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By: Dei Lynam

Matisse Thybulle sat down for the first Zoom press conference of his sophomore NBA season, sporting a new hairdo. Gone is his long coiffed fro, replaced by braids, but his infectious smile and enthusiasm remain.

The 20th pick from the 2019 NBA draft is coming off a successful rookie campaign where he saw action in 65 games, started 14, and averaged 20 minutes per contest. His defense stood out nightly. Thybulle finished first among rookies in steals with 1.4 per game and 19th among all NBA players. His teammate Ben Simmons led the league in this category with 2.1 per game, but Simmons also played almost 16 more minutes each night.

Similar to his college days, Thybulle also showcased his precise timing and athleticism when it came to shot-blocking; he was fourth among rookies with 47 rejections on the year. At 6’5, he was three to six inches shorter than the three players who finished ahead of him. It did not take long for Sixers fans to fall in love with Thybulle’s ability to wreak havoc on the defensive end.

Now a new season is on the horizon, with a new coaching staff and new opportunities, not just for Thybulle but his teammates as well. With the organization trading two of last year’s starters, and Doc Rivers wanting defense to be his team’s calling card, Thybulle would appear to be a strong contender to crack this year’s starting line-up. Modest Matisse claims he has not given that topic much thought.

“I came into this last season wanting to be a part of the team and be a part of our success in whatever way that took form,” Thybulle said. “I was lucky enough to start a couple of games, which was not something I expected or planned for, and coming into this next season, it is the same thing. It is a clean slate for most people. Sure I may have a little advantage because I was here last year, but it is a new coach, and I feel like I have to prove myself again. We’ll see what happens.”

If Thybulle is listening to his new coach, he has a running start.

“I know we should be a great defensive team; I know that, and we will start there,” Doc Rivers said of his hopeful identity of this year’s team. “If you look at teams that win the title, they have been in the top five in either defense or offense and top ten in the other. You have to have great balance. We want to be top ten in both. Historically that would say we are one of the elite teams. That will take an elite effort.”

Thybulle dedicated most of his offseason efforts to three areas; visiting family, working on his three-point shooting, and off-court Vlogging. The latter two will always be a work in progress.

“I think three-point shooting is going to be an emphasis for the rest of my career,” Thybulle explained. “I don’t think I will ever be as good as I want to be at it, so it is an emphasis and will continue to be an emphasis.”

Among rookies, Thybulle ranked seventh in three-point percentage at 35.7 and 17th in three-point attempts with 157.

As for his Vlogging, Thybulle’s creative videos that he created while in the bubble drew national attention, including praise from all-stars of the Vlogging industry.

“I like it just to be my own thing,” Thybulle said of his hobby. “If anything, I have had YouTube creators who have reached out, hit me up, and say I like your stuff. That’s been cool. Casey Neistat is an example. I enjoy his work, and to have him reach out was amazing.”

When asked what’s on tap in his Vlogging department, Thybulle assured us it is currently on the back burner. He’s devoting all of his energy to basketball. He wants to get off to a fast start individually and hopes the team does the same.