Jimmy Butler and Brett Brown and the rest of the 76ers say that there is no story behind a recent report that alleged a film session in Portland turned confrontational between the player and coach.
“If you’ve followed me long enough you’d know if I was being confrontational because I don’t think that I could hide it very well,” Butler said Monday after practice at the Sixers' training complex in Camden. “It would be different if I was going at somebody with cuss words and this and that and making demands, but that’s not what I’m doing. I’m just out here trying to hoop.”
Several teammates, including Joel Embiid, Ben Simmons, JJ Redick, and Jonah Bolden, were asked what they thought of the interaction, which was described as “beyond normal player-coach discourse” in the report. They all have said that it was nothing out of the ordinary.
Brown echoed his players on Monday, saying that any other coach in the NBA would have seen the dialogue as a normal back-and-forth between player and coach and that kind of exchange is welcomed.
Brown also noted that while at times he has been challenged, he never sees that as disrespectful.
“I think confrontation brings people together, provided that it’s done respectfully and it’s real. I like the dialogue,” Brown said. “When you’ve got a head coach that says ‘This is what I see, what do you guys see, what do you think?’ You’ve got to be prepared for an answer, and I like it.”
» DAVID MURPHY: Thoughts on Jimmy Butler, Brett Brown and the reported friction
Additionally, the report by ESPN said Butler had expressed the desire to play in more pick-and-roll sets rather than the offensive sets Brown had already established with the Sixers. Butler said that wasn’t exactly correct.
While he did mention the offense, Butler said he often speaks up about defense more than anything. In this particular instance, he said it was more about recognizing a change in personnel from Robert Covington and Dario Saric to himself.
“I would say that the whole thing was that with me being here a lot of things are different,” he said. “A lot of things that you used to run with the other personnel that was here, I’m a different player than RoCo and Dario. That’s all I was saying. Then, other guys had something else to say, but I think in the end it was a positive thing because everybody got what they needed to say out.”
While Butler and the rest of the team continue to say there are no issues -- there is no friction; there is no story behind the now infamous film session -- the situation will continue to be monitored. Butler’s ability to mesh without drama has been a topic of discussion at his previous stops in Chicago and Minnesota, where things ended with Butler requesting a trade.
There have been concerns that if tensions are rising, or continue to rise, it would harm the team’s chances of re-signing Butler after this season. Butler said Monday that he is happy here and that he could see staying in Philadelphia. Of course, he said, everything is dependent on winning.
After a 22-point win over the Los Angeles Lakers, the Minnesota Timberwolves fired president and head coach Tom Thibodeau on Sunday.
Butler played for Thibodeau in both Chicago and Minnesota. Always referring to Thibodeau as “my guy,” Butler credits the former coach with turning him into an All-Star.
“I don’t think I’d be the player I am today without him,” Butler said. “He’s done a lot for me in my career. A good dude and I know that he’ll be back at the top leading somebody to some more wins one of these days.”
Brown said that Thibodeau is a friend and that he didn’t think he deserved to be fired.
“He’s obsessed by this sport and he’s very respected by all of us,” he said. “To wake up this morning and learn this news, it saddens me because of the respect I have for him. But I know two things, I know what the league thinks of him and I know he will be back.”
Simmons did not practice Monday because of an upper respiratory infection, the same ailment that forced Butler and Wilson Chandler to miss the last two games.
Butler and Chandler returned to action as full practice participants and will be available on Tuesday against the Washington Wizards.
Though Simmons didn’t practice Monday, the medical staff seemed more optimistic about his chances for Tuesday’s game.