SAN FRANCISCO — Jimmy Butler is quite the fan of teammate T.J. McConnell.
“He’s the heart and soul of this thing, man,” the 76ers swingman said of the backup point guard’s contribution to the team’s success.
Butler doesn’t think the undrafted, fourth-year veteran gets the credit he deserves for picking up full-court on defense. Nor does he think McConnell gets credit for hitting jump shots when needed and getting teammates the ball in their comfortable spots.
“T.J. is huge,” Butler said. “He’s always got a smile on his face to lighten the whole team.”
McConnell was averaging 6.6 points, 4.0 assists and 1.2 steals, and 21.1 minutes heading into Thursday night’s game against the Golden State Warriors at the Oracle Arena. But he competes with a spirit that cannot be quantified on a stat sheet. He was the main reason the Sixers forced a Game 5 last year in their Eastern Conference semifinal series against the Boston Celtics.
He was thrust into the starting lineup with the Sixers down by three games to none and on the verge of elimination. McConnell responded by finishing with 19 points on 9-for-12 shooting.
“More than anything, him smiling is contagious,” Butler said. “Energy guy. I’ll tell you one thing: Not too many people in this league [are] going to pick up full-court, and he does it on a nightly basis. It’s hard to do.
“I know if … he was guarding me, I’d be frustrated and I’d punch him. But I’m just glad to have the guy on my team.”
Johnson not with team
Amir Johnson was away from the Sixers on Thursday because of personal reasons. The reserve center will rejoin the squad in Sacramento in time for Saturday’s contest against the Kings. The 31-year-old is averaging 3.8 points and 2.6 rebounds this season.