Jimmy Butler didn’t like the direction the Bulls were going under Fred Hoiberg so he made sure everyone in Chicago was miserable enough that he was traded to the Timberwolves.
Reunited with his former Bulls coach, Tom Thibodeau, Butler was expected to not only be an All-Star in Minnesota but also provide guidance for young players like Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins. Butler had made himself into a standout player and his work ethic was supposed to make Thibodeau’s life easier.
That appeared to be the case as the Wolves ended a 13-year playoff drought last season, but shortly after the season Butler made it clear he again had found the one thing that brings him pure joy. Misery. Either because he wasn’t going to get paid immediately by the Wolves, or because he didn’t like how Towns and Wiggins approached the game, or because of the way the stars were aligned, Butler wanted out of Minnesota.
Despite Thibodeau’s misguided feeling that he could make things work with the recalcitrant star, Butler was perfectly content to do everything in his power to sabotage the Wolves and finally, in mid-November, Butler was traded to Philadelphia in a deal that brought back Robert Covington and Dario Saric.
The 76ers had a third star to go with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons and thus became an Eastern Conference favorite. There was only one issue. Anyone who had watched Butler’s antics — including his scripted practice meltdown while with the Wolves — knew it was only a matter of time before Butler decided that being content was no way to live.
So it came as no surprise on Friday when ESPN published a story with the headline “Jimmy Butler challenging Brett Brown, 76ers offensive system.”
What took so long?
Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski reported that Butler has aggressively challenged his coach on his role in the offense and “complicated what is an already tenuous chemistry among the team’s Big 3 hierarchy.” Butler, according to ESPN’s sources, “has been vocal in his contesting of Brown and his system, including a recent film session in Portland that some witnesses considered ‘disrespectful’ and beyond normal player-coach discourse.”
None of it will come as a surprise — including the part about Butler wanting to dictate what type of offense Brown runs — and it also shouldn’t surprise that Butler is only 22 games into his time in Philadelphia. The 76ers are 14-8 in that time and 25-14 on the season.
Butler would say that his decision to voice his feelings is because of his desire to win and that he wants the best for the team. This is garbage. Butler is again only worried about himself and, more importantly, creating unnecessary drama because that’s what he loves most.
The 76ers didn’t just get Butler for this season. They also traded for him because of their ability to sign Butler to a five-year, $190 million max contract during the offseason. Philadelphia will have the ability to pay Butler more than other teams and it seemed like that was certain to happen.
Unless you’ve watched Butler’s act before. Then you know nothing is simple because Butler has no interest in simplifying his life. Miserable is the only way to be. Do the 76ers really want to subject Embiid and Simmons to Butler, who is probably already looking for the next reason to be furious?
Butler is a five-time All-Star and has made himself into a very good player. But at some point, he simply isn’t good enough to put up with his drama. Is that going to stop? Butler is 29 years old, so the odds are he’s probably going to continue to make himself a pain in the butt whenever the opportunity presents itself.
He also is going to make sure that anytime things are running smoothly, he finds a way to create a problem that will only make him happy. At this rate, Butler likely will find himself somewhere else this summer, smiling at his introductory press conference and talking about how hard he works and how much he just wants to win. Butler can be charming when he wants, so everyone will buy it and expect big things.
Butler will then do everything he can to sabotage his new organization. No one should be surprised. That’s the only thing that makes Butler truly happy.