Jimmy Butler

Atlantic Notes: Brand, Nets, Atkinson, Irving

After years and years of asset collection and patience being the primary focus of the Sixers‘ plans, Elton Brand has dramatically changed the team’s course of action in a few months. First it was trading for Jimmy Butler. Then this past week, Brand took it to another level by trading several future assets for Tobias Harris, effectively creating a “big four” in Philadelphia.

These moves were made because Brand’s mindset is that the Sixers are in a position to contend for a championship right now. As Brian Seltzer writes for the 76ers’ team website, Brand is acting with a sense of urgency and focus on building a true championship team this season.

Should the 76ers re-sign both Harris and Butler, the team would instantly become one of the more expensive in the league, but Brand should be satisfied with the group of talent he has assembled for the foreseeable future.

There’s more from the Atlantic division:

Sixers Notes: Harris, Brand, Fultz

The Sixers added another star at the trade deadline in Tobias Harris and the 26-year-old is thrilled to be in Philadelphia.

“It was awesome,” Harris said of playing alongside new teammates (via ESPN’s Tim Bontempts).“In all seriousness, you couldn’t ask for anything more. Me personally, I’m just sitting here like, ‘Wow.’ … It was fun.”

The Sixers sacrificed depth over the past few months in order to put together a lineup of Harris, Jimmy Butler, Ben Simmons, J.J. Redick, and Joel Embiid. The lineup showed its potential in Friday night’s win over the Nuggets where it went on a 14-7 over the last four minutes to close out the game.

“It was funny … after the game, somebody texted me and sent me a video of me smiling after a play,” Harris said. “They wrote, ‘This is literally the first time I’ve ever seen you actually smile in a game.’ And I was like, ‘You ain’t lying.”

“It was cool to see that and just have fun out there. I really had a lot of fun tonight.”

Here’s more from Philadelphia:

  • GM Elton Brand said he’s received “all assurances” from the Sixers’ ownership that the team can re-sign both Harris and Butler, Bontemps tweets.“We’re all on board to keep this core together long-term,” Brand said.
  • By trading for Butler and Harris, the Sixers were no longer in position to be patient with Markelle Fultz, Bontemps explains in a separate piece. The team is built to win now and that, coupled with Fultz’s salary, which will come in at nearly $9.75MM next season, made it time to move on.
  • Brand reiterated that the Sixers are focused on the present, Bontemps passes along in another piece. The GM said the team had been targeting Harris “if he became available” and the team had “coveted” him for a while. “We know he fits great into our system and he’ll do well,” Brand said of Harris. “[Simmons and Embiid] rapidly improved over the last season, so the window is now. The opportunity is now. So, once I saw that, we discussed taking a shot at it now, because who knows how long that window is going to be open?”
  • Prior to Friday’s night win, Harris said he’s hopeful his time with Sixers can be a “long-term partnership,” per an Associated Press report (via NBC Sports). Boban Marjanovic, who was also acquired in the Harris deal, explained how the 76ers’ gumption inspired him and Harris.“We understand the team invested a lot in us,” the center said. “It was a big move. It was a win-now move. That means a lot. This is already a winning culture and we look to bring our games to it and help as best we can.”

Clippers May Pass On Pursuing Jimmy Butler

The Clippers may not pursue Jimmy Butler as a free agent this offseason, as the team doesn’t view him as a top-tier target, sources tell The Athletic’s Sam Amick.

Los Angeles traded Tobias Harris to the Sixers at the deadline in a deal helps the franchise obtain their goal of adding two max-level players. The team reportedly plans to pursue Kevin Durant and Kawhi Leonard, though should one or both sign elsewhere, other stars will be prioritized over Butler.

Butler will be a free agent after the season and it’s no lock that the Sixers will make maximum salary offers to both Butler and new addition Tobias Harris, Zach Lowe of ESPN.com hears. Lowe adds that it’s nearly certain that both players will find a max deal if they look outside of Philadelphia.

The Clippers will have approximately $53.19MM in cap space this summer, which is just short of the two projected maximum salary slots. Amick writes that the front office already has a plan in place that carves out the additional cap space needed to bring in two stars (approximately $65MM total) without shipping out Danilo Gallinari, who is set to make $22.62MM next season.

Rival teams believe Leonard will sign with the Clippers should he leave Toronto. Durant’s future remains a mystery with the former MVP unwilling to delve into free agency hypotheticals.

