Philadelphia 76ers guard Matisse Thybulle came to the defense of teammate Ben Simmons for how the Sixers' run in the 2021 NBA playoffs came to an end against the Atlanta Hawks in June.
Simmons, who scored just 19 points over the second-round series' final three contests, came under fire after he passed up a wide-open layup with the 76ers trailing by two with three minutes, 30 seconds left in the fourth quarter of Game 7. They were ultimately eliminated with a 103-96 loss.
Philly center Joel Embiid was among those to question the point guard's decision after the season-ending defeat.
"I mean, I'll be honest. I thought the turning point was when we—I don't know how to say it—but I thought the turning point was just we had an open shot and we made one free throw and we missed the other, and then they came down and scored," Embiid told reporters.
Thybulle doesn't think the narrative that Simmons' decision to pass the ball with more than three minutes left in a close game was the key moment is fair.
In fact, the 24-year-old defensive standout said Friday on The Old Man and the Three podcast (h/t Ky Carlin of SixersWire) he believes his foul on Hawks guard Kevin Huerter while he was shooting a three with 54 seconds left was the biggest mistake:
"He was thrown under the bus. You asked me if I had been booed or people been mad at me, I made the foul that lost us the last game, and I received almost no...there was a little bit on Twitter, but like the Ben hate was so much louder...just build the frame of reference, like I lost us the game in which lost us the series, and no one really spoke about it, but they wanted to talk about the passing up the dunk and passing it to me more than my foul."
Huerter made all three free throws to extend Atlanta's lead to four, and it held on from there.
It wasn't the first time Simmons was used as a scapegoat for the Sixers' team-wide failures to live up to championship-level expectations in recent years, and now it appears that status as a popular target for negativity has taken a toll.
ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski reported Tuesday the three-time All-Star isn't going to report for training camp in Philadelphia and "intends to never play another game for the franchise" while awaiting a trade.
Thybulle explained on The Old Man and the Three he doesn't like how the situation deteriorated:
"Anyways, but I think that both sides, play a decent role in it, right? Like, neither sides really helped themselves through the situation. Whoever started it, whoever's making it worse at this point doesn't really matter but, either side has played a pretty decent role in the situation that we find ourselves in right now and on a human level as like his teammate, like, as a friend.
"You hate to see people put in this situation that's so heavily covered by the media, because people lose sight of this human aspect of all of us as athletes, especially in these times, especially in controversial times where we're looked at as like as a commodity. I don't even know exactly like what people consider us in these moments but it's not as humans, and I just saw on a personal level I really do feel for him because this would suck for anybody."
Trying to make a blockbuster trade at this stage of the offseason, with the regular season only a few weeks away, is tricky because most teams have already handled a majority of their key summer decisions between free agency, the draft and other trades.
That's why there's usually a lull in trades from the latter stages of the offseason until at least a month into the regular season so teams can evaluate where they stand, but the Sixers surely don't want to wait that long if Simmons is going to stand firm on his plans to never play for the team again.
Sam Amico of HoopsWire reported the 76ers have engaged in "multiple" conversations about possibly moving the 25-year-old guard, and he named the Denver Nuggets as a potential sleeper in the trade talks.
The Sixers open the regular season Oct. 20 when they visit Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans.