Less than two months after the Philadelphia 76ers acquired Jimmy Butler in a blockbuster trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, Butler has "aggressively challenged" coach Brett Brown about his role in the team's offense, ESPN reported Friday.
Butler, according to reporting from top NBA reporters Ramona Shelburne and Adrian Wojnarowski, "has been vocal in his contesting of Brown and his system," and even strongly challenged the coach during a recent film session when the team was in Portland.
The coach, according to ESPN, "has told people within the organization that he had no issues with that exchange and considered it within the confines of the relationship."
Butler had a highly contentious departure from his previous team, the Minnesota Timberwolves, demanding a trade during the offseason and later trash-talking both teammates and team executives during an infamous preseason practice. Butler was ultimately traded to the 76ers in October for a package that included Dario Saric and Robert Covington in a deal that formed a "big three" with Sixers center Joel Embiid and guard Ben Simmons. The Sixers have a 16-8 record since the trade, including 15-6 mark when Butler has played, and currently hold the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference.
The report adds that "Butler's sluggish assimilation into the Sixers environment is causing some concern about his long-term viability and fit with the organization." It also cites tensions between Simmons and Embiid, even before Embiid was accidentally elbowed in the face by his teammate during a game last week.
Butler, a 29-year-old small forward, can be a free agent at the end of the season and is eligible to receive much more money by re-signing with his current team than by leaving to go to a different one. However, it would complicate plans for the Sixers to compete longterm if Butler isn't getting along with the coach or the other two stars.Brown has been the Sixers' coach since 2013 and coached the Sixers through "The Process," which was the aggressive tanking regime masterminded by former general manager Sam Hinkie. It entailed the team essentially not trying to win for several years in order to accumulate draft picks and salary cap space.
The Process drew much consternation from the league and media, but it resulted in the drafting of Embiid and Simmons, who led the team back to the playoffs last season. Then, the team used Process-era players to acquire Butler after an offseason in which Brown had admitted the team was "star-hunting" for an established veteran player to pair with the younger stars.
The coach signed a contract extension last offseason and even served as interim general manager for several months after Bryan Colangelo was fired in a bizarre fake Twitter account scandal, per Inquisitr.