Owner Steve Ballmer will angle to bring both in and he has a promising pitch. The Clippers are stocked with resources. Los Angeles has several first-round picks outside of their own selections and Ballmer’s personal net worth, which comes in at $38.4 billion—the most among all North American franchise owners—indicates that the team won’t be phased by potential luxury tax hinderances akin to LeBron James‘ super teams in Miami and Cleveland.

Atlantic Notes: Butler, Raptors, Ntilikina

The Sixers may look to put the ball in Jimmy Butler‘s hands more often after his recent return from injury, Brian Seltzer of the team’s official site writes. Previously, head coach Brett Brown had used the All-Star swingman off the ball.

I liked what I saw,” said Brown following the Sixers’ Tuesday night victory, a game in which Butler had a plus-26 rating. “We didn’t really run complicated offense. It was quite simple and spaced, and I thought he did a really good job with that.

The Sixers, of course, have done just fine with Butler in his traditional swingman role – they’re 33-18 after all – but with the playoffs approaching and this roster intent on making a deep run, Brown believes that exploring additional offensive options will serve them well.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division tonight:

  • Through the first 51 games of the 2018/19 season, the Raptors have used 14 different starting lineups, Michael Grange of Sportsnet writes. After all that tinkering, head coach Nick Nurse is eager to carve out a rotation that he can stick with. “It would be really nice to figure out exactly who is going to be in there. How we’re going to do it. Who is going to play where, minutes, all that kind of stuff,” Nurse said.
  • The Celtics, whom Steve Bulpett of The Boston Herald believes have the best to offer in an Anthony Davis trade, should come out ahead regardless of what happens in New Orleans this week. He argues that Boston will either be first in line to trade for him in the summer or be able to watch another team decimate its core to acquire him ahead of the trade deadline. The C’s, it’s worth noting, are unable to deal for Davis this season as the CBA’s Rose Rule forbids it.
  • A groin strain will sideline Frank Ntilikina at a time when the Knicks could have finally gotten a chance to take a good, long look at him, Marc Berman of the New York Post writes. Incumbent starter Emmanuel Mudiay also happens to be out two to three weeks with his own injury.

Specialist Confirms Jimmy Butler Suffered Sprained Wrist

JANUARY 26: The specialist that Butler saw confirmed the injury is merely a sprain, according to Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports. Butler will miss tonight’s game, but is expected to return to the lineup on Tuesday.

JANUARY 25: Jimmy Butler‘s sprained right wrist may be more troubling than the Sixers originally believed. After an MRI taken Monday showed no serious damage, Butler will see a specialist today in Los Angeles to determine the extent of the injury, tweets Shams Charania of The Athletic.

Butler accompanied the team on its current four-game road trip and both he and Sixers officials remain optimistic that he will be able to play before it ends on February 2. He has been listed as doubtful for tomorrow’s game in Denver (Twitter link).

Butler has missed Philadelphia’s past two games because of the injury, but coach Brett Brown said on Wednesday he doesn’t expect it to be a long-term issue. The Sixers won both games with much of Butler’s playing time being taken over by Corey Brewer, who signed a second 10-day contract today.

Sixers Notes: Patton, Z. Smith, Vonleh, Butler

The Sixers announced today in a press release that a pair of injured youngsters have been assigned to the G League to join the Delaware Blue Coats for rehab purposes. According to the team, Justin Patton will begin practicing with limited and controlled contact, while Zhaire Smith will participate in non-contact elements of Delaware’s practices.

Patton, who is coming off right foot surgery, has been plagued by foot issues throughout his two-year NBA career, appearing in just one regular season game to date. He was sent to Philadelphia in November’s Jimmy Butler blockbuster, but will be an unrestricted free agent at season’s end. It’s unlikely we see him play much of a role for the 76ers down the stretch even if he gets healthy.

Smith, on the other hand, was the Sixers’ first-round pick in 2018 and remains under team control for several seasons, so it’s notable that he’s taking the next step in his rehab process. According to Shams Charania of The Athletic (Twitter link), while Smith is just doing non-contact work for now, he’ll ramp up his activities in the coming weeks. The rookie is coming off a Jones fracture in his left foot and a complication created by an allergy issue.

