On a day when the 76ers' new starting five played together publicly for the first time, rookie Matisse Thybulle stole the show.
On a day when the 76ers’ new starting five played together publicly for the first time, rookie Matisse Thybulle stole the show. “Stole” was the operative word.
The shooting guard from Washington was all over the place during Saturday afternoon’s Blue x White Scrimmage at the 76ers Fieldhouse.
The 6-foot-5, 202-pound Thybulle, a first-round pick from Washington, garnered every one of his five unofficial steals in the first half. Four of them involved Ben Simmons, who was matched up with Thybulle for much of his time on the court.
“I hate him on defense,” said a grinning Simmons afterward. “I hate him. So far, he’s been amazing.”
“I was very impressed with several of our guys, especially Matisse,” said veteran power forward Al Horford. “(I liked) his poise, his feel on defense. It’s one thing to be able to do that in college. And I know it’s just a scrimmage, but I was very encouraged from a lot of things I saw from him — really good things.”
Playing for the White team against the starters in Blue, Thybulle stole Simmons’ entry pass on one first-quarter trip and then deflected the crosscourt pass of Joel Embiid, who only played in the first half and appeared quite winded several times, the next time down but couldn’t control it.
“Defensively. he’s right there with the top guys and he’s only going to get better,” Simmons said.
Perhaps Thybulle’s most impressive moment came when he got off the floor at the foul line, sprinted to the other end and blocked Josh Richardson’s 3-point attempt into the third row. The crowd of about 2,300 loved it.
“It was fun,” Thybulle said. “That’s the way I like to play. That’s how I played in college. It was cool to get out here at this level with these guys and be able to wreak a little havoc.”
Thybulle’s 7-foot wingspan, quickness and tenacity will serve him well in the NBA if he continues to be this active. If he didn’t steal the ball during the scrimmage, he got a piece of it.
“At practice, we chart and reward deflections,” said Sixers coach Brett Brown. “And he shines in that area in practice. There was clear carryover to this game. Oftentimes deflections can produce steals, too. The number of times he got his hands on balls or came up with steals (Saturday) was elite.”
And to think Washington played a 2-3 zone defense almost exclusively during Thybulle's last two years there.
Though there was no box score from the Blue’s 88-66 victory, Simmons said he thought Thybulle had six deflections in the first quarter alone.
It’s no wonder Thybulle accumulated the most steals (331) in Pac-12 Conference history, breaking Hall of Famer Gary Payton’s record.
Thybulle scored six points on an old-fashioned three-point play in the first half and a 3-pointer after intermission. Three other shots went in and out.
“He definitely has the defensive instincts and his offensive game is coming along, as well,” Horford said. “He had some really good looks today. He just has a really good feel for it. I’m excited to see that.”
Thybulle is a bit unusual because he’s not a young player entering the league who thinks scoring first, which is the method that gets guys on SportsCenter.
“Offense never came naturally to me as a kid,” Thybulle said, “so my dad always harped on defense because he’s like ‘as long as you play good defense, there’s a place for you on the court.’ I took that and just kind of ran with it.”
And ran and ran.
“Matisse is everything I thought he would be,” said general manager Elton Brand, who traded up from No. 24 to No. 20 with the Celtics to land Thybulle. “Defensively, he’s really standing out. Offensively, he’s really shooting the ball great. Off the court, he’s an adult and a great young man.”
Thybulle is quick with a smile and friendly. He has some personality, too. He looked at one writer’s notes after his group interview and said “there’s no way you’re going to be able to read that.” Laughter ensued.
The first thing Thybulle wanted to accomplish as a rookie during the four-day training camp that ended Friday was to earn his teammates’ respect, which he has clearly done.
The next would be to secure the spot as the primary backup to starting shooting guard Richardson. He certainly didn't hurt his chances with the way he played Saturday.
Tom Moore: email@example.com; @TomMoorePhilly