There have been rumblings already this season the chemistry between the 76ers’ “Big Three” of Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons and Jimmy Butler has been off and a new report will only lead to more speculation about friction within the camp.
When Butler arrived in Philadelphia from the Minnesota Timberwolves coach Brett Brown admitted his troops would take time to gel and there were suggestions Aussie star Simmons was struggling to impose himself on offence when sharing the floor with the four-time All-Star.
Now it’s been revealed Butler has challenged coach Brown over his offensive tactics, further complicating the relationship with Embiid and Simmons, according to an ESPN report.
The 29-year-old was allegedly “disrespectful” when voicing his opposition to Brown during a recent video session and even though the coach didn’t have a problem with the difference in opinion, the combative nature of Butler’s queries and a slower-than-expected assimilation “is causing some concern about his long-term viability and fit with the organisation”.
ESPN claims the Sixers hierarchy want to urgently make peace with Butler because they are desperate to ensure their high-profile trio remain happy in Philadelphia.
According to the report: “Brown had already spent significant time working on the sometimes-tenuous relationship between Simmons and Embiid, and those challenges have been compounded by the urgency to introduce Butler into the Sixers’ dynamic.
“Butler has expressed a desire to teammates to play in more traditional pick-and-roll and isolation sets, rather than trying to find his place in the Sixers’ free-flowing offence.”
This will be worrying news for Sixers fans who have been confronted with shock rumours linking last season’s Rookie of the Year Simmons to a trade away from the franchise because of a belief he can’t co-exist with both Embiid and Butler.
The 22-year-old was hit with accusations by some basketball pundits he was being overshadowed by Philadelphia’s new recruit and failing to make an impact and inject himself at the right time, but he poured cold water on those suggestions last month.
“So far it’s been pretty easy,” Simmons told news.com.au about the Sixers’ new life with Butler. “I figure it’s just been everyone finding their spot and where they can be most effective on the court at times.
“First two games, everyone struggled to figure it out. Then the next five or six games I think I was averaging 19 (points), eight (rebounds) and nine (assists a game).
“So, I mean, there’s nothing (critics can) really say about that.”
Butler can opt into free agency at the end of this NBA season and Philly is keen to keep him on its books, but if he can’t see how he fits into the Sixers’ offence, he may choose to test the waters elsewhere.
Butler ended up alongside Embiid and Simmons when his time in Minnesota came to a tumultuous end, spending only one full season at the Timberwolves after months of bickering with the franchise’s front office.
The relationship became untenable when Butler scorched his teammates in a practice session that became the biggest talking point prior to the season getting underway. The juicy details of the heated team practice flooded social media and left basketball fans salivating for more information.
“You f***ing need me, Scott. You can’t win without me,” Butler reportedly shouted to general manager Scott Layden.
“I heard that he took the third stringers, and he beat the starters,” ESPN’s Amin Elhassan added.
Butler opened up about the infamous session last month on the JJ Redick Podcast.
“We start doing some drills, and then at the end we start hooping. Now, that’s when all the stuff goes on,” Butler said.
“We play, we win, and I’m yapping, I’m yapping, I’m yapping, I always talk anyway, if you can’t tell, I’m always talking.
“Talking about how somebody can’t guard me, or nobody can beat me one-on-one. I do that, that’s what I do.
“This time it was just a little bit different because of whose team I was on, and I ain’t been around, so it was just, like, taken up a notch.
“And it didn’t help who was watching, who was watching and like, you know, ownership, management all of that good stuff.”
But then the man who looms as a key piece in the 76ers’ championship aspirations detailed the juiciest detail of all from the day.
“The most interesting detail of that whole scrimmage, that nobody knows? I only shot the ball once. I only shot the ball one time. I only shot the ball once,” Butler said.
“But every quote coming out of there was, like, Jimmy was getting buckets and he was dominating,” Redick responded.
“Oh, I was dominating. But I only shot the ball once. Dimes. Boom, boom, boom. Steals. Blocks. I only shot the ball one time,” Butler added.
So not only did Butler lay the smackdown on his now former teammates, he did it taking only one shot.