Here’s more on the Sixers:

  • Derek Bodner of The Athletic takes an extensive look at the Sixers’ trade deadline options, writing that the team is in need of depth and perimeter defense. Bodner also explores whether the 76ers would move Markelle Fultz while his value is so low and whether the club would make a deal that cuts into its 2019 cap room.
  • Within the same story, Bodner reports that sources with the Sixers “vigorously” denied a recent report suggesting that the team had expressed interest in Knicks power forward Noah Vonleh.
  • Jimmy Butler missed Wednesday’s game with a wrist injury, but it’s not considered a major issue, according to head coach Brett Brown, who said that a Monday MRI on Butler’s wrist didn’t reveal anything concerning (Twitter link via Tim Bontemps of ESPN.com).

Sixers Notes: Embiid, Noel, Butler, Fultz

Joel Embiid‘s back soreness is creating a dilemma for the Sixers as they battle for home court advantage in the playoffs, writes Keith Pompey of The Philadelphia Inquirer. Philadelphia may prefer to rest Embiid, but the team leads Boston by only a game and a half in the race for fourth place and is in the middle of a challenging 12-game portion of its schedule.

Embiid said his back was “pretty tight” after Saturday’s loss to the Thunder, but his first choice is always to play. He missed his first two NBA seasons with a broken bone in his foot and appeared in just 51 games last year as the team was being cautious about his condition.

“I have to keep getting treatment on it,” Embiid said of his back, “and it’s going to get better.”

Pompey observes that Embiid moved gingerly on the court yesterday and used a heating pad on his back when he went to the bench. It could turn into a season-long question for the Sixers as they balance the value of home court advantage against the prospect that Embiid won’t be 100% at playoff time.

There’s more Sixers news to pass along:

  • Nerlens Noel‘s appearance in Philadelphia yesterday with the Thunder served as a reminder that he could have been the rim-protecting backup center that the Sixers need, Pompey notes in a separate story. The sixth player chosen in the 2013 draft, Noel spent two and a half seasons in Philly before being traded to the Mavericks. He signed with Oklahoma City last summer.
  • Two months after acquiring him from the Timberwolves, the Sixers are still working to make Jimmy Butler fit with all their other pieces, according to Derek Bodner of The Athletic. He finds that Butler’s usage rate when he’s on the court with Embiid is just 18.1%, well below the 28.2% mark when he’s playing without Embiid or 27.8% when he and Ben Simmons are together without Embiid.
  • The Sixers welcomed Markelle Fultz back to the team this weekend, but his future remains cloudy, tweets Tim Bontemps of ESPN. Fultz will remain with the organization as he does rehab work after being diagnosed with thoracic outlet syndrome, but there’s no timetable for him to start playing again. “It’s great to see him … it’s good to have him back,” said coach Brett Brown, who added that the team needs to assess whether he’s in basketball shape after being away so long.

Atlantic Notes: Hezonja, McCaw, Sixers, Morris

Mario Hezonja is seeing fewer minutes on the court this season with the Knicks, but that hasn’t stopped the 23-year-old from enjoying his time in New York, Steve Popper of Newsday relays. Hezonja is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent on July 1.

“No, no, no. I love New York. As I said, this coaching staff, I wish I had them in my rookie year,” Hezonja said. “I’m not saying anything about what I had. It was just rough and unfortunate situation what happened to me. I wish they were my coaching staff in my rookie year. We’d be talking a different story right now. 

“Yeah, I’m happy to be around them. Even when I wasn’t playing, I just said, how important they were for me and how much room I still have for growth, for learning the game and all that stuff, so it’s big time for me. I love this team. I love everybody over here. I was surprised as soon as I came here. I’m focusing only on here. This is not a typical BS talk. ‘I’m only thinking about this, I don’t know what it’s gonna be.’ I know. This is it. I love this. I want to be in New York.”

Along with Hezonja, other Knicks players set to reach unrestricted free agency this summer include Enes KanterNoah Vonleh and Trey Burke. Hezonja is averaging 7.6 points and 17.8 minutes per game on the season, shooting 40% from the floor and an underwhelming 29% from 3-point range.

New York is reportedly exploring trades for several players ahead of the Feb. 7 deadline, but Hezonja’s name has yet to surface as a candidate.

