2. vs. Miami Heat, Nov. 23
Promptly one month after the season starts, Philadelphia will host the Miami Heat. The Heat have been a scrappy matchup in recent seasons, dating back to a heated five-game series in 2018 (pun very much intended). Oh, and it’s Jimmy Butler’s return game.
The Sixers took a calculated risk in trading for Butler last season, knowing he could walk in free agency. In the end, it was worth it. Philadelphia was on the verge of knocking off the eventual champions, largely due to Butler’s presence. You take the risk on a top-15 talent any day.
Butler has been oddly quiet this offseason. He hasn’t made a public statement on the move, nor has he thanked Philadelphia. That’s fine — it’s his time, his summer, his vacation plans — but it does add a neat layer to November’s reunion.
When the time comes, fans will inevitably boo. I’m not sure it’s warranted, but Butler’s tenure in South Philly wasn’t the smoothest. He clashed with Brett Brown early on, never quite figured out his role and was often passive in the regular season. He rubbed some fans the wrong way.
The Heat will take a step forward next season. While the roster hasn’t changed drastically outside Butler’s arrival, Mr. Buckets — in tandem with Erik Spoelstra’s coaching chops — is enough to make Miami a fringe contender in the East.