Heat: What to expect from Jimmy Butler in his return to face the Sixers
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Heat: What to expect from Jimmy Butler in his return to face the Sixers

Jimmy Butler, Heat, Sixers

Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler returns to Wells Fargo Center on Saturday to face the Philadelphia 76ers.

Butler played 55 games for the Sixers last season after the team acquired him from the Minnesota Timberwolves. The four-time All-Star small forward got multiple standing ovations from the Philly crowd during the 2019 playoffs, but that’s likely not going to be the case on Saturday when Butler comes into Philly as a member of the Heat.

Butler averaged 18.2 points with the Sixers during the regular season. He raised his points per game average to 19.4 in the postseason, where Philly lost to the Toronto Raptors in seven games in the second round.

Butler signed a four-year, $140.8 million contract with the Heat in the summer as part of a four-team sign-and-trade deal between the Heat, Sixers, Los Angeles Clippers and Portland Trail Blazers. Philly acquired combo shooting guard Josh Richardson from the South Beach team in the process.

Butler lives for moments like this. His divorce from the Sixers wasn’t as ugly as it was with the Timberwolves, but knowing Jimmy, he’s going to want to put on a show for the Philly crowd — letting them know what they could have had if things worked out behind the scenes.

Multiple reports have stated that the Sixers didn’t offer Butler a five-year max contract in free agency. There were also reports of tension between the team’s coaching staff and Butler last season, and it played a role in their decision not to re-sign Jimmy.

Butler had a heated argument with Sixers head coach Brett Brown during a film session shortly after Philly acquired him from the Timberwolves. Both men downplayed the incident, but it’s clear the Sixers were content with moving on from Butler — something we know Jimmy took personally given how fierce of a competitor he is.

Butler isn’t the type of player who is going to come into the game looking to drop 50 points. With the Heat, the Texas native has been playing a complete game, acting as more of a playmaker. Entering Friday, Butler is averaging 18.7 points, 5.7 rebounds and 7.0 assists while shooting 42.0 percent from the field, 27.6 percent from beyond the arc and 85.2 percent from the free-throw line.

Might we see Butler go for a triple-double in his return to Philly? It’s possible. Butler’s 7.0 assists per game are a career high. Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra trusts Butler’s playmaking abilities and has basically made Jimmy his new point-forward, similar to how Spoelstra used LeBron James during the The Big Three era from 2010-2014.

The Sixers crowd is likely going to boo Butler on Saturday. That won’t affect Jimmy at all. In fact, it’s probably going to motivate him to play even better. Butler is going to want to leave Philadelphia with a win. He’s not going to care what type of box score he finishes with. As long as the Heat succeed, Jimmy is going to leave the City of Brotherly Love love happy.

Sixers stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons will be eager to beat their former teammate. Butler and Embiid still have a close relationship, with the Cameroonian big man saying earlier this season that he wishes Butler was still on the Sixers.

The Heat take on the Chicago Bulls on Friday before flying to Philadelphia. The Sixers will have the rest advantage, but the adrenaline in Butler’s bloodstream will be higher than normal, and that’s why the Miami should be favored to defeat the Sixers in Butler’s return.