Jimmy Butler returned to Minnesota on Saturday for the first time since being traded from the Timberwolves, helping the Sixers take a 118-109 victory in a hostile environment.
Butler’s departure from the Wolves was a shock for both the team and its fans this season. The 29-year-old being vigorously booed during pre-game intros and every time he touched the ball during Saturday’s contest.
“I don’t care about being loved all the time,” Butler said postgame, according to Malika Andrews of ESPN. “It’s no fun that way.”
Butler has thrived in situations like these during his career, raising his effort level and becoming a fiercer competitor. Although he struggled shooting the ball (just 4-of-17 from the floor), he finished with 12 points, 13 rebounds, five assists and two steals to help seal the Sixers’ victory.
“He thrives under blankets of controversy,” coach Brett Brown said before the game. “I greatly respect it, and I think when you look at the high-level competitors, it is part of their DNA. It is certainly part of his DNA.”
Butler has carried this gene throughout his eight-year career, and it’s that competitive nature he’ll bring to the table with the Sixers as they look to make a deep playoff run this spring. He’s scheduled to reach unrestricted free agency on July 1.
There’s more out of Philadelphia today:
- Brett Brown will bring in senior advisor Jim O’Brien to replace assistant Billy Lange on his coaching staff, according to Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer. Lange left the Sixers this week to become the next head coach at Saint Joseph’s. O’Brien served as an NBA head coach for nine seasons, including one campaign with the Sixers in 2004-05.
- Resting Joel Embiid for three games is a smart decision for the Sixers as they prepare for the playoffs, Brown said Saturday night, as relayed by ESPN.com. “This is not sort of a reaction to symptoms,” Brown said. “It’s just load management. Again, we’re just trying to be smart and deliver him to play in the playoffs ready to go.” Embiid sat out of Saturday’s game and has already been ruled out of Monday’s game against Dallas and Wednesday’s game against Atlanta. He’ll be re-evaluated before the team’s home contest against the Bucks on Thursday.
- Jonah Bolden will look to seize his opportunity as the postseason nears, writes Brian Seltzer of NBA.com. Bolden started in place of Embiid on Saturday, recording 19 points, 8 rebounds, three blocks and a game-high plus-22 net rating. “When it comes down to playoff time, the rotation does shorten up,” Bolden said. “The opportunity is now, whether the opportunity is now or in the playoffs, just making the most of it whenever it comes.”