October 03, 2019
The Sixers and the Miami Heat both held their respective media days this week, and images of Jimmy Butler in yet another new jersey seemed to reignite conversation around Butler's move south.
In a snippet of a conversation between ESPN's Rachel Nichols and the Sixers superstar Joel Embiid, Nichols asked Embiid about his feelings on Butler's decision to leave Philadelphia this past summer.
Embiid, who has spent a large chunk of the summer in relative media silence, was candid:
"We lost a big piece in Jimmy. He did a lot of great things for us. But we should be up there. On paper, we got a really good team, so now it's on us to go out there and actually prove it.
"It was a big loss, because me and [Butler], we got to the point where we were really close. We're still close, we talk a lot. That's my guy. That's my buddy forever. I wish he was on the team, because I feel like the relationship that I built with him could've gone a long way. Jimmy, when it was the fourth quarter, we knew the ball was going to be either me or Jimmy's hands. I knew that I could count on him, too. This year, it kind of changes around."
You can watch the full snippet below:
Embiid also told Nichols he still thinks the Sixers should be considered one of the favorites to win the NBA Finals this year, and that he's confident he can be the one to take the late-game shots that Butler took last season.
It's not terribly surprising that Embiid would feel this way. He spent the first few years of his career battling through injuries and watching a bunch of not-very-good basketball players wear Sixers uniforms. Having a star like Butler on his side, and subsequently bonding with said star, probably made Embiid feel pretty good, both on and off the court.
That said, the Sixers seem to have assembled their best team in the Embiid era in the wake of Butler's departure, while Butler and the Heat will probably be also-rans in the Eastern Conference this season.
The full discussion will air ahead of the Sixers' season opener against the Celtics, on Oct. 23, which will be broadcast on ESPN.