With just a couple of words, Joel Embiid managed to stir up a mild social media frenzy on Monday night.
He sent out the following two tweets near the end of Jimmy Butler’s 40-point performance in the Heat’s Game 1 second-round playoff series win over the Bucks, apparently admiring his former teammate’s work and thinking about what might’ve been.
IF......— Joel “Troel” Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) September 1, 2020
In an interview with The Athletic’s Sam Amick, Butler said he didn’t initially see Embiid’s tweets but was told about them. This was his reaction:
“That’s my guy. Outside of basketball, I love that man to death. He knows that. I tell him every opportunity I get, and I appreciate him for making me a better player, a better leader, better at understanding so many different things. I talk to him all the time, and I tell him, ‘I wish you were still in the playoffs, because you deserve a championship.’ Because he works. He works at it, and that’s just my guy. Yeah, I saw it, and I know that he still wanted me to be on his team. And I still wanted to be teammates with him. Let’s not get that misunderstood. But here, with these guys, I’m not trading that for the world either.”
Butler has thrived in his first season with the Heat, both in terms of cultural and on-court fit. He’s also formed a partnership with another young big man, Bam Adebayo, who made his first All-Star Game this season and finished second in Most Improved Player voting.
The Sixers sent Butler to the Heat in a sign-and-trade last summer after their devastating second-round loss at the hands of Kawhi Leonard and the eventual NBA champion Raptors. The decisions to add Josh Richardson, re-sign Tobias Harris for five years and $180 million and give Al Horford a four-year contract with $97 million guaranteed clearly did not work well this season for the Sixers, who finished sixth in the Eastern Conference and were swept by the Celtics in the first round.
Butler didn’t volunteer much when asked why he isn’t still a Sixer.
“Why aren’t I in Philly? Because me and Philly didn’t work out,” he said. “That’s why.”
He told Amick the Sixers didn’t want him to engage with other teams but was otherwise unwilling to talk much about the past, including his relationship with former head coach Brett Brown.
“They did not,” Butler said. “But I wasn’t worried about it. I’m here now, and I’m telling you. I don’t even think about what could have happened with Brett Brown. What could have happened … I don’t, because if I get too lost in that I’m not doing my due diligence for these guys. I’m so f---ing locked in right now, and I will do anything that it takes to win, man. I’m telling you. Like, I don’t want to have to come out and score 40. I don’t give a f---. I’ll shoot the ball twice as long as you guarantee me that we get a ‘Dub.’ I don’t care (how he gets labeled as a player), I don’t. I couldn’t care less how anybody labels me. Just know that I do everything in my power to win. That’s what brings me the most joy, is that no matter what you think, or no matter what you might say, you’re never going to be able to say that I’m not a winner. I may not have won it, but you’re not going to say that I was a loser, that I played a losing style of basketball. You’ll never say that.”