Jimmy Butler side-stepped the questions like someone was giving out samples of the flu virus.

The New York Knicks were reportedly one of his preferred destinations before the 76ers acquired the swingman in a trade from the Minnesota Timberwolves on Nov. 12. Unhappy with the Timberwolves, Butler forced his way out of Minnesota.

It is true that the Knicks were a preferred destination?

If so, what made them attractive?

"I don't know," Butler said, "and to tell you the truth, I don't even talk about the trade no more, because I'm here, and I'm loving it here.

"All of that is in the past. So I leave it just there."

According to a source,  Butler was never interested in the Knicks, as was reported.

But it's understood why he would be asked that question Tuesday.

The Sixers (14-8) entertain the Knicks on Wednesday at the Wells Fargo Center. It will be Butler's first game against them since the trade.  New York are 7-15  following Tuesday night's 115-108 road loss to the Detroit Pistons at Little Caesars Arena. Tuesday marked the first of several questions he's likely to be asked by New York media about the Knicks.

New York is "a good, young team that plays incredibly hard," he said, "gets up and down the floor. They got some guys that can put the ball in the basket."

The Knicks were coming off three impressive victories over the Memphis Grizzlies (Sunday), the New Orleans Pelicans (Friday) and the Boston Celtics (Nov. 21). It was their first winning streak of the season.

Butler referred to Knicks center Enes Kanter as a "fierce specimen" when it comes to rebounding.

The matchup between the 6-foot-11, 250-pounder and Joel Embiid will be one to pay close attention to.  He had 16 points and 14 rebounds on Tuesday, one game after finishing with 21 points, 26 rebounds and three assists in Sunday's 103-98 victory at the Grizzlies.

Kanter averages 15.2 points and a league ninth-best 12.0 rebounds.  The eighth-year veteran is also tied with Pistons center Andre Drummond for the league's third-most double-doubles at 13.

Meanwhile, Embiid is an early-season candidate for MVP.

He ranks third in the league in scoring (28.1 points per game), fourth in rebounds (13.3) and seventh in blocked shots (2.0). Embiid also leads the league with 20 double-doubles.

The Sixers swept last season's four meetings against Kanter and Co.  In the teams' last meeting on March 28, Kanter finished with 17 points and 14 rebounds. Meanwhile, Embiid suffered a game-ending concussion and fracture to the orbital bone near his left eye early in the second quarter.

Embiid went on to miss the final eight regular-season games and first two games in the opening-round playoff series with the Miami Heat.

While Embiid's performance will be key against the Knicks, the Sixers must start better than in their previous two games.

They battled back from a 20-point deficit to beat the Brooklyn Nets, 127-125, on Butler's three-pointer with 0.4 seconds remaining at the Barclays Center. That came two days after the Sixers trailed by as many as 14 points in the first quarter en route to a shocking 121-112 home loss the struggling Cleveland Cavaliers.

The Cavs (4-15) have the league's second-worst record. Meanwhile, the Nets are 8-13.

JJ Redick doesn't think the poor starts were the result of overlooking losing teams.  He thinks coming out flat is a result of a grueling schedule. They've already played 22 games after a tiring trip to China in the preseason.

"We haven't had much breathing room in our schedule," Redick said. "I don't think our team is in a position where [it can take] opponents lightly.

"We certainly won't do that tomorrow night."

Part of the problem is the team's defensive woes.

The Sixers are tied with the Phoenix Suns for 25th in the league in scoring defense (114.1 points per game). They were ranked 11th (105.3) at the conclusion of last season.

"We have to be more physical on the defensive end and not let [players] get to where they want to get the ball to on the floor and let guys get to their strengths," Butler said of opponents. "I think whenever we do that from jump, you'll see that it will be a better start to these games."