There’s more from the Atlantic Division today:

  • Blake Murphy of The Athletic examines how the NBA’s roster rules brought the Raptors to sign Patrick McCaw as a free agent. The Cavaliers waived McCaw days after signing him in restricted free agency, allowing him to become an unrestricted free agent and sign with any team. McCaw is expected to provide backcourt depth for the Raptors as they ready themselves for a deep postseason run.
  • The Sixers still hope to re-sign Jimmy Butler this summer despite the team’s recent drama, ESPN’s Zach Lowe writes. Lowe provided details on Butler’s comments to Brett Brown at a recent 76ers film session, with Butler reportedly speaking up for himself and teammate T.J. McConnell. McConnell, who’s averaging 20.7 minutes per game, also voiced his concerns during the session when Brown asked if anyone else had something to add, Lowe notes.
  • Celtics forward Marcus Morris relayed the importance of winning as his major long-term focus, according to A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports. Morris, who’s making $5.3MM this season, is also set to become a free agent this summer. “That’s all I care about; winning,” Morris said. “That other stuff, the big-money contract, being in the conversation for All-Star, none of that happens if you’re not winning. So for me, that’s what all this is about, keeping finding ways to win.”

O’Connor’s Latest: Spurs, Porzingis, Sixers, Wolves

The Spurs are viewed by front office sources around the NBA as a team with “significant interest” in Kristaps Porzingis, reports Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer. Porzingis will be a restricted free agent this summer and while the Knicks are expected to retain him, they may be pushed by rival suitors if they’re unwilling to put a fully guaranteed maximum salary offer on the tables themselves.

Of course, as O’Connor acknowledges, San Antonio isn’t particularly well positioned to make Porzingis a lucrative long-term offer. Even if they waive and stretch Pau Gasol, who has a partially guaranteed salary for 2019/20, the Spurs will have about $96MM+ in guaranteed contracts on their books for next season.

That $96MM+ figure doesn’t account for San Antonio’s first-round pick or any other cap holds. Assuming a projected salary cap of $109MM, the team would need more than $27MM in room to offer Porzingis his maximum salary. In other words, even if the Spurs’ does have serious interest in the Knicks’ young big man, they’d have to reshape their roster substantially to go after him — New York’s top competition for Porzingis may ultimately come from elsewhere.

Here’s more from O’Connor:

  • While Jimmy Butler‘s issues with the Sixers‘ offensive system appear real, league sources tell O’Connor that the All-NBA swingman has “developed a good relationship” with Philadelphia stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. On Monday night, we passed along Butler’s comments on Brett Brown and the coach’s system.
  • Karl-Anthony Towns said on Monday that no one saw the firing of Tom Thibodeau coming, and it seems that doesn’t just apply to the Timberwolves‘ players — sources tell O’Connor that the decision came as a shock to many in the organization, and some staffers are “in limbo with no idea about what will happen next.”
  • According to O’Connor, league sources believe Fred Hoiberg will be a top candidate for the Timberwolves‘ permanent head coaching position, as ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski reported on Sunday. However, there have been no formal conversations between Hoiberg and owner Glen Taylor about the job, and the club is expected to wait until the offseason to make any decisions on its full-time coach and general manager. For now, coach Ryan Saunders and GM Scott Layden will remain in those roles.

Latest On Jimmy Butler, Sixers

After a report on Friday indicated that Jimmy Butler had “aggressively challenged” Sixers head coach Brett Brown over his role in Philadelphia’s offense, Brown downplayed the story over the weekend, telling the media that he didn’t believe Butler had crossed any lines. Speaking today to reporters, Butler conveyed a similar sentiment, as Paul Hudrick of NBC Sports Philadelphia relays.

“We’ve been talking damn near every day,” Butler said of his conversations with Brown. “Trying to figure everything out and how we can make everyone work. Not just for myself but for everybody. I’m telling you it’s a player and a coach conversation. I think that if you’ve followed me long enough, you know if I was being confrontational because I don’t think I could hide it very well.”

Friday’s report referenced a specific film session in which Butler’s questioning of Brown came off as “disrespectful,” according to some witnesses. While the 29-year-old acknowledged that he voiced his opinion during that film session, he framed it as an open, honest discussion about how to maximize the club’s offense.

“I think what the whole thing was, I would say with me being here a lot of things are different,” Butler said. “A lot of things that you used to run with the other personnel that was here — I’m a different player than [Robert Covington] and Dario [Saric]. That’s all I was saying, and then other guys had something else to say, but I think in the end it was a positive thing because everybody got what they needed to say out.”

Since the Butler story broke on Friday, some opposing general managers have called the 76ers to ask whether the All-NBA swingman might go back on the market before the February 7 trade deadline, a team source tells Yaron Weitzman of Bleacher Report. However, according to Weitzman, Philadelphia has firmly turned away any inquiries it has received on Butler, who was just acquired from the Timberwolves in November.