Third time's the charm. With this being his third team in as many seasons, Jimmy Butler may be headed down the post-Magic Dwight Howard path. He's become a perennial All-Star (four straight appearances) and true two-way talent, but the constant locker room issues may not be worth the lessened chemistry and negative media coverage. It was just reported that Butler's begun going after 76ers head coach Brett Brown about his role in Philly's offense. In Chicago and at-times in Minnesota, Butler was the go-to guy on offense, but he's seen his role dwindle since his trade to Philadelphia. In 21 games with Philly he's averaging 18.0 points, as opposed to 22.2 (2017-18, Minnesota) and 23.9 (2016-17, Chicago).
The Sixers are 25-14, 4th in the East, and have found more consistent success since trading Robert Covington and Dario Saric to Minnesota for Butler in November. The Big Three of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Jimmy Butler was exciting from the get-go, as all three players are top-15 talents in the league and possess unique talents on both sides of the floor, but "The Process" doesn't seem to be going as planned. Butler was supposed to add the third star the Sixers needed to truly compete, and while the improvements evident in the standings, the locker room may be going down. Embiid recently complained about how much he was standing on the three-point line during games, and there was a brief verbal exchange between him and Simmons the other night against the Clippers. (I think that was a non-issue, Embiid and Simmons seem to get along pretty well. Emotions boil over on the the court sometimes, everything gets so dissected and over-analyzed nowadays.)
Joel Embiid is the man in Philly, and there's really no doubt about it. He's averaging 26.9-13.6-3.5 on 48.5% shooting; those are MVP-esque numbers. The most impressive stat is the amount of games Embiid has played (37), and his health hasn't been questioned as much as in years past. (I still think that if he stays healthy for a solid 8-9 year stretch Embiid will be considered an all-time great.) When it comes to any team-related problems, the Sixers are going to cater to his needs first, and then Simmons', and then Butler's; it ends up being a tier-system that works like the offense. This summer, Butler can walk, and it seems increasingly likely given the current circumstances. That might not be a bad thing for Philly, though, because it's kind of starting to seem like Butler is a shitty teammate.
I get that Butler works hard and wants to be rewarded for it. His story is admirable, and there aren't many players who have gone from JUCO to All-Star, but his "I work hard, you should too" schtick became too much in both Chicago and Minnesota. Obviously some players are attracted to that mentality, but it doesn't seem to mesh with many. That doesn't seem to be a problem in Philly since Embiid and Simmons seem to both work really hard and with Fultz being away from the team, Butler has nobody to go after for work ethic. (Also, it's hilarious he loves TJ McConnell, the typical do-a-little-bit-of-everything, hard working white guy. They're perfect for each other.) The problem in Philly seems to be different as it's about his role, but what did he expect? He got sent to a team with two potential generational talents; he's 29, the focus isn't going to be all on him. I'm not sure how much more involved Brett Brown can get him, especially with the team's recent success. Why change something good if it's working? It's pretty shitty that Butler seems to always back teams into corners about his situation, and it always blows up before anyone from the team can even say anything. The NBA truly is the best reality show on TV, and the drama just seems to be popping up at every corner this season.
The issue is pretty recent and there haven't been any player or coach statements, so this situation is definitely developing. I think it's way too early to start trade speculation or Brown-getting-fired talk; if anything, this is a further look into how Jimmy Butler can (negatively) affect locker rooms and chemistry. It'll be interesting to see if this boils onto the court tomorrow night against Luka Doncic and the Mavericks or if it'll be kind of brushed under the rug by GM Elton Brand and the rest of the front office.