76ers

Former La Salle standout, NBA vet Rasual Butler dies in crash

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Former La Salle standout, NBA vet Rasual Butler dies in crash

Former La Salle great and 13-year NBA veteran Rasual Butler and his wife died Wednesday morning in a single car accident in Studio City, California.

His Range Rover flipped after Butler reportedly hit a parking meter then slammed into a wall, according to TMZ.

Butler had a standout career at La Salle, where he twice made the All-Atlantic 10 First Team.

He parlayed that collegiate success into a long NBA career that began when the Miami Heat drafted him in the second round in 2002.

Butler went on to play 13 seasons for eight different teams, most recently playing 46 games for the 2015-16 San Antonio Spurs.

Butler, a three-point marksman who averaged 1.1 made threes per game on 36.2 percent shooting, had his best season in 2009-10 with the Clippers. He played in all 82 games that year, starting 64 and averaging 11.9 points.

Butler's wife, Leah LaBelle, was an R&B singer with a record deal who was involved in Season 3 of American Idol in 2004.

The loss of Butler was felt instantly by his former Big 5 and NBA peers.

Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Amir Johnson

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Sixers 2017-18 player evaluation: Amir Johnson

Amir Johnson

Position: Power Forward/Center

Status for 2018-19: Unrestricted free agent

Johnson in 2017-18
The Sixers signed Johnson to provide solid backup minutes to Joel Embiid. He certainly wasn’t spectacular in that role, but that’s not who he is. He did his job.

Johnson averaged 4.6 points and 4.5 rebounds per game, playing in 74 contests. He averaged 15.8 minutes per game, his lowest since the 2008-09 season.

It seemed like Johnson’s name was always linked with Richaun Holmes, the younger, springier center also competing for backup center minutes (see Holmes' evaluation). While Johnson doesn’t have Holmes’ athleticism or offensive ability, Brett Brown preferred the veteran’s defense. During the regular season, Johnson had a 101.3 defensive rating, while Holmes’ was nearly five points worse, at 106.2.

At the start of the postseason, Johnson played some important minutes with Embiid working his way back from a left eye orbital fracture, and he played well. Despite Johnson not creating much of his own offense, the Sixers had no problem scoring when he was on the floor. In fact, Johnson’s 121.5 offensive rating was the best of any player in the first round of the playoffs.

Brown then drastically cut his minutes against the Celtics, Johnson’s former team, leaning heavily on Embiid. Johnson only played 17 minutes the entire Boston series, sitting on the bench for all of Game 4 and 5. He didn’t score in the series.

Signature game
In the Sixers’ 121-113 win over the Hawks on April 10, their 15th straight victory, Johnson posted 15 points, eight rebounds and five assists. That game was during Embiid’s recovery from his eye injury, which gave Johnson more of a chance to shine.

When Embiid was active, however, Johnson mainly just held down the fort while the big man got some rest.

Looking ahead to 2018-19
Johnson sometimes seems older than he actually is, mainly because of his experience and the way he carries himself. At 31 years old, Johnson has already played 13 years in the NBA, since he was the last player to be drafted directly from high school in 2005 before the league changed its eligibility requirements.

JJ Redick and Johnson were two players the young Sixers could always turn to for wisdom. Johnson never complains about his minutes, always plays hard and goes about his business like a true professional — there’s no doubt he’s a good guy to have in the locker room.

Does that mean he’ll still be a part of the Sixers’ locker room next season? Not necessarily. With the Sixers looking to acquire a superstar this offseason, Johnson would likely have to take a pay cut from the $11 million he made this year if he wants to stay in Philadelphia.

And in the long term, the Sixers may ultimately want to place their faith in Holmes, who’s seven years younger and has a higher upside. If Holmes can improve his defense, Johnson could be expendable.

On Johnson
“It was amazing, to a man, how consistent the reviews were. People skills, works his butt off, could handle sitting and swinging a towel or coming in and making a difference. He’s a good person and he’s a pro. To be able to bring him in the game, and not worry about is he happy, is he fresh, is he in shape, does he need 10 shots isn’t ever on my mind with Amir. He’s a perfect teammate.” 

- Brett Brown on Johnson after the Sixers' 107-86 win over the Jazz on Nov. 20

Sixers need LeBron James to compete with Celtics

Sixers need LeBron James to compete with Celtics

Despite the Sixers' meteoric ascension from 10 wins two seasons ago to 52 this past year, "the process" and how they got to this point remains a polarizing discussion. There are those in the anti-process camp who will never believe that intentionally losing to gain assets is the way to go. And nothing will change their mind. It’s been debated to death in these parts and it is fruitless to further the discourse at this point. This directive here is aimed at the "process purists," those who are opposed to adding big-named stars to the Sixers mostly organically grown core. Specifically, the player whose name rhymes with KeBron Dames.

This all boils down to talent and opportunity. The Sixers have two potentially transcendent foundation pieces in Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. Add to that mix the skill and toughness of Dario Saric and the potential of Markelle Fultz, and the Sixers should have a core four to be reckoned with for a long time to come. However, when you measure the Sixers' current talent head to head with the Celtics, it's advantage Boston. Their nucleus of a healthy Kyrie Irving, Gordon Hayward, Al Horford, Jayson Tatum, Terry Rozier and Jaylen Brown is better than the Sixers' core. JJ Redick is a free agent who wants to be back and had a very good year. His return would be huge, but it’s not a given. Robert Covington, for as bad as he was in the postseason, is a quality defender and a hot-and-cold three-point shooter with a manageable contract. But toe-to-toe, the Sixers don’t measure up. They need more players.

The one area the Sixers have a clear advantage over the Celtics is financially. They are positioned to be able to land the biggest fish out there in free agency or the trade market. Namely LeBron James (player option for 2018-19) or Paul George. Throw in a potential deal for Kawhi Leonard and they could net someone or multiple someones that could shift the talent scales in their favor this summer.

Looking at the Eastern Conference landscape, If James departs Cleveland, the Cavaliers are done. You can forget Toronto and Washington as well. They don’t have enough. Indiana is a nice team but still not good enough. Milwaukee is short on overall talent and coaching. We saw the Heat’s shortcomings up close and personal. This comes down to the Sixers and Celtics.

The whole point of going through the torture that was the process was to put yourself in a position to build the best roster, not the best homegrown roster. By any means necessary. If there was any doubt, the regular and postseason showed you that despite 14 seasons of heavy lifting, James is still the best player on the planet. He hasn’t lost a step. If you can get him, you must. Yes, it will take some ego curbing by Simmons and Embiid and James. Not to mention, co-existing on the court. But great players, even ball-dominant ones, figure that out. See James Harden and Chris Paul in Houston. Or James and Irving before their split

The Sixers and their fans didn’t come this far to be road-blocked for the next five to 10 years by the Celtics.