At the end of the day, there may be several factors that could come into play when Jimmy Butler makes his free agency decision this summer. But with the Los Angeles Lakers among several teams linked to the 29-year-old wingman, there was considerable speculation when Butler updated his Instagram to share some photos of himself wearing purple and gold shoes — the exact colors synonymous with the Lakers for the past several decades.
According to ClutchPoints, the photos showing Butler’s Lakers-themed Nike Air Force 1 shoes were part of the Philadelphia 76ers star’s latest Instagram Story, which showed him relaxing in his private jet. A separate report from Silver Screen and Roll noted that Butler was leaving Los Angeles at the time he took the photos and also pointed out that Lakers forward Kyle Kuzma recently followed the Sixers forward/guard on Instagram.
While one player following another player from a rival team isn’t always a sign that the latter is close to joining the former’s team, Silver Screen and Roll speculated that Butler appeared to be employing some “flirtation tactics” with the Lakers, who will be entering the 2018-19 offseason with enough cap space to sign a top free agent. The outlet stressed that the Lakers could also be involved in trade discussions for New Orleans Pelicans star Anthony Davis, whom they unsuccessfully tried to acquire before the February trade deadline.
“Such a hypothetical [scenario] would be very appealing to Butler, who has always seemed to care first and foremost about winning, even if his attempts at leadership are, um, interesting,” wrote Silver Screen and Roll’s Anthony Irwin.
On the other hand, there are other possible explanations for Jimmy Butler’s decision to wear Lakers-themed shoes on his most recent Instagram Story. Although ClutchPoints admitted that it “won’t be wrong to speculate” about Butler possibly hinting that he wants a move to Los Angeles, the publication cautioned that it could simply be a case of the four-time All-Star “trolling” Lakers fans.
— NBA on ESPN (@ESPNNBA) June 1, 2019
Likewise, Silver Screen and Roll’s Irwin offered another theory about why Butler may have been showing off his shoes on social media. He wrote that Butler could be “[sending] a nice message” to the Sixers by “using the Lakers as leverage” in order to get a maximum contract from Philadelphia during the offseason.
Regardless of the reasons behind the new Instagram Story, Butler has often been mentioned as a good “Plan B” target for the Lakers in case they fail to land a first-tier free agent like Kevin Durant, Kyrie Irving, or Kawhi Leonard. Splitting time between the Minnesota Timberwolves and Philadelphia 76ers in 2018-19, Butler averaged 18.2 points and 5.3 rebounds and led the latter team to the third seed in the Eastern Conference. The Sixers, however, saw their season end when they lost in seven games to the Leonard-led Toronto Raptors in the Eastern Conference Semifinals.