Miami Heat forward Jimmy Butler is a guy that takes extreme pride in his work ethic. After being under-recruited coming out of high school and college, Butler has worked himself into an All-Star and one of the league's best two-way players.
Not only does Butler work hard, but he also really likes people to know how hard he works, and he wants -- or expects -- his teammates to match the work that he puts in, and apparently he doesn't feel like that was the case during his stint with the Philadelphia 76ers last season. In an interview with Vincent Goodwill of Yahoo Sports, Butler said that some of his Sixers teammates didn't work as hard as him, and that he didn't believe that everyone on the team shared the same goal of winning an NBA championship.
"No," Butler replied when asked if he felt that everyone in Philadelphia was working as hard as he was given the opportunity in front of the team. "But everybody don't do that. Everybody don't work like that. That's just what it is. And I've learned that over the years, you know? Is there something wrong with it? No, there's not... Is everybody playing this game for a championship? ... [Some guys are playing for] the money, the houses, the cars, the fame. There is so many other things that people can play this game for."
The Sixers had some solid success with Butler, as they made it to the Eastern Conference semifinals, and were a couple of unfriendly bounces on a Kawhi Leonard jump shot away from a potential Eastern Conference finals appearance. However, according to Butler, such success is the result of team talent, and doesn't necessarily reflect the level of commitment on the roster.
"You could just be on a talented team and you end up in the playoffs," Butler said. "That doesn't mean that you're in it to win a championship."
Despite their apparent differences, Butler knows that the Sixers were close to winning a title last season, and the missed opportunity will continue to haunt him.
"In order to win a championship, the stars have to align," Butler said. "Everything has to work out the right way: if you're healthy, if you're making shots... So many things go into winning a championship, man. And to know you're that close, it hurts. What if [Kawhi Leonard] would have missed that last shot? There are so many "what ifs" that can happen. It'll be like that for the rest of our lives. We'll talk about that because we were that close. It hurts.
If Butler values winning so much and feels like the Sixers were so close to a title last season, his decision to sign elsewhere over the offseason appears to be a curious one at face value. But, Butler has previously implied that something went down behind the scenes with the Sixers that led to his decision to walk away from the organization, despite the fact that the team appeared poised to be a perennial contender. Butler kept it vague, though, and wouldn't go into detail regarding what spurred his decision to leave, although perhaps his feeling that some of his teammates may not have cared about winning as much as he did contributed to it.
"Stuff just don't work out," Butler said of his stint with the Sixers. "Nobody knows what really went on in Philly and we're going to leave it that way. But it was a great opportunity for me ... All of that will come out whenever it's time. Right now is not the time. I'm locked in with this. I'm happy, man. I'm smiling and my guys want me to be here, my organization wants me to be here, I want to be here and we're going to ride this thing until the wheels fall off."
Butler didn't name names, but it's pretty clear that his issues in Philadelphia weren't with All-Star center Joel Embiid, as the two remain close, even as opponents, and Butler even recently referred to Embiid as "the best player in the league."
"I talk to Joel [Embiid] damn near every f-----g day," Butler said earlier this month. "It's a brotherhood, man. I love that guy. I'm going to always have his back and I know he'll always have mine."
Perhaps Butler's latest comments were aimed at Philadelphia's other All-Star, Ben Simmons, or forward Tobias Harris; both players signed max deals with the Sixers over the offseason. Or maybe we will never know who Butler was referring to, which might be for the best, as both sides are looking to move on at this point. It is interesting though that Butler had similar issues with the Timberwolves before he forced his way out of Minnesota. And in Chicago, too.
At the end of the day, Butler's drive and determination have turned him into the player that he is today and helped him cash in on a max contract with the Heat over the offseason, so you certainly can't knock his hustle. But, if you continue to have the same issues with different organizations, looking in the mirror might be a better option than consistently pointing fingers.