Matisse Thybulle was in the 76ers’ starting lineup for Friday’s home game against San Antonio after a “confusing” second stint in health and safety protocols in less than two months. Thybulle said a string of tests returned inconclusive, negative, and “a random positive” result, which forced him to miss two games over about a week.
“Very frustrating,” said Thybulle, adding he was asymptomatic, “especially just as the rule changes come and go [on] like a whim, it feels like. It gets confusing as a recently recovered player to get tested so soon, and then the concern would be false positives.”
Thybulle missed seven games in November while in protocols. He entered Friday averaging 5.5 points, 2.4 rebounds, and 1.8 steals per game and remains one of the NBA’s premier perimeter defenders.
Thybulle’s return was particularly welcomed because the Sixers remain shorthanded on the perimeter. Starting wing Danny Green was available to play Friday but “on a very strict restriction minutes-wise” due to calf tightness, coach Doc Rivers said.
Starting point guard Tyrese Maxey (health and safety protocols), backup point guard Shake Milton (back contusion), reserve guard Isaiah Joe (back pain), and rookie Jaden Springer (health and safety protocols) all remain out.
Tyler Johnson flips sides
Less than a week after his 10-day hardship contract expired with the Sixers, Tyler Johnson was on the opposite bench after signing a hardship deal with the Spurs on Thursday — much to the dismay of Rivers.
“Wish we had kept him, honestly,” Rivers said. “He got away from us and I thought he could help us.”
The veteran guard played in three games for the Sixers, making four of his 10 shot attempts and averaged 3.7 points and 2.0 rebounds per game. He entered health and safety protocols before last Thursday’s game at Brooklyn. Around the same time, Milton, Green, and Andre Drummond returned from protocols.
Rivers views Johnson as a fringe player who could re-establish himself in the league during this unique time that teams can sign additional players to combat roster depletion when multiple players go into health and safety protocols. The 29-year old has averaged 9.9 points, 3.0 rebounds, and 2.3 assists per game while shooting 36% from three-point range in an eight-year career.
“[He’s an] NBA player, if you know what I mean?” Rivers said. “Clever, shoots the ball well, and has a lot of grit.”
Tip-off time change
Tip-off for the Sixers’ Jan. 14 home game against the Boston Celtics has been moved to 7 p.m. and will no longer be televised by ESPN. The network will instead air the Golden State-Chicago game in that time slot.
Rivers remembers Poitier
While Rivers was the coach of the Los Angeles Clippers, he had several meetings with legendary actor Sidney Poitier, who died Friday at 94.
“A thrill of a lifetime,” Rivers said of the interactions with the man who became the first Black performer to win the Academy Award for best actor in 1964.
Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner is Rivers’ favorite Poitier film. The coach hopes the outpouring of Poitier remembrances will help the younger generation learn about his impact.
“To Black America, he was the first one for us that we saw in roles of dignity,” Rivers said. “And he carried himself that way.”