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NBA

Heat’s Jimmy Butler ‘loves’ Embiid but critcizes the 76ers

After eliminating his former team, the Heat’s Jimmy Butler had a few things to say about his x teammate and the team that let him go.

Paul Rudder
Update:
Heat’s Jimmy Butler ‘loves’ Embiid but critcizes the 76ers
Anadolu AgencyGetty

On a night when the 76ers were eliminated from the playoffs, there were a lot of mixed feelings especially between players who were once teammates.

Heat’s Jimmy Butler talks Joel Embiid and the 76ers

On Thursday night the Miami Heat did what most expected them to do, take care of the Philadelphia 76ers and with that book their ticket to the NBA’s Eastern Conference Finals. While that was obviously the news of the night, there was perhaps another story that stole the show and that was the opinion of the Heat’s forward Jimmy Butler about his former team the 76ers and the x teammate that he still loves, Joel Embiid. Indeed, on both counts Butler didn’t hold back in his post game interview.

Asked what he said to Embiid at the final buzzer Butler said plainly, “That I love him, I’m proud of him. Yes, yes, yes, I still wish I was on his team. I definitely love the Miami Heat, though, man. I’m glad that I’m here. But I got so much respect and love for Joel Embiid.” Interestingly, Embiid actually said something similar about Butler after Philadelphia lost to Miami in Game 6. “Obviously that’s my guy, that’s my brother,” Embiid said at the time. “I mean, it’s tough. But I’m so proud of him. He’s playing at an unreal level right now. He’s something else right now. And I’m proud of him for being at this level and carrying them and what he’s been able to do.” If nothing else Joel Embiid was gracious in defeat as he gave full credit to the Heat and their staff before continuing to speak words of admiration about Butler. “I’m happy for him. I won’t sit here and say I didn’t wish he was my teammate. I still don’t know how we let him go. But I wish I could have gone to battle with him still. But it is what it is. Just gotta keep building and keep trying to reach that goal.”

Jimmy Butler takes a swipe at the 76ers

Having given a glimpse of his own admiration for the 76ers star, Butler then turned his focus to the team itself as he spoke openly about the issues he had with Philadelphia. Butler was actually caught on camera as he left the court on Thursday shouting, “Tobias Harris over me?” His comment of course alludes to the fact that the Sixers let him go back in 2019 after less than a season with the franchise. In case you’re wondering, Butler and Embiid were teammates for just about half of a season. Alongside the likes of Ben Simmons, JJ Redick and the aforementioned Tobias Harris, the Sixers were a forced to be reckoned with. Yet in the off-season of 2019 Butler was shown the door and off he went to Miami. In the opposite direction came free agent Al Horford. Needless to say at that time Butler and Embiid were like ‘two peas in a pod’ and of course came as close as anyone can when they pushed the eventual champions Toronto Raptors to the limit in a series that went to seven games.

With so much promise, Why did the Sixers let Jimmy Butler go?

While the debate continues for fans and players alike, perhaps there is one piece of credible insight into the somewhat puzzling situation. Back in 2020 it was reported that 76ers were concerned about Butler’s continued conflict with then-coach Brett Brown and his presence being potential obstacle in the path of progress for Ben Simmons. In truth Butler was the Sixers’ playmaker hands down, which meant that Simmons had to accept a limited role in the team. Where Horford was concerned it’s understood that at the time Philadelphia was reportedly attracted to Horford because he could do a job on Giannis Antetokounmpo and more over could cover for Embiid at center if needs be.

As if to punctuate the point about a growing rift in the team, It was then reported last summer that Simmons had grown tired of the scenario in which Butler had essentially become the point guard of the team. Things didn’t get any better when it was then made known that the franchise, based on concerns about Simmons’ growing frustrations decided to ship Butler out. At that point things got even worse. Simmons would go on to state that he believed his partnership with Embiid had “run its course,” which then in turn saw Embiid reiterate his belief that the team had made a mistake in letting Butler go, something he did again just last night as was mentioned before. “It was kind of surprising to see what was said,” Embiid said. “Even going back to the reason we signed Al. We got rid of Jimmy, which I still think was a mistake, but he needed the ball in his hands and that’s the decision they made.”

What now for the Philadelphia 76ers and Joel Embiid?

Was it a mistake to let Jimmy Butler go? Was Ben Simmons right about his growth being stunted? Would things be different for the 76ers here and now if Butler was still with them? The truth is while there are plausible arguments to be made for each question, there is really no benefit to be gained with such an endeavor. What matters now is that the 76ers pick themselves up and focus on the one thing that they can control, themselves. Rather than focusing on who should or shouldn’t be on the roster still or what individual awards were missed, perhaps now is the time for Philadelphia to take a long look at what they have - a lot of talent - and try to figure out how they can create a team around their star center.

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