CAMDEN, N.J. — Just about every time Jimmy Butler steps in front of the media, you’re going to be entertained.
Butler began his media availability Tuesday by talking about dominating members of the Sixers’ coaching and player development staff after each practice.
“When I’m done beating up everybody one-one-one, that’s when it’s time to hit the showers,” he said.
Asked who he played with, Butler called out player development specialist Remy Ndiaye.
“I be tearing Remy up,” Butler said.
He then yelled, loud enough so Ndiaye could hear on the opposite court, “Remy, what’s up, boy?! I be beating Remy like he stole something.”
Just beneath the surface of Butler’s playful antics lies a fierce competitiveness. Head coach Brett Brown is a big fan of that unique combination of eccentricity and ruthlessness.
To me he’s fantastic because I think if you can talk with somebody, you can coach him. He’s fun to talk with. He’s got such a tremendous personality. He’s a free spirit — there are lots of great players that have that maverick in them. He’s not like a ‘yes, sir, no, sir’ Boy Scout guy, and that’s fine by me. It’s an enjoyable conversation. His growth — and you can see it on his face, he shines. He’s got tremendous personality. I like that. I think that’s helpful for the team, and I’m seeing it in increments.
Brown is a fan of Butler’s intense approach to every practice, every possession, even every supposedly friendly game with an assistant coach. The Sixers have held three straight opponents under 100 points, and Brown attributes much of that simply to the type of consistent effort Butler brings to the table.
“It starts with defense,” he said. “I think that it can galvanize a team. I think that the accountability of a teammate has a further chance of growth. I think when a team takes ownership as a team, it has a further chance. Good teams are certainly held accountable by their coach. I think great teams are held accountable by each other.”
Wednesday night’s game in Toronto is a more challenging matchup for the Sixers, who have won eight of their last nine games and sit three games behind the first-place Raptors in the Eastern Conference.
Butler said he feels no extra responsibility to lift the Sixers over the best team in the conference, and no extra motivation to win his individual matchup with Kawhi Leonard.
“Nah,” Butler said. “I go in every matchup, I don’t care who you are. I’m going to try to get the best of you, help my team win. I like Kawhi, good friend of mine. But in between those lines, I’m fouling the hell out of him and Kyle [Lowry.]”
The Sixers will have Jonah Bolden available for Wednesday night’s game, while Wilson Chandler will also return to the floor. Bolden has been sidelined since suffering a cortical crack in the proximal fibula of his right leg while playing for the Delaware Blue Coats on Nov. 17. Chandler missed Sunday’s game vs. the Grizzlies with a left quad contusion.
Of course, the Sixers will also have Butler on Wednesday night as they try to snap a 12-game losing streak in Toronto. Without Butler, they lost on Oct. 30, 129-112.
“No pressure,” Butler said. “I do want to win, but if we do happen to win, I don’t want y’all to say, ‘oh, because Jimmy’s here now, that’s the reason.’ That’s not the case at all. I have to play at my very best, along with everyone on the roster. We’ll have to play damn near perfect basketball to beat them at home. But I think we’re capable of it, to show we’re one of the elite teams in the East.”
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