TORONTO — When Jimmy Butler took the podium after Game 6, Joel Embiid was already getting ready to answer his second question.
“You started without me, man?” Butler interrupted.
For a moment, Butler almost seemed disappointed, while Embiid explained that the media prompted him to answer a question, otherwise he would’ve waited for Butler.
Butler nodded and smiled as he took a seat next to Embiid.
“Yeah, alright,” Butler said.
It was a quick moment, but one that gives us another glimpse into the evolving relationship between the two superstars, who have recently become buddies on the postgame podium.
“We’ve been really close since he got to Philly,” Embiid said prior to Saturday’s practice. “We’ve built a friendship off the court, that’s a lot on the court, too. We always have discussions. If he’s not feeling well, he comes to me, [to tell me to] take over. If I’m not feeling well, I do the same thing, and we are always talking and trying to figure out the best way to help our teammates. It goes a long way and he definitely helps out a lot on the court.”
“I just think I try to remind him to always be himself,” Butler said of Embiid. “Always be in a good mood and always smile, good game, bad game or whatever it may be, always be who you are, the happy-go-lucky, joyful human being that knows that he is fortunate enough to play basketball and same with myself.”
For head coach Brett Brown, it’s something he’s certainly kept his eye on, noticing that Embiid has started to take notice of Butler’s habits.
“I think he has had a significant impact on Joel," Brown said of Butler. "It is hard to watch somebody be in a gym, before the bus, comes to the gym, sweaty and getting shots up.
“It’s hard to look at somebody’s attention to his health and his body. It’s hard to watch somebody perform at this level and on this stage at a level that he has and not be impressed. I think that the connection between Jimmy and Joel is growing and trending in an incredibly positive way that, to me, it is helping Joel. And those two share candid conversations and you need that. We need that. I appreciate Jimmy helping our young players.”
Embiid has taken notice.
“I know to become a better leader, you’ve always got to watch and learn and it’s better to set a better example," Embiid said. "Him being here has taught me that, because he’s always on top of everything basketball-wise. It’s helped me a lot, to become a better man. Just being on time, showing up every game. Just having a better relationship as a leader with my teammates. He doesn’t have to say anything, you just have to watch him.”
“I just hoop, man,” Butler said of his leadership style. “I got a little bit to say, not a lot. Half the time people don’t like the way I say things anyway and that’s OK. So I just go out there and hoop, lead that way, lead by example and see where we’re going to go.”
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