3. Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat)
- Nov. 23, 7:30 p.m.
After nearly knocking off the eventual NBA champion Toronto Raptors, who beat the 76ers in the Eastern Conference semifinals on a very lucky shot in Game 7, the cry from fans was to ‘run it back’.
The thinking went, if the Sixers were so close to beating the champs, all they needed was some tweaking, like having a real backup center, some wings who could play defense, and they were ready for a big title run.
However, any hope for the core returning intact ended on July 2 when it was reported Butler had signed a four-year max contract with the Miami Heat.
Butler was traded for early in the season for Robert Covington and Dario Saric after demanding to leave Minnesota. Butler has never been described as a model citizen and reportedly had a blowup with coach Brett Brown in Portland.
But in the playoffs, Butler had emerged as the Sixers main playmaker, the ‘closer’ in the fourth quarter and one of the team’s best defenders. He was everything GM Elton Brand had hoped for when he traded for him.
Butler was looking for a five-year max contract from the Sixers. But he is 30 years old with a lot of tread on his tires, as coach Tom Thibodeau of Minnesota and before that with Butler in Chicago likes to play his starters a lot.
And did the Sixers want to commit to dealing with Butler’s personality for five years?
Whether the Sixers did offer Butler a max contract or not is a bit of a mystery. The usually reliable Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN said they did not; however NBC Sports NBA Insider Tom Haberstroh reported they did offer Butler the max, but he wanted out.
What rankles Sixers fans the most about his leaving was that Butler had consistently said all he cared about was winning. “If we’re winning, no problem. If we’re not, problem’ had been his constant refrain during the season when asked if he was having any trouble.
Considering he left the Sixers for a team that did not even make the playoffs last year and he will, by far, be its best player, fans might think he was being a bit disingenuous.
If winning is truly all that mattered to him, Butler should have stayed with the 76ers, as it should win a lot more games than the Heat.
When Butler comes with the Heat, there are certainly some fans who will remember what he contributed to last year’s playoff run. However, even one of his ex-teammates, Mike Scott, knows what Butler will most hear at the Center, and on Zach Gelb’s radio show, he said:
"Mike says Philly fans better boo the s*** out of Jimmy"