Jimmy Butler's introductory press conference with the Sixers on Tuesday didn't touch very much on how he exited the Timberwolves: It was by fiat, when he told coach Tom Thibodeau and owner Glen Taylor he wasn't re-signing next summer as a free agent. However, the persistent optimism from Philly didn't completely block out the "shit storm" in his previous tenure, and the one before that in Chicago.
This falls in line with what Butler told Rachel Nichols in his attempted post-practice exoneration during the preseason. He's trying to show people around the league he's always been real, and any perceived histrionics are the fault of his teammates or management. Remarkably, those same teammates in Minnesota have said pretty much the same publicly, despite what this season's headlines and body language might have us infer. Andrew Wiggins claimed the practice blowup that had the media in a tizzy was overblown, and Karl-Antony Towns said Butler would be missed. Philly's new GM, Elton Brand, performed his due diligence before agreeing to the trade and found the same.
It's still hard to swallow the idea that Jimmy's never been the problem when you remember the last two locker rooms he inhabited and how he seemed to suck the energy and verve out of both of them, particularly for younger players. Perhaps that's why Vegas is now offering bets on which Sixers teammate might end up crying after getting berated by Butler. You can probably guess the favorite.
Are odds offered on something like that if it's just an overblown media narrative? Well, yes, but we still think all this kumbaya positivity is a smokescreen. It takes a lot of hubris to say something like this after what went down in Minnesota.
The Sixers are a long way from title contention, no matter how many times their ownership repeats that they now have three top-20 players. They might have two (Ben Simmons can't hit a jump shot, and that's important in the NBA these days), if Butler is healthy, but during his seven seasons in the NBA, he's only hit the 70-plus games once in a single regular season. And if he wasn't sitting out games with the Wolves as a way to force Thibodeau and Co. to trade him, as has been reported and denied, then he's still not really healthy.
Oh well. Philly can just focus on how he drives a minivan and enjoys country music. We remember when the writers on the Bulls beat did the same.