Key Sixers Starter ‘Ineligible’ for Raptors Game: Unvaccinated?

Stephen A. Smith trashes Matisse Thybulle

Getty Sixers guards Matisse Thybulle and Tyrese Maxey.

The Philadelphia 76ers will be missing a key starter for Thursday night’s game. Matisse Thybulle was listed “ineligible to play” on the NBA injury report, leading to speculation that the wing player isn’t vaccinated.

The Sixers were off on Wednesday and the team hasn’t publicly commented on the situation. It’s entirely possible he violated another undisclosed rule, although the news comes on the heels of an ESPN report saying Philadelphia declined to comment on whether they had a 100% vaccination rate. Remember, all travelers to Canada must present proof of vaccination to enter the country’s borders. Any unvaccinated Sixer would be ineligible to participate in games in Toronto, including a possible first-round playoff series.

Thybulle appears to be the only one on that list. The 25-year-old has never publicly commented on his vaccination status. Which raised more suspicion. He did play when the Raptors and Sixers met in Toronto back on December 28 but the entry rules for Canada have changed since that date. Thybulle has entered into the league’s health and safety protocols twice so far this season, in November and January.

Head coach Doc Rivers has been a strong advocate for COVID-19 vaccinations and booster shots. He has certainly been encouraging his guys to protect themselves, at least through his public comments.

“I’m pro booster. I just think that if you can get it, you should get it,” Rivers said last November, via the New York Daily News. “This is still out there. COVID is not over. And it’s still very much in play. And not just sports, even it’s our job, but in life. So any good message we can send and doing the right thing. This is the first disease in a while that doesn’t have to do just with you. The reason this is still around in my opinion is that you’re responsible for others. Unfortunately I don’t think we all understand that.”

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Mixed Messages on Thybulle’s Status

Thybulle participated for Team Australia in the delayed 2020 Tokyo Olympics in August and didn’t appear to run into any trouble. Then again, Olympic athletes weren’t required to get the COVID-19 vaccination. The International Olympic Committee (IOC) partnered with Pfizer and BioNTech to make it easier for athletes to get their shots, although it couldn’t force them to do it.

Meanwhile, Thybulle was thought to have been fully vaccinated when he first hit the COVID-19 list on November 5. CBS Sports reported the Sixers defensive stalwart was vaccinated at the time and would only need to quarantine for 10 days. He missed 16 days and seven games in November, then missed 11 days and five games in January.

“I think all of us are [vaccinated],” Georges Niang told The Inquirer at the time. “I don’t know the specific details on everybody’s vaccination status, but I’m not too worried about it.”

Doc Rivers Addresses Resting Guys

Joel Embiid and James Harden were both missing from Wednesday’s injury report, meaning they are expected to play against Toronto. Doc Rivers had revealed a “mapped out” plan to rest his two best players down the stretch in an effort to keep them fresh for the postseason. He hasn’t been doing that. Why? Because it’s not really up to him to decide their fates.

“It’s really not up to me, because if it was I would go first,” Rivers said. “If it was just a rest day I’m taking that. It’s really just going by the numbers and the pucks the wear. It’s so much more than just me. In the old days we would just rest guys, it’s so much more detailed than that.”

Pucks refers to the “wearable technology” players use to track their performance and health. That is surely one reason. In Embiid’s case, he probably doesn’t want to see the bench when the MVP battle continues to rage on with only thee regular-season games left.

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