The Philadelphia 76ers could have used Jimmy Butler in their first-round loss to the Boston Celtics, who swept the shorthanded Sixers (without Ben Simmons) on Sunday, ending Philly’s stay in the bubble and likely Brett Brown’s tenure as head coach.
As the Sixers organization takes a long, hard look at its personnel and reassesses its decisions since Kawhi Leonard’s miraculous Game 7 buzzer-beater ended their 2019 season, details are emerging about how the team found itself with a misconstructed, not-quite-good-enough roster, including the decision to not re-sign Butler.
According to a Chris Haynes at Yahoo Sports, despite concerns amongst the team during the 2018-19 season about Butler’s leadership tactics and basketball fit, the franchise was willing to offer him a max deal if he didn’t take other meetings during the summer of 2019. Butler — who was apparently a bit lukewarm on Philadelphia and “wasn’t sold that the team was invested in winning,” — declined that request and exercised his right as a free agent. He ultimately went to the Miami Heat in a sign-and-trade.
Whether this is revisionist spin and Philadelphia ever truly wanted to re-sign Butler is unclear, but it’s hard to imagine they expected Butler to forego all recruiting visits with other teams with a max contract on the table.
The issues between Brown and Butler are well-documented, and Brown reportedly played a role in letting the All-Star leave town:
“Brown didn’t appreciate how outspoken Butler was with his coaching tactics, and Ben Simmons once took issue with a text message Butler sent in a team group chat that instructed Simmons what not to do in an upcoming game,” sources told Haynes.
Of course, take any reports from anonymous Sixers sources scapegoating Brown and Butler for the team’s failures with a grain of salt, considering the team is preparing to fire Brown and Butler is not around.
Butler’s Miami Heat will look to sweep the Indiana Pacers on Monday and advance to the Eastern Conference Semifinals.