It was a wild ride for Matisse Thybulle last season after his vaccination status came into question. Philadelphia 76ers fans vilified the part-time starter for missing playoff games due to the unpopular decision not to get poked with a needle.
It was a complicated situation for everyone involved. And it carried over into the offseason where Thybulle became the frequent target of trade rumors. Ultimately, the Sixers stuck with Thybulle. Head coach Doc Rivers gave him “marching orders” and president Daryl Morey gave him a huge vote of confidence.
The 25-year-old locked himself in the gym this summer and put the work in, according to The Inquirer’s Keith Pompey. He spent part of his vacation training with All-Star guards Damian Lillard and DeMar DeRozan.
“I’m really proud of what I did,” Thybulle told Pompey. “I’ve worked harder than I’ve worked. And I had a meeting with [Sixers head coach Doc Rivers] early this week and was telling him I feel more bought in than I’ve been before.”
Morey told Pompey that Thybulle has been “the most consistent player in Camden this summer.” That’s not a throwaway line. Remember, the Sixers have a decision to make on Thybulle’s future as he’s now eligible for a five-year, $188 million extension. Should the Sixers show him the money? Thybulle says “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.”
Doc Rivers Challenged ‘1-Way Player’ to Improve
Rivers didn’t mince any words when discussing Thybulle during the Sixers’ exit interviews on May 13. He labeled the young defensive stopper a “one-way player” and challenged him to work on his jumper. Which, by all accounts, he did.
“And he’s working on it, I can tell you that. It is difficult,” Rivers said of Thybulle’s shot. “One-way players are better in the regular season than in the playoffs. I think we all know that. But Matisse is putting in the time.
“We hired the right resources as far as staffing shooting coaches and everybody, and more importantly the right resources for Matisse and his work ethic … the next step is for him to improve his shot, that’s his marching orders for the summer.”
Sixers star Joel Embiid has encouraged Thybulle to let it fly on multiple occasions. If he can start knocking down open triples — remember, the Miami Heat literally left him open on the perimeter in last year’s playoffs — then Philadelphia has another “3-and-D” wing to throw into the mix.
“Well, I want him to shoot more threes,” Embiid told reporters. “Just fire it and who cares if you miss it.”
Thybulle Shows Off Improved Handle in Viral Video
Thybulle made headlines in late August when a viral video surfaced and showed him working on his handle. In it, the wing player glides down the court and uses both his right and left hands to dribble while weaving the basketball in between his legs. While shooting might be his biggest weakness, better dribbling is another area of his game in need of dire improvement.
Thybulle — if he’s serious about shedding the part-time player label for good — can earn the coaching staff’s trust if his handle improves. He’s looking to carve out an even bigger offensive role after setting career highs in minutes (25.5), games started (50), and points per game (5.7) during the 2021-22 campaign.