Communication is key in any relationship, and those on a basketball court are no different. That's a good thing because Jimmy Butler likes to talk.
He likes talking to his teammates and he actively talks in timeouts. He's talking when he's on defense, on the bench, in the locker room, with the media, and anywhere else.
"That's how he's wired," Brett Brown said Friday after the Sixers 113-107 home win over the Utah Jazz. "I love it. He can talk and he can say, 'No, I don't agree with that, but that's a hell of an idea,' and it's a real conversation, it's great."
Butler's penchant for communication could expedite the time necessary to become acclimated with Sixers and all that they do.
Most of the time Butler is trying to build the team up, assuring them in huddles that everything is ok, that the game in still under their control. He wants his teammates to feel comfortable and confident, and he tells them that.
There are sure to be some growing pains. There are plays, secondary options, switching schemes, and player-specific nuances that can only be learned with time. But, talking through some of the missteps along the way will speed up the process — it already has.
Midway through the third quarter on Friday, JJ Redick sent a pass into the paint meant for Amir Johnson who was rolling down off of a pick. At the same time, Butler slid down into the paint from the other side bringing his defender, Donovan Mitchell, with him. Mitchell saw the ball sailing toward Johnson and knocked the ball away forcing a turnover.
"On that particular play, I know the one you're talking about, it was my fault because I went into the paint," Butler said when asked about the miscue. "I went and told JJ 'my bad.'"
Redick then explained to Butler what the expected outcome of the play was and how it was designed. Moments like that are the building blocks to players understanding each other, and talking through it happened immediately.
Butler said he hopes things like that won't happen often but understands that through the learning process there will be bumps. And those bumps are just as much a part of the game as talking to teammates is. Butler wants his teammates to know that all of his talking, be it criticism or praise, all comes from a place of wanting to win.
"Everybody knows that when I say something to you it's never personal. it's not," he said. "If you want to win you're going to take that criticism. Same thing with me. When someone says something to me like JJ saying, 'hey don't do that.' I'm like 'you're probably right, that was my fault.'"
So, how long before Butler feels comfortable, before his teammates understand his movements and he understands theirs?
"Not very long," Butler said. "It's just so different when you're out there with different guys and you've got to pay attention to who is out there and what their strengths are so that you know what to do."
Playing to some teammates strengths comes through non-verbal communication. Redick and Simmons have both anticipated Butler cutting to the basket and just a nod was enough to catch him.
Simmons assisted on five of Butler's 12 made buckets on Friday and dished to Butler for both of his first-half scores in the first half of Saturday's game against the Charlotte Hornets including an alley-oop dunk in the first quarter.
These are good signs just three games into Butler's partnership with the Sixers, and the more he talks the easier things will be.