TORONTO — Asked on March 31 if all of his players were fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, 76ers coach Doc Rivers said: “I think you will figure it out eventually.”
Well, eventually came Wednesday night when swingman Matisse Thybulle was listed as ineligible to play in Thursday night’s game against the Toronto Raptors at Scotiabank Arena. Players who are not fully vaccinated now have to be listed as ineligible when held out of playing games in Toronto.
Thybulle played in the Sixers’ preseason opener against the Raptors in Toronto on Oct. 4. He also participated in their Dec. 28 regular-season game in Toronto. But as of Jan. 15, players need to be fully vaccinated to enter Canada. Thybulle did not travel to Toronto after Tuesday night’s victory over the Indiana Pacers at Gainbridge Fieldhouse. The common belief was that Thybulle was vaccinated.
Thybulle was placed in the league’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols twice this season.
At the start of the season, the indication was that all but two of the Sixers were fully vaccinated. One of those players was Ben Simmons, who has since been vaccinated and traded to the Brooklyn Nets in a package for James Harden and Paul Millsap, who are fully vaccinated. A source confirmed that the second unvaccinated player is Thybulle.
Thursday’s matchup is just one of 82 regular-season games, but there could be postseason implications for Thybulle’s being unvaccinated.
The first-round playoff series are set to begin April 16 and 17, and the top four seeds in each conference get home-court advantage in the first round.
The Sixers (49-30) are fourth in the Eastern Conference standings with three games remaining. The Raptors (46-33) are fifth, a game ahead of the Chicago Bulls.
There’s a chance the Sixers and Raptors will meet in the first round. If that happens, Games 3 and 4 would be in Toronto beginning two weeks from Wednesday.
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Unvaccinated players would have had to receive the one-dose (Johnson & Johnson) vaccine earlier this week in order to meet Canada’s required two weeks and be fully vaccinated in time to play every game of a first-round series. For two-dose vaccines, a player must be two weeks past the second shot to be considered fully vaccinated.
In 64 games (49 starts), Thybulle is averaging 5.8 points and 2.3 rebounds and is fourth in the NBA in steals at 1.8 per game.