In a strange return for Matisse Thybulle, Joel Embiid has the final say

In a strange comeback for Thybulle, Embiid has the final say originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Matisse Thybulle had a lot to process in the month after The Sixers traded him to the Trail Blazers.

At least he was able to make up some ground before facing his former team on Friday night in Philadelphia.

“It’s crazy,” Thybulle said before the game. “I am very grateful to have good neighbors because they kept my plants alive and grabbed the packages for me. Truth be told, there wasn’t much time to think or set things up. I got the call and then I’m on a flight the next morning. You want to try to think about everything you left behind, but there is so much in front of you that you need to try to understand – books, people, names.

“There really wasn’t much time. So I’m going back, getting a sense of what I’ve left behind and what I’ll have to figure out this summer. It’s kind of nice to come home to my own apartment.”

With Portland holding a one-point lead with 7.2 seconds left, Thybulle found himself in position to guard Tyrese Maxey, who mentioned Thursday that the dual defensive end “always knew the other team’s scouting report.”

“I gave away all of Philly’s secrets,” Thybulle said a few hours earlier with a laugh.

Both Thybulle and Maxey ended up watching Joel Embiid’s game-winning jump shot, a shot that concluded the comeback with 21 points and improved the No. 3 seed Sixers to 44-22. Portland fell to 31-36, 1.5 games out of a play-in tournament spot and three games back of the top six seed.

After playing his first 245 NBA games as a Sixer, Thybulle expected a strange night and he certainly got it.

He hugged before the game good friend Furkan Korkmaz. Some fans booed and some cheered when announcer Matt Cord introduced him as the Blazers’ starter. The audience’s reaction was almost entirely positive when a video for Thybulle was played on the Jumbotron in the first quarter. He was booed profusely after making a corner three in the second quarter.

Aside from the oddity of his return, Thybulle has been consistently enthusiastic about his move to Portland, where he has a steady starting spot. It was a much different role than with the Sixers, where he is averaging just 12.1 minutes this season.

“I think it’s a great spot for him,” Sixers head coach Doc Rivers said Thursday. “I think playing with Damian Lillard and watching Dame work can also help him, at his position. And you will definitely get open things with Dame. You have to. Watching (the Celtics) last night, they trusted him with two and three guys. So if you cut and move … you get a lot of stuff. And he’s getting minutes there, which I think is important for him.”

During his time with the Sixers, Thybulle was candid about being less comfortable with the offense than the defense. He intended to shoot confidently, avoid unnecessary risks and identify occasional ways to contribute as a cutter, screener and offensive jumper. On Feb. 8, he told NBC Sports Philadelphia that he “continues to grow, find new ways and create new niches for himself.”

Of course, Thybulle didn’t have a chance to develop further as a Sixer.

“Any player who plays out of fear will struggle,” he said on Thursday Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. “It’s like there’s only going to be friction in everything you try to do. But when you play for a place of only discipline and receptivity to what the game gives and what you read from it. I think there are many more opportunities.

“For me specifically, I feel like there was a lot more fear-based play in Philadelphia, as opposed to what I’m doing here in Portland.”

Embiid offered his two cents on Thybulle’s framing of the Blazers’ situation compared to the Sixers.

In a night that began with more spotlights than usual on Thybulle, candidate for MVP the great man had the last word.

“I talked to him after the trade,” Embiid said after the game. “Like I said, I loved him when he was here. I told him that I was somewhat displeased with some of the comments that had been made lately. But that doesn’t matter. Heavy; playing in Philly is not easy.

“There’s a lot of pressure that comes with it. Every year you are expected to win. It doesn’t even matter if they believe you have a good team or a good enough team to win a championship. That is still an expectation. And that’s why there aren’t many people who can play here and survive.

“Some guys have different mindsets. For some, it’s all about winning, and for some, it’s all about playing basketball. But like I said, he was great when we had him here. I wish him well. I still believe it has a lot of potential. It all comes down to his work, especially shooting. Defensively, he’s a monster.”

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