Matisse Thybulle didn’t know what he was getting into as the new guy on the Australian Boomers, but the Philadelphia 76ers swingman didn’t take long to find his feet with the national team, quickly becoming a key cog in their historic bronze medal-winning effort in Tokyo.
“[To] finally meet these guys and be on the court with them feel the passion, the hunger that they played with, there was nothing I wanted more than to bring everything I could to the table to help this come through for them,” Thybulle said on NBA Australia’s Courtside Huddle.
“That fire that burned within all of us was palpable on the court and it was just such an amazing experience for me as a player, just to have that much emotion behind being out on the court and wanting to accomplish something like that.
“I honestly couldn’t have been more proud to be a part of it.”
Thybulle was one of seven players making their Olympic debut for the Boomers and quickly settled in with his new teammates after some ‘first day of school nerves’ — embracing the Boomers culture and history as he gelled with his new teammates at training camp in Los Angeles and Las Vegas ahead of the Games.
“It was initially very nerve-wracking,” Thybulle said. “I’m like the new kid on the block and these guys are very serious in their approach and they’ve been working so hard for this and like, here I come just like prancing on to the scene like, ‘Hey, guys, who wants to play basketball?’. So initially, I was very nervous that it would be hard to integrate with them and win them over.
“They put off like a tough exterior all of these guys but deep down in they’re all a bunch of softies and once I got to get on the court with them and sit down and have some meals with them…It was like this is the nicest group, the greatest group of just human beings I’ve been around in a really long time.”
Describing the Tokyo 2020 Olympics as one of his “greatest basketball experiences,” Thybulle provided a key spark off the bench for the Aussies, averaging 7.8 points, 3.3 rebounds and 3.0 steals per game on a wildly efficient 62.1 percent from the field and 41.7 percent from the 3-point line, knocking down some timely triples in key moments.
“It was all confidence,” Thybulle said of his 3-point shooting in Tokyo.
“The game is like 80 percent up here and I just happened to be with a group of guys who made me feel welcome and confident, really believed in me, the coaching staff included and I think that really just translated into what you saw on the court.”
When the final buzzer sounded against Slovenia and the Boomers etched their name in Australian basketball history winning the first-ever medal in men’s basketball at a major international tournament, Thybulle relished being able to share the moment with the Boomers veteran players, who had overcome repeated heartbreak at previous tournaments and a string of fourth-place finishes.
“A lot of my motivation comes from wanting to do something for the greater good, so for me being able to be a part of this team and have guys like Patty [Mills] Joe [Ingles], [Aron] Baynes, Delly [Matthew Dellavedova] and Chris [Goulding], Chris….these guys have shown up year in, year out,” Thybulle said.
“All that work, everything that went into getting us there, they finally got over the hump. For me, obviously, I was excited, really, really proud of the moment but it was for them. I felt like a lot of that was for them and being able to enjoy it with them was what really made it special.”
With the confidence of winning an Olympic medal on the back of being named to the NBA All-Defensive Second Team last season, Thybulle’s confidence in his game continues to grow as he blossoms into one of the best perimeter defenders in the NBA. While the accolades are beginning to come, the 24-year-old is just focused on improving his game this summer.
“The only thing you control is progress,” Thybulle added. “The only thing I can guarantee myself is I’m going to grow and get better and anything other than that is a failure. Aside from that if I’m continuing to grow and get better and that ultimately allow me to be a better teammate and more of a force on the court, that’s really all I’m looking for.”
After finishing the regular season with the No. 1 seed in the Eastern Conference, the Philadelphia 76ers fell short in the post-season, going out in the second round to the Atlanta Hawks and with training camp still a few weeks away, Thybulle has been hard at work with some of his 76ers teammates in the summer, getting a head start before the team assembles for camp.
“For me and Tobias [Harris] we’re out here working out right now preparing before training camp, we know where we let ourselves down as a team but then we also know where we let the team down as individuals and this offseason I think has been huge for guys to kind of tighten some things up and grow in areas where we might have needed them more or could use them more and like myself included,” Thybulle said.
“It’s been a weird off-season, a shorter one than normal but to put together a little bit like a body of work to tell if we bring in a refined version of yourself into this season will be really big for all of us.”
Matisse the movie star
While basketball has dominated his off-season between the Olympics and summer workouts, Thybulle has shifted from the hardwood to Hollywood, filming with Adam Sandler for his new basketball movie ‘Hustle’ alongside some of his 76ers teammates in Tobias Harris, Seth Curry and Tyrese Maxey.
Thybulle, who is no stranger to the camera, capturing his basketball experiences in the NBA Bubble and recently the Olympic Games with his vlog series on YouTube, says being on the other side of the production has been a thrilling experience.
“It’s very different from the vlogs actually,” he says jokingly. The production value of these things is literally off the charts.”
“It’s been fun it’s nerve-wracking, you think that because I run and gun with this little camera that I’d be comfortable, I’m actually very uncomfortable in front of the camera and it makes it even worse when there’s 50 people surrounding you and three cameras the size of small cars facing you and you have to nail trying to pretend to be yourself.
“It’s been a huge learning experience, it’s been really exciting because my brain loves all the camera and tech, all the all that kind of stuff and being able to have an opportunity to meet and work with Adam Sandler who’s a basketball junkie and just ultimately a really, really nice person, it’s been a really fun experience.”
The movie which stars Boston Celtics big man Juancho Hernangomez as an overseas player discovered by Sandler’s character a basketball scout, features a host of NBA players making their big-screen debuts and when asked which of his teammates has the best acting chops, Thybulle replied: “easily Tobias.”
“If you even go back to the vlogs I made in the bubble, my man thrives in front of a camera, he knows how to put on a show and watching him do his thing, it’s been really fun and he’s going to have a really cool part on this movie. The way it’s captured this is going to be awesome, I’m excited for him.”
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