“I swear, every night you see an interview with a coach and they’re talking about how many guys they have out or it’s nice to get guys back,” Rivers said. “Just so far this season, it’s been that type of year. It’s nice to have them [back]. I’ll tell you that.”
Backup point guard Shake Milton remained out with a back contusion sustained during a Jan. 3 game against Houston.
High praise for Thybulle
Sacramento interim coach Alvin Gentry, who has been in the NBA for more than 30 years, had a throwback reference when asked a defender to whom he would compare Thybulle.
“He reminds me of Michael Cooper,” Gentry said. “But everybody’d say, ‘Who the hell is Michael Cooper?’ That’s when you’ve been in the league way, way too long.”
Cooper was the 1987 NBA Defensive Player of the Year and an eight-time member of the NBA’s All-Defensive first or second team with the Lakers. Gentry said he sees similarities in Thybulle’s length, footwork, hands, and versatility.
“Michael Cooper would guard point guards, but he would also guard some of the better small forwards in the league all the way up to Larry Bird and people like that,” Gentry said. “I think Thybulle has the ability to do those same things, I’ve seen him guard smaller guys and I’ve seen him guard all the way to the 4 position, really.”
Thybulle, a second-team All-Defensive selection last season, is averaging 1.9 steals and 1.1 blocks per game this season while primarily guarding the opponent’s top perimeter player.
Rivers and Gentry share ‘special relationship’
Gentry was Rivers’ associate head coach with the Los Angeles Clippers during the 2013-14 season, when the Donald Sterling scandal rocked the NBA and that franchise. The upheaval, Gentry said, “proved what type of person that [Rivers] is.”
“I don’t know if anyone could have handled that situation any better than he did, from the standpoint of speaking to the players,” Gentry said. “I think the players felt like he was 100% behind them whatever they [decided] to do. And then just taking over the leadership role of that franchise during all the disruptions and everything that was going on. …
“I have a special relationship with Doc. I always will, really.”