Jimmy Butler came out of Minnesota and found himself in a competitor in the only way he knows: through willpower.
At its best and its worst, the twenty-nine-year-old wing shuns the subtleties and ignores nuances – never more than in recent months in Minnesota, before the Saturday trade in Philadelphia. If owner Glen Taylor and President Tom Thibodeau were dragging their feet on an agreement, Butler publicly challenged them, called his teammates, and sat outside the training camp. If they kept hesitating, Butler would return to the team with an ESPN interview in tow rather than with his tail between his legs. If Minnesota seemed late to keep it until its expiration, Butler would use his health to justify the presence of games and to publicly question his load of minutes.
He continued for a long time. If Derrick Rose miraculously totaled 50 points, Butler would have interrupted his joyous post-match interview, just to make sure everyone knew he was still there. If the Timberwolves were killed in Oakland, Butler took a towel and greeted him along with the rest of Oracle Arena. If teammate Tyus Jones wanted to see his brother play for Duke, Butler would lend him a plane. If the fans whistled, Butler would have told the media that he did not care – and he really meant it – before playing well enough, in part, to win applause.
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Butler's exit strategy was completely transparent: he would do anything to make sure Minnesota agreed to his commercial request and make sure the rest of the league had never forgotten him. There was little consideration given to the potential side effects: the permanent damage to his reputation as a leader, the chaos that altered the franchise he had caused in Minnesota, the negative impact he had had on Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, and the betrayal of Thibodeau, who oversaw his rise to the limelight in Chicago and then bet his work in Minnesota to trade for him.
This approach to the scorched earth was disappointing, but not surprisingly. When Butler embellished the cover of Sports Illustrated in 2015, he did so alongside the slogan: "If you stop or slow down, everything could disappear." In fact, his adversities – challenge the fate of the homeless to the jet set life of a player franchise, from JuCo to All-NBA, from the last player selected in the first round in 2011 to a possible maximum contract next summer, explained why its default settings are constant movement and complacency without compromise. He had to double, triple, and quadruple on those principles, as he had the greatest leverage on his career and anticipated the biggest payday of his career.
Although his tactics were often indefensible, his views on the situation in Minnesota were difficult to challenge. The Timberwolves have never been a destination organization for superstars. Taylor never showed the commitment and the savvy needed to build a competitor. Thibodeau continued to play his stars too many minutes and did not build a defensive juggernaut. Towns and Wiggins have not proven to be ready to be the protagonists of a team that makes a deep run in the playoffs. Together, Butler & # 39; s takes the Timberwolves in correcting the merits and the horrible error in the execution, but expecting him to exhibit discretion, patience or even a tiniest amount of tact was an excuse.
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The Sixers are an attractive landing spot for Butler because they will directly test his lifestyle. It is an organization with a long and proud history, a group of aggressive and deep owners, an intelligent and well-liked coach to Brett Brown and a couple of emerging A-list stars in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. The main challenge in Philadelphia for Butler will not be the shaky commitment on the part of the property, or the lack of a modern strategic thought, or the questionable talent around him. No, the final question will be appropriate. And, more specifically, the form of Butler.
If Butler breaks into Philadelphia as if he had come out of Minnesota, he could also start booking his vacation plans for May. The Sixers do not need someone to challenge the manhood of Embiid, to keep the touches and marginalize Simmons, or to scream at Markelle Fultz when he hesitates on a suspended shot. They won a series of playoffs last year, and the Simmons / Embiid duo is set beautifully for a six year run at the top of the East. Butler must find ways to make these two players better, rather than reshaping their developing partnership in his image.
This does not mean that Butler should work as a supersize version of Robert Covington, the three-dimensional wing of Philadelphia sent to Minnesota with Dario Saric. The offensive of the 17th ranked Sixers can use Butler for shooting, creating dots and foulards, and should enjoy a strong pick-and-roll partnership with Embiid. But Brett Brown will have to stagger Simmons and Butler whenever possible, since both are primary attackers and not ideal floor spacers. When they play together, Butler must be ready to sacrifice some use and make the most of his touches; Simmons is simply too good for a playmaker – and too poor for a shooter – to be removed from the ball regularly.
Defensively, Butler should slide smoothly for a group of hard-nosed Sixers who are in seventh place this year after finishing third last year. Embiid is all that Towns is not when it comes to rim protection and general awareness, and Simmons is the athletic and versatile perimeter defender that many analysts had expected Wiggins to come out of Kansas. If things happen, this group has the potential for the 2019 Finals: a top-three defense and an above-average attack could be enough to overcome Boston, Toronto and Milwaukee.
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He tries Butler to explode outside the gates of Philadelphia, as he tries to distance himself from Minnesota's ugliness and to ingratiate himself with an organization that can nail him to a long-term agreement next summer. Once the initial excitement of his promising new environment vanishes, however, Butler will need to move with a delicacy that has long escaped him.
In 2015, Thibodeau said of Butler: "If they do not bite like puppies, they do not usually bite." Jimmy had been biting since the beginning. "Butler proceeded to snatch Thibodeau's leg, and he must embrace the alpha game of Embiid and the alpha personality to avoid further bloodshed in Philadelphia, and after failing to partner with Rose in Chicago and Towns in Minnesota It is now in Butler to make it work with Simmons, whose offensive game deserves respect and requires many touches.
During the most infamous episode of his Timberwolves final game, Butler reportedly stepped on unannounced practice, dominated his teammates, and then said, "You need me. me. "That sentiment was true in Minnesota but it is no longer true in Philadelphia. Butler needs Brown, Embiid, Simmons and even Fultz to win, whether the victory is defined by advancing in the playoffs, repairing his reputation, or claiming a monster payout next July.
Now, let's just hope that Butler can hit the pause button on his incredible journey long enough to realize that his resolute approach can only take him that far.