Jimmy Butler earned a reputation of a difficult person to work with. Vocal and straight to the point, Butler challenges teammates, coaches, and front office staff regularly, and that isn’t good office politics. Butler sat down with former 76ers teammate J.J. Redick and opened up about what went wrong in Philadelphia.
Butler was traded to Philly for Covington and Šarić after his infamous practice in Minessota, where he torched the starters playing with the bench squad. Conveniently, Butler had an interview with Rachel Nichols from The Jumps that day and made it clear he wanted a trade. Thibs didn’t take him seriously at first, but when he realized Butler was serious, they traded him to Philly.
Coming with a lot of baggage and being the new guy, Butler decided to be a good soldier and not ruffle any feathers. The fact he was hitting free agency that summer might had something to do with that as well. A few weeks after joining the 76ers, Brett Brown called Butler, Redick, and Simmons in for a film session. Butler knew something was not right after that.
“There was just so much going on every day; I didn’t even know who to talk to. I realized that in the meeting in the office. We all sitting in there, and nothing got accomplished at all, so I told you when we were walking out ‘Why would I go back in there, nothing is getting accomplished,‘ We were just sitting in there watching film, all just looking around.”Jimmy Butler, The JJ Redick Podcast
Butler decided to sit back and let the situation to fold out, but the fact no-one was talking and commenting on the film bothered him. There’s no point in having a session if there’s no feedback during it. These situations continued all the time, and we can sum up Bulter diagnosis as a lack of leadership. According to him, there was no clear structure of decision making, and a lot of things were happening by accident. After a while, Butler decided to speak up. It was the infamous Portland film session.
The whole team was in, Brett Brown showed some footage and told the players some changes would be made in the offense. Brown asked if there’s anyone that wants to talk about it, and Butler stood up. Teammates would come up to Butler to air their frustrations, knowing he isn’t afraid to speak up and might say something. When Brown asked him who else does he think is unhappy, Butler looked around and said ‘TJ’.
“Brett asked who else feels differently, so I heard crickets and knew people felt different. I turned around, and the first person iI locked eyes with was TJ. Monty said, ‘Now’s the time if you feel different‘ and TJ. I thought, “It’s ok to speak your mind.”Jimmy Butler, The JJ Redick Podcast
As it turns out, Mcconnell wanted more pick and roll action. The change Brown was talking about was putting the ball in Butler’s hands more. You’d think Butler would be happy about that, but he felt it wasn’t fair. Butler says he talked to Brown during the season of giving him more ballhandling duties, but Brown insisted Ben Simmons as to be the dominant primary ballhandler.
“It’s not fair to switch over like that even though we played great basketball. I don’t think that was fair because the entire year, Ben had the ball. So you mean to tell me that in one playoff series, you just switch it up like that? I would feel a type of way if you took the ball out of my hands like that like Ben was. I would think its fu**ed up to play one way the entire year and then go boom you know what this is how we are going to do it I used to tell Brett ‘I think we should mix in me handling the ball a little bit.’”Jimmy Butler, The JJ Redick Podcast
After the Kawhi shot went in, both Redick and Butler’s first instinct was to think about the lost opportunity. The second one – knowing that they are most likely not coming back. It didn’t sound like they were eager to go back as well. Butler said when the time to decide came, he was already “knee-deep” in offers, and Miami was on his mind. A team that fits his mentality and personality, somewhere where he wouldn’t be the bad guy for being himself.
Ever since Hinkie got fired, the 76ers suffered from poor leadership at the top. The league nudged the owners to hire Bryan Colangelo, the only man who saw KD use a burner account and think, “why have one when you can have five?” After he stepped down, head coach Brown held the GM position for a while, before Elton Brand was promoted. This network of weird situations and split power. Given his reputation, it’s not absurd to take Butler’s word with a grain of salt. Seeing how much Redick agreed with him makes it seem true.
We all talked about the 76ers most significant decision this summer will probably be Joel or Ben. A GM and/or coach change seems like a more pressing matter.