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Sixers' Jimmy Butler on Joel Embiid: ‘I can understand being frustrated’

“I know where his heart is, man,” Butler said of Embiid. “His heart is pure. He wants to win. I can feel for him. It’s new to him. It’s new to myself. It’s new to everybody."

Jimmy Butler (right) said he understands where Joel Embiid is coming from, calling him the Sixers' best player.
Jimmy Butler (right) said he understands where Joel Embiid is coming from, calling him the Sixers' best player.Read moreTIM TAI / Staff Photographer

As one can imagine, Joel Embiid’s frustration with his new offensive role was a hot topic following Sunday’s 76ers practice.

However, the All-Star center wasn’t there to address it, missing practice with a migraine. That left Sixers coach Brett Brown to discuss Embiid’s frustration. Brown also explained why the 7-foot-2, 270-pounder has started games on the perimeter since Jimmy Butler’s acquisition.

Meanwhile, Butler said he didn’t read Embiid’s comments, but was aware of them via Instagram.

“I know where his heart is, man,” said the four-time All-Star swingman. “His heart is pure. He wants to win. I can feel for him. It’s new to him. It’s new to myself. It’s new to everybody.

“But we are OK. I know he wants to win. He’s frustrated.”

Part of Embiid’s frustration centered on being held out of Friday’s 117-111 victory over the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Brown gave him the night off because he has played a lot of minutes this season and was noticeably fatigued in Wednesday’s 113-102 loss to the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid had one of his worst shooting performances of the season that night. However, he denied being tired and said his struggles had to do with his new role.

“As our best player, I can understand being frustrated,” Butler said of Embiid. “He’s a hell of a player, and we’ll figure out ways to make sure he’s always successful.”

In addition to being the Sixers’ best player, Embiid is one of the most versatile big men in the game.

Embiid strives to play “Bully Ball,” getting the ball in the paint and attacking the rim — in an attempt to get more free-throw attempts.

But he also can turn and face up. Embiid routinely sticks 18-foot jumpers. The Sixers also have had some success when he shoots wide-open three-pointers while trailing on fastbreaks.

Embiid’s post presence had been impacted by Butler’s ability to drive the lane and get to the rim. The center is also a better outside than point guard Ben Simmons, which is why he is starting games on the perimeter, with Simmons on the block for spacing purposes.

“You are always trying to put our players where they can succeed and not crowd,” said Brown, who also noted the NBA is growing into a sport with no firm positions, also known as a five-out sport. He said he thinks the days of having two players in the perimeter and three players in the post are dead.

“So that’s the challenge of trying to craft a gym around the skill sets of our players,” Brown said. “For the most part, I think we do we do a pretty good job.”

The coach said he thinks Embiid’s frustration with his number of touches in the low post is a natural reaction among big men. He experienced it with former standout Tim Duncan while an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs.

“Now, you are [seeing it] with Joel; it’s at times true,” Brown said. “Like, he needs the ball. He can get the ball from time to time [more] than maybe he does.”

He’s mindful of getting Embiid more touches in the post, but said the statistics show that nothing has changed. Brown said he thinks Embiid’s post touches have actually increased since Butler joined the team.

“So really nothing’s changed in relation to the usage,” Brown said. “You are always trying to maximum what you got and make it work as best as you can.”

However, it seems that Embiid hasn’t fully adjusted to playing with Butler. He is shooting 43.1 percent (88-for-204) and averaging 23.8 points per game in his 11 games since Butler joined the team. Embiid shot 48 percent (134-for-279) and averaged 28.2 points per game in 15 games before Butler joined the Sixers.


Landry Shamet is listed as questionable for Monday’s games against the Pistons (13-11) at Wells Fargo Center. The rookie guard missed Sunday’s practice with lower-back pain. The Sixers (18-9) are 13-1 at home.