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— Keith Pompey (offthedribble@inquirer.com)

Butler thriving where he was wanted

Jimmy Butler will tell you that he’s not for everyone.

The All-Star’s bluntness is one of the reasons the 76ers felt they would be better off without him.

So last summer they shipped him to the Miami Heat in a sign-and-trade deal. It was a decision that could take a long time for the Sixers to live down.

The Sixers headed into this season as a favorite to win to the NBA title, while the Heat were supposed to be a couple of seasons away from being a serious contender.

However, Butler has led Miami to their first NBA Finals appearance since 2014. The Heat will face the Los Angeles Lakers in Game 1 of the best-of-seven series on Wednesday in the Walt Disney World bubble.

Meanwhile, the Sixers failed to live up to their lofty expectations, being swept by the Boston Celtics in the opening round.

“More than anything, they wanted me to be here,” Butler said Sunday night after the Heat beat the Celtics, 125-113, in Game 6 to win the Eastern Conference finals.

“They told me, like, ‘Yo, you’re the guy we want. We’re coming after you.’ …” Butler continued. “To be wanted, that’s what anybody wants in the world, not just basketball.”

Former Sixers coach Brett Brown wanted to move on from Butler at the conclusion of last season. There are always two sides of the story. Butler’s camp continues to say that it was his decision to leave, and that there was an offer from the Sixers. Folks will debate that for months.

But Brown, who was fired Aug. 23, wanted no part of coaching Butler again. Some in Ben Simmons' camp also didn’t want Butler back. Neither did a lot of the coaches.

Butler had a reported blowup with Brown during a team video session on Dec. 29, 2018, in Portland.

Brown and the players immediately downplayed the report, and Butler and former Sixer JJ Redick downplayed the incident again in March on his podcast with Tommy Alter. Butler explained that he was speaking up for then-teammate T.J. McConnell.

Butler said on the podcast that he was told a main reason he couldn’t go back to the Sixers was because the team asked Brown, “Can you control him?”

“If you think you can control Jimmy, we would think about having him back,” Butler said he was told. "I was like, you don’t have to worry about it. [Expletive]. Can’t nobody [expletive] control me.

“For one, I ain’t out there doing no [expletive]. But the fact that you are trying to control a grown man. Nah, I’m cool, because I don’t do nothing that is drastically [expletive] stupidly crazy. I don’t know that. So sit here and come at me with you got to control him. We good.”

The Heat, however, love Butler for being himself.

Bam Adebayo calls him “hard knocks", and that’s accepted in Miami.

“He doesn’t have to make any apologies for who he is,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. "We love him for who he is and what he’s all about. He impacts winning. I think everybody in the league has always known that.

“It’s not about stats. It’s not about anything else. He cares.”

Now he’s being recognized for leading a young, fifth-seeded team to the Finals.

“I’m not for everybody,” Butler said, “but here I am.”

Starting Five

NBA Finals has Philadelphia-area flavor

Folks in Southeastern Pennsylvania and South Jersey should have some interest in the upcoming NBA Finals. That’s because players with ties to the Philadelphia area are guaranteed to win a league title for the second consecutive season. Last year, former Cardinal Dougherty High School and Villanova product Kyle Lowry helped the Toronto Raptors win their first NBA title.

This season, there are a combined five finalists from the Philly area.

Los Angeles Lakers coach Frank Vogel is from Wildwood Crest and went to Wildwood Catholic. Vogel is also a former Sixers assistant coach. Two of his players, Markieff Morris and Dion Waiters, are from Philly.

Morris is from North Philly and was a standout at Prep Charter. Waiters is from South Philly and stood out at Life Center Academy in Burlington.

Meanwhile, Heat player Derrick Jones Jr. is from Chester and played at Archbishop Carroll. Miami assistant coach Malik Allen was born in Willingboro and was a standout at Shawnee in Medford and Villanova before a 10-year NBA career.

Passing the Rock

Question: Would they really consider moving on from the Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons tandem if Mike D’Antoni becomes the head coach? — @Bre23Ellis on Twitter

Answer: What’s up, Brian? I hope you and the family are well. Anything is possible. However, I don’t see that happening in the first season. Maybe during the next offseason if they struggle to co-exist under his system. I think Al Horford would be the player they would initially try to move if D’Antoni takes the job. They could try to move him to get a perimeter players that fits his system.