After a recent practice, Jimmy Butler played 1-on-1 with player development specialist Remy Ndiaye.
It's an ongoing thing where Butler is the only one who shoots and Ndiaye just defends. The sessions get spirited and involve plenty of trash talk. When Butler came over to the media, drenched in sweat, he cracked jokes about beating up on Ndiaye.
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"Hell no," Butler said when asked if he ever lets Ndiaye shoot. "He can't shoot. That's why he's a defender."
The subject then turned to Joel Embiid. With Embiid resting and vocally expressing his struggles with his fit in the offense, it was fair to wonder what Butler thought of Embiid's comments.
Butler's demeanor changed and he gave what seemed like a genuine response.
I know where his heart is, man. His heart is pure. He wants to win. I can feel for him. It's new to myself, it's new to him, it's new to everybody. But we're OK. I know he wants to win. He's frustrated. He wanted to play. Coach didn't let him play. We need him long term and he needed rest. He's been doing a lot on both ends of the floor for this team. That's our best player. I can understand being frustrated but he's a hell of a player and we'll figure out ways to make sure he's always successful.
When rumors about Butler and the Sixers started, not everyone was on board.
There were writers in this city that wanted no parts of Butler around this young team.
Check this out from before the deal was made:
Then there's all the off-the-court noise. He had issues with Derrick Rose in Chicago. Now he's feuding with the Timberwolves' young players. Minnesota actually canceled a practice and media availability because of Butler's antics. Sure, a change of scenario would help, but for how long?
The audacity of this so-called writer! To see how well this trade has panned out and to think some schmuck wrote this?! We need to call this guy out!
OK … I confess …
I wrote those words. While I still stand by a few of my other points mentioned in the article - on-court fit, injury history, his next contract - I'll admit that perhaps the "off-the-court noise" part of Butler's reputation was me misunderstanding the man himself.
Earlier this week, Butler appeared on J.J. Redick's podcast. There were plenty of entertaining nuggets from the almost hour-long pod. The biggest thing that stood out to me was that Redick had a few preconceived notions about Butler as well, and they weren't positive.
Getting to hear Butler's side of things gives you more perspective. How the Timberwolves' front office would tell him, "Oh, we almost got a deal … we almost got a deal" only for Minnesota to hang onto him a little bit longer. How the now-infamous practice followed by the interview with Rachel Nichols was not premeditated and how Butler didn't expect details from the practice to leak with no media present.
After hearing this and seeing how he's interacted with other Sixers' players, I can admit that I may have misread Butler. His only issues seem to be his insane competitiveness and his obsession with being great. There's nothing wrong with being competitive and having a desire to be great, but when people around you don't have that mindset, it can lead to uncomfortable confrontation.
And it appeared to come to a head in Minnesota.
I don't give a f--- what anybody thinks about me. All I wanna do is win. That's it. I feel like if you're not doing everything in your power to help the team win, I'm going to have a problem with whoever it may be. It doesn't matter. I'm going to have a problem and I'm going to voice it over and over and over again to you, to coach, to whoever it may be. I'm not scared of confrontation. I like confrontation. I thrive in confrontation because I‘m the type that when you challenge me I'm going to show you that I can do it.
It's a mentality you have to respect.
While there are still other concerns with Butler long term, I have to admit that the "off-the-court noise" was overblown on my part.
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