There have been whispers about a mystery member of the Sixers who remains unvaccinated for quite some time. While it is a personal decision for each player to make, it can become a hot topic in public discussion when it prevents the player from playing with the team, as was seen with Kyrie Irving this season. The rumors continued to heat up when Doc Rivers and the Sixers declined to say if the entire team is vaccinated, but the mystery player has been revealed due to the matchup against the Raptors tonight.
When the NBA season began this season, there was an exemption in place for non-vaccinated athletes to allow them to travel and participate as normal. This changed on January 15th when the exemption was dropped by the Canadian prime minister making non-vaccinated players ineligible to enter the country.
In the short term, this will mean that Matisse Thybulle will miss tonight’s matchup with the Toronto Raptors. The larger concern is that if the season ended today, the Sixers would face the Raptors in the first round of the playoffs, and Thybulle would be ineligible for all road games in Toronto. The Bucks, Celtics, and Sixers all have a record of 49-30, so things could still change, but the Raptors are certainly on the Sixers’ radar with the second-highest odds of facing Philly in the first round via playoffstatus.com.
Matisse Thybulle has proved to be a valuable part of the Sixers lineup and has been a positive fit in the starting lineup for 49 of the 64 games he has been active for this season. Offense can at times be an adventure for the Washington product, but he is averaging 5.8 points, 2.3 rebounds, 1.8 assists, and 1.1 blocks in the 25.4 minutes per game he plays. The addition of James Harden has helped take advantage of Thybulle’s athleticism and cutting ability. He may still just be a 31.3% three-point shooter, but there has been real growth in his effectiveness in the offense this season.
It will be interesting to see how Thybulle’s role changes in the playoffs as offensive deficiencies tend to be more exposed. The Sixers will need production from all the bodies they have, and losing their defensive X-factor is certainly not ideal. Looking at the potential matchups in the playoffs, the Raptors do not seem like one that Thybulle will be expected to play major minutes. However, with that said, taking this defensive asset out of the Sixers’ repertoire is a major concern.