With Minnesota in his rear view mirror, Jimmy Butler sees happy days ahead for himself and the Philadelphia 76ers. Of course, Tuesday was officially Day 1 in his life with a new team after the Timberwolves sent Butler and Justin Patton to the Sixers for Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round draft pick.
“When guys go out there and they know how to play basketball, which everybody on this roster does, it’s all going to fall into place,” Butler said during his introductory news conference at the Sixers’ practice facility in Camden, N.J. “I don’t think that anybody is going to step on anybody’s toes. I think everybody still has the same job to do, and everybody’s expected to be the same player that they’ve always been. That’s why I think it’s going to be successful.”
Philly general manager Elton Brand believes acquiring Butler will help the Sixers in their quest to win an NBA title.
“We have a championship window, and it’s important that we do whatever it takes to capitalize on it,” Brand said. “It was important to us to go get a superstar, to go get some young talent to help make that next step in achieving a championship. [Butler’s] goals match ours and the city of Philadelphia.”
The priority for both Butler and the Sixers is winning— right away. “Obviously win a championship. That’s why we play, why they play. Why they did what they did,” Butler said when asked about his goal this season.
“I already got enough money to have me and my family set for the rest of my life. It’s not about the money,” said Butler, who is expected to appear in his first Sixers game on Wednesday, when they face the Magic in Orlando. “I have to love where I’m at and have a great chance to win a championship.”
He’ll get a chance to show the home crowd what he can do Friday against the Utah Jazz.
Saying he’s “very excited” to start playing with Philadelphia, the four-time All-Star forward could combine to form a dream trio with All-Star center Joel Embiid and 2017-18 Rookie of the Year Ben Simmons.
“I like the sound of it,” Butler said when asked about Philly’s newest Big Three.
If sharing the ball with Simmons and Embiid — who helped the Sixers earn 52 victories last season and advance to the Eastern Conference semifinals after the club combined to go 75-253 in four previous years — could be a challenge, Butler isn’t letting on.
“I don’t think that’s a problem. I think I’m great at sharing the ball, moving without the ball,” he said. “We’ll find a way to make things work.”
According to Brand, Butler’s addition doesn’t put a negative spin on Markelle Fultz, the 2017 No. 1 overall draft pick who caught more criticism when he double-clutched a free throw against the Miami Heat on Monday.
“Not at all. It wasn’t a changed view of Markelle’s future. It was more of a changed view of being able to get a superstar right now and seeing where other teams were,” Brand said of the trade. “There are some really talented teams [in the Eastern Conference]. ... It was just a chance to have our team take another leap.”
Since the start of the 2014-15 season, Butler, 29, has averaged 21.8 points a game. After one season in Minnesota, he told the Timberwolves just before training camp that he wanted a change of scenery. The fallout in the time since raised questions about whether Butler is a good teammate.
“You really wouldn’t know who I am unless you’re around me every day,” Butler said. “For the most part, that’s why I don’t worry too much about what everybody says. If you know me, if you’re around me, you know my heart. You know how I go about what I go about.
“I love my teammates. I don’t think there’s too many of them that’ll tell you that I’m a bad teammate, but people get whatever they want to say out. It is what it is, but I think that I’m an incredible human being and teammate, and I’ll show that to the guys that are here.”
If he decides he doesn’t like the atmosphere in Philadelphia, Butler can opt out of the final season of his current contract and test free agency this summer, but reports after the trade said the sides intend to agree on a contract extension after the season. Brand just wants Butler to stay put.
“We hope he sees a fit here. We hope that we see the fit there this season because we know what kind of talent he is,” Brand said. “He’s a superstar player so we’re definitely looking forward to having those discussions, but we can’t have those yet.”
The 76ers could offer Butler a five-year max contract worth $190 million, while other teams could make a four-year offer worth a projected $141 million.
That’s still a ways down the road. For now, though, Butler and the Sixers like where they’re going.
—Field Level Media