When Jimmy Butler departed from Philadelphia last summer in the sign and trade that sent Josh Richardson to Philly, there was a ton of outrage from 76ers fans, as expected. I’ll even admit that I was guilty of some hate as well. Sixers fans felt betrayed by the player they had come to know and love over those 9 months or so. Immediately, Butler was called out for leaving a “winning situation” for a Miami team that was not expected to be a contender. Many fans predicted them to not even make the playoffs, while I predicted a low seed and first-round exit. Now, Butler is one game away from heading to the NBA Finals, defeating the number one seed Milwaukee Bucks, and currently up 3-2 against the Celtics, who swept the Sixers in the first round. Miami not only finished as a higher seed than the Sixers in the regular season, but Jimmy Butler was an All Star and was named to All-NBA 3rd team. He averaged 19.9 points, career highs in rebounds and assists in 6.7 and 6.0, and 1.8 steals on 58.5 TS%. Meanwhile, the Sixers got a disappointing season (an understatement) from Al Horford. Brett Brown, who is suspected to be a big reason for Butler’s departure, was just fired. Although the Heat got surprise seasons from Tyler Herro, Bam Adebayo, and Duncan Robinson, Butler arguably had a better season than any Sixers player. His clutch ability and jump shooting was a problem in the regular season, but it has come back in the playoffs. Now to the main point of the article, Sixers fans owe Jimmy an apology. Many wanted him back, including me, but as soon as he left, Sixers fans called him out and claimed that paying him would’ve been a bad move. They were clearly wrong, and the Sixers’ front office and ownership are at fault. For whatever reason, they believed that not giving Jimmy the 5th year and keeping Brett were both more important than running it back, which was a very possible scenario. Butler chose what he believed was the best place for him to win and live with his family, as he recently had a child. He didn’t owe anything to Philadelphia, and when they chose not to reward him for being the best player during the playoff run that ended in a buzzer-beating loss to the NBA champions, he made his decision. Getting rid of him is the biggest mistake that arguably any Philly sports team has made in recent memory, or even of all time. Good luck Jimmy, and go Heat.
The Philadelphia 76ers are set to face the Boston Celtics tonight in Game 1 of a best of seven series. The 76ers are entering the series as the sixth seed in the East, versus the Celtics who hold the third seed. This year has been extremely disappointing for a 76ers team that had aspirations of claiming the number one seed, and moving on past the second round for the first time in the Brett Brown era. Yet, this isn’t the case. After sub-optimal performances from basically all 76ers players, especially including major off-season acquisitions Al Horford.
From championship hopes, to hope that you can win one series in the playoffs, clearly shows how flat this team came this year. Of course, entering another battle with the Boston Celtics is going to be hard enough, but the 76ers will also be without star Ben Simmons who suffered an injury during the remainder of the regular-season games. So the team who has been mediocre all season is going to be entering the playoffs without its second player, and you wonder why the fanbase’s mood is down.
This year’s playoffs have a different feel for the 76ers. No, it’s not just because they are in a bubble playing in Orlando, it feels like an end of an era. Brett Brown has been the coach of the 76ers for the past seven years. The team has not made it passed the second round of the playoffs, and have only made the playoffs a total of three years (including this one). Brown’s position was in the hot seat after another let down as the 76ers were knocked out of the playoffs by the Toronto Raptors. Brett Brown was given another chance with the 76ers this season, with some new weapons in Al Horford, and Josh Richardson. The 76ers had a returning big three of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, and Tobias Harris.
The mood at the beginning of the season was through the roof. Although, as I mentioned injuries, lack of development, inconsistency, and poor play riddled the 76ers this entire year. Since returning to play in Orlando, those issues weren’t resolved. Ben Simmons is injured, Joel Embiid is playing his yearly will-he-or-won’t-he-play, and the rest of the team isn’t able to rise to the next level needed to win playoff series. Brett Brown’s job is on the line, if the 76ers lose in the first round it will almost be automatic, but Brown could once again fight to see another season if the team makes a run. They won’t.
As fans, it would be unfair to bait yourself into believing that this team is going to “do the unthinkable”. Now the next step once the 76ers do the inevitable and fire Brett Brown, they will be faced with the structural change. Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. The two titans of the game were supposed to bring title(s). Both the brain-children of former 76ers GM Sam Hinkie. It’s a decision that is coming for the 76ers. Of course Brett Brown will be the last-ditch to save the idea that the 76ers can work with an injury-prone center and a shotless point guard/power forward. The 76ers will try to do their best Phillies impersonation by changing coaches but not removing the root cause. Although, that’s an article for another day.
In the meantime, the 76ers will try to out-run the Boston Celtics as they can see the sun setting on the hope and future of the team. But, hey the Flyers won yesterday, so…