Jimmy Butler understands Joel Embiid's frustration, says 'he's a hell of a player'

Since Jimmy Butler was traded to the Philadelphia 76ers in mid November, they’re 9-3 and have looked like the team Sixers fans have waited years for. But one player hasn’t looked like himself lately, and that’s Joel Embiid. Embiid said recently that he’s been frustrated with how he’s played since Butler joined the team, and also with how he’s been used.

Butler didn’t shy away from addressing Embiid’s comments. He discussed them with the media after Sunday’s practice, and spoke about his teammate in glowing terms.

Jimmy Butler understands Joel Embiid’s frustration

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After practice — which Embiid missed due to a migraine — Butler told the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey that he hadn’t read Embiid’s exact comments, but was aware of them from Instagram. And Butler was understanding of Embiid’s feelings. Via the Inquirer:

“I know where his heart is, man,” said the four-time All-Star swingman. “His heart is pure. He wants to win. I can feel for him. It’s new to him. It’s new to myself. It’s new to everybody. But we are OK. I know he wants to win. He’s frustrated.”

Butler obviously believes that Embiid’s frustration isn’t self-centered — it comes from wanting to be part of the team’s success and having fewer opportunities to do that. There were no hard feelings from Butler. He gets why Embiid is frustrated, and was quick to praise his talent.

“As our best player, I can understand being frustrated,” Butler said of Embiid. “He’s a hell of a player, and we’ll figure out ways to make sure he’s always successful.”

Joel Embiid is frustrated with how he’s played since Jimmy Butler joined the team, and Butler understands where Embiid is coming from. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)
Joel Embiid is frustrated with how he’s played since Jimmy Butler joined the team, and Butler understands where Embiid is coming from. (Photo by Tom Szczerbowski/Getty Images)

Brett Brown admits adjustment is a challenge for everyone

Brett Brown has coached the Sixers since 2013, and he’s currently handling the most talented Sixers team he’s ever coached. But that’s not without challenges, and Embiid’s frustration is proof of that. Brown also noted to Pompey that the NBA is changing, and he and the coaching staff have to take that into account.

“You are always trying to put our players where they can succeed and not crowd,” said Brown, who also noted the NBA is growing into a sport with no firm positions, also known as a five-out sport. He said he thinks the days of having two players in the perimeter and three players in the post are dead.

“So that’s the challenge of trying to craft a gym around the skill sets of our players,” Brown said. “For the most part, I think we do we do a pretty good job.”

Brown also told Pompey that Embiid could be getting the ball more than he has been, but said that he’s satisfied with the number of touches Embiid’s getting in the low post. So while Brown admitted that there’s a little more he can do for Embiid, it seems like it’s up to Embiid to adjust to the Sixers’ new reality.

Does this count as drama?

Anyone who’s paid attention to Jimmy Butler’s career knows that the word “drama” is never far away from him. But while this sort of seems like Butler-esque drama, it doesn’t really count. Adding Butler to the Sixers improved the team immediately, but a move like that doesn’t come without growing pains, which is what Embiid is experiencing now.

This isn’t Butler showing up at the Timberwolves practice to yell at players and the GM. The only thing Butler is guilty of is being good and doing what Brown and the Sixers have asked of him. He’s not trying to stir up trouble, he’s just doing his job. And Embiid is trying to do his job too, which is why there’s frustration. He’s not getting the same chances he used to, and he doesn’t feel like he’s had the opportunities to be his best.

Butler’s reaction to Embiid’s comments was perfect: he was supportive, understanding and complimentary. If there’s any drama on the Sixers, Butler’s definitely not taking part.

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