Sixers’ Brett Brown: Jimmy Butler ‘mirrors spirit of Philadelphia’
Butler will fly to Florida on Tuesday and play in Wednesday's game against the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center.
MIAMI — Brett Brown sounded like the 76ers hit the Powerball.
The Sixers coach raved about Jimmy Butler before Monday's game against the Miami Heat. That was several hours after they officially acquired Butler and Justin Patton from the Minnesota Timberwolves in a blockbuster trade. They sent Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless, and a 2022 second-round pick to Minnesota.
"He replicates, he mirrors the spirit of Philadelphia," Brown said of Butler, a 6-foot-8 swingman. "He is a fierce competitor, and there is a toughness that he plays with. That's who he is. He wears it on his face.
"It's seen in his game. It's confirmed by multiple all-defensive teams."
Brown says that defensively, Butler is a perfect fit for Philadelphia and the Sixers. Offensively, he offers the Sixers an opportunity to run pick-and-rolls and isolation plays. Brown pointed out the Sixers run the fewest pick-and-rolls and isolations of any NBA team. That's because those aren't their strengths, and why they pass more than most squads.
"That has a duration, that has a lifespan when it gets to crunch time," Brown said. "He offers us the ability to find an All-Star and, pick 'em, pick-and-roll, isolation, implement him in the movement structure that we have. So I see it as a fit, a really, really great fit. And we're thrilled to have him."
The Sixers will introduce Butler and Patton in a press conference Tuesday morning at their practice facility. Butler, 29, will travel to Florida afterward to join his new teammates and is expected to make his Sixers debut Wednesday night in Orlando.
Brown said the trade elevates expectations for the team. He welcomes that.
Just don't ask him who Butler will replace in the starting lineup. On Monday, the Sixers started guards Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, and Markelle Fultz, power forward Wilson Chandler, and center Joel Embiid.
One would assume Fultz is likely to lose his starting role.
"In my head, I know," Brown said before Monday's game. "In my mouth, I'm not going to say it. I don't feel comfortable right now declaring that for the marketplace."
The Butler trade was made to bring a third star to Philadelphia to play alongside Simmons and Embiid. Butler is a four-time All-Star and four-time all-defensive second-team selection.
"Jimmy Butler is one of the NBA's truly elite players, a player capable of changing the game on both ends of the floor," Sixers co-managing partner David Blitzer said in a press release. "We're excited that he's now a Sixer as we continue our quest of winning an NBA title."
Butler can opt out of the final year of his contract, 2019-20, next summer to become a free agent. It is expected that he and the Sixers will reach a deal on a long-term contract. That makes sense because the Sixers can offer him a five-year, $190 million max contract next summer. Other teams could offer him only a four-year, $141 million max contract in free agency.
"We have a championship window that's centered around the continued progression of our young core, as well as our ability to add elite players who elevate our program," Sixers general manager Elton Brand said. "In Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons, we have two of the NBA's top 20 players. Now, we've added a third top-20 player in Jimmy Butler, who is one of the NBA's very best on both ends of the floor."
Butler does, however, come with a reputation of not getting along with his younger teammates in Minnesota and with the Chicago Bulls. Butler also verbally challenged teammates, coaches, and front-office personnel during a practice session in Minnesota on Oct. 10.
Brown is not concerned. He has FaceTimed and spoken to Butler for 20 minutes during one of the coach's jogs.
"I just feel like he's easy to talk to," Brown said. "You can tell – he wears his heart on his sleeve. He plays with passion. Not many people would say it's not real. It's a genuine way he acts and that's who he is, and he competes and I'm attracted to that. "
Patton is sidelined with a broken bone in his right foot. The team hadn't determined whether the 6-foot-11 center will accompany Butler on the flight to meet his new teammates. However, he most likely won't go because he's unavailable to play.
Shamet gives No. 23 to Butler
As expected, Sixers rookie Landry Shamet surrendered his jersey number to Butler. Butler wanted to wear No. 23, the same number he wore for the Timberwolves. It was Shamet's number until Monday, when he switched to No. 1.