<
>

Boomers-eligible Matisse Thybulle's focus is 76ers, not Olympics ... yet

play
Simmons soars through the lane for a power slam (0:18)

Ben Simmons faces up with his defender, then beats him off the dribble for a one-handed jam. (0:18)

MILWAUKEE -- One by one, the Philadelphia 76ers filtered out of the visitors' locker room at Fiserv Forum in Milwaukee.

Philadelphia had just lost their fourth straight game, a 112-101 decision to the Milwaukee Bucks, dropping the Sixers' road record to 9-19 on the season.

As is the case with the NBA, the Sixers had little time to dwell on their latest defeat, as they would be back on court in fewer than 24 hours to meet the Memphis Grizzlies.

Before heading for the second and final bus to leave the arena, Ben Simmons shared a joke with Matisse Thybulle, and then faced the scrutiny of the waiting media pack's questions.

On what was a difficult night, Simmons found a positive tone when ESPN asked him about Thybulle, whose defensive exploits have already gained positive traction around the league.

"He's going to be great," Simmons quickly responded.

"Defensively he's got to fix a couple of things mentally in games, but he's gifted. He's long, he's able to read certain players the right way, he's one of our best defenders."

Describing a rookie as one of the team's best defenders on a roster that consists of Simmons, Joel Embiid, Josh Richardson and Al Horford may seem like hyperbole, but the numbers speak for themselves, with Thybulle's disruptiveness on that end there for all to see.

The 6-foot-5, 22-year-old with an impressive 7-foot wingspan ranks 15th in the league for steals per game (1.5), despite only seeing 20.2 minutes per game -- only one player in the top 50 plays fewer minutes per night.

Thybulle also ranks in the top-30 for deflections per game (2.6), while Simmons sits third (3.9), as the duo already present one of the more terrifying perimeter defensive tandems in the league.

"The mission is to try and mould him into being a playoff player, a rotation player, someone that you can count on. I think lately he's becoming more reliable," Philadelphia head coach, Brett Brown said of Thybulle postgame.

"He's incredibly good people, he's prideful and I think his polish is incrementally growing. He's starting to understand the nature of the league and knowledge of personal, you really have to know your opponent."

While the NBA postseason will be the immediate focus for the trio of Brown, Simmons and Thybulle, the 2020 Olympics in Tokyo may also be on their agenda, with the recent news that the Philadelphia rookie is indeed an Australian citizen and eligible to play for the Boomers.

"They've been pretty good because we have such a big task at hand with this season that it's hard to look beyond that," Thybulle responded when asked whether Brown and Simmons are bringing up the prospect of playing in the green and gold.

"I mean, it's all in the back of our minds and I know we are excited to have a conversation once we are able to but right now, we are focused on taking care of this season."

Thybulle moved to Australia with his family when he was two years old, living in the Sydney area for several years and gaining citizenship during that time.

"I think the opportunity to play in the Olympics itself is an honour. To represent something bigger than yourself, like your country and whatever that country might stand for is something that is a huge opportunity," Thybulle continued.

"For myself, I can't say I've put too much thought into which one I'd like to go to, which [opportunity] I'd like to take, but I think this season is going to be a good opportunity to showcase myself and figure out what opportunities I have at the end of the season."

While stopping short of declaring his intent to play for the Boomers in Tokyo, at this point, the likelihood of Thybulle being selected to a Team USA squad likely to be made up of household names looking to avenge their World Cup performance is slim to say the least.

With the Boomers sights set firmly on their first medal in a major tournament, adding another elite defensive NBA player is a mouth-watering prospect for Australian basketball fans.