The 76ers have practiced for the NBA restart at Walt Disney World near Orlando for a week and it’s not surprising that one of the people who has stood out to coach Brett Brown has been rookie Matisse Thybulle.
All year, Brown has lauded the defense of the 6-foot-5 Thybulle and the Sixers coach said the 23-year-old has picked up where he left off when the season ended in March.
As Brown looks for appropriate minutes for a deep group of wings, Thybulle should earn his share simply based on the defense he provides.
“Matisse has been incredibly disruptive defensively,” Brown said in a media Zoom interview before Friday’s practice.
While teammate Ben Simmons leads the NBA with 2.1 steals per game, Thybulle is 22nd at 1.4. Nobody above him has played fewer minutes than Thybulle, who is averaging 19.5 per game.
Thybulle said he didn’t get to play a lot of basketball during the pandemic, but he was able to keep his fitness up, running through the streets of Philadelphia. It apparently paid off.
“I think his fitness pace was at a B-plus and I think he is moving toward an A,” Brown said.
That fitness has helped his all-around game.
“He has started this new period of sort of getting back on track, playing extremely well,” Brown said.
Earlier in the season, Brown would criticize Thybulle for gambling too much, constantly going for the steal. Thybulle feels that he has become a more disciplined defender in that aspect.
“I think it has evolved in the sense of just being more under control and just being more calculated with the risks that I take and then just being able to weigh that out better, because coming in, I would go for every single steal I thought I could get,” he said on Friday.
He realized that gambling too much could hurt the team.
“A lot of times I put my guys in tough positions trying to cover for me, so finding that balance and being able to work through that and get better at that has been huge,” Thybulle said.
After missing seven games with a right knee sprain and bone bruise, Thybulle played 27 in a row leading up to when the season was suspended due to the coronavirus.
Now he feels rejuvenated
“It definitely feels like a second season, I just wish that my teammates would view it as that so I didn’t have to be a rookie anymore,” he said laughing.
Thybulle, who is making popular videos during his time in the NBA bubble, was shown on one of them performing a rookie duty -- bringing food for teammates on the flight to Orlando.
He then turned serious again.