After an offseason in which they were, in the words of coach Brett Brown, "star-hunting," the Philadelphia 76ers finally got their star in November when they made a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves to acquire forward Jimmy Butler. Butler had a well-publicized falling out with Minnesota, in which he feuded with the team's young stars.
Since Butler arrived in Philadelphia, the Sixers have been successful on the court, with Butler averaging 19 points her game in a Sixers uniform. However, there have been signs of discord, starting with a January 4 report from ESPN which stated that Butler had "aggressively challenged" Brown during a film session and had pushed for changes in the team's offensive system more suited to his own style of play.
That ESPN report had stated that "Butler's sluggish assimilation into the Sixers environment is causing some concern about his long-term viability and fit with the organization," as Butler can opt out of his contract and become a free agent following this season.
Now, there's new speculation from a top reporter that further questions Butler's long-term status with the team.
"If you want to get paid, try keeping quiet," an unnamed member of the Sixers' organization told ESPN's Jackie MacMullen in a story published earlier this month, in reference to Butler's quest for a new contract.
MacMullen then appeared this week on ESPN writer Zach Lowe's podcast to further discuss the situation, per WIP."I think he's on thin ice," MacMullen said of Butler on the show. "And I think he's a very talented player and no one has ever called him soft either, he's a very tough player. On paper, he would be exactly what you'd want on a team. He's not a selfish player, I would never say that about him. He defends, boy does he defend. He gets at it. He makes good decisions on the offensive end of the floor. I don't know him well enough to know, is it real or is it bravado—this whole idea that I'm going to take everyone on. I can tell you, having spent a couple of days in Philadelphia, they don't love it."
MacMullen added that it may be up to star center Joel Embiid whether the team keeps Butler around long-term.
The 76ers, after the season, could sign Butler to the long-term extension he seeks. They could also let him leave as a free agent- or choose not to pursue re-signing him at all - and then use the resulting salary cap space to sign a different star free agent, such as Kawhi Leonard. Or if the Sixers determine sooner that Butler is not a fit, they could trade him to another team prior to the February 7 trade deadline.