Now that Sixers swingman Jimmy Butler and coach Brett Brown both had the chance to respond to a story about a supposed confrontation between the two, it’s probably safe to say whatever happened wasn’t quite on the level of Latrell Sprewell choking P.J. Carlesimo — though, that is one way to get coach to call more pick-and-rolls.

If nothing else, Butler and Brown did a nice job downplaying any discord, and in all honesty, I believed them about the nature of the infamous film session. Their version sounds like a healthy dialogue between a coach and star veteran still finding his role in a new offense with a new team, nothing more.

The real question is who in the Sixers organization took that conversation the wrong way?

It’s legitimately concerning, and not just because Butler could leave marks around Brown’s neck for team photo day. It’s concerning because it might reveal potential issues in the Sixers locker room if either A) some players don’t feel comfortable challenging an authority figure and/or B) somebody has a problem with or feels threatened by Butler’s presence.

A is obviously a lot less sinister than B, and plausible given the relative youth of the roster. No doubt, J.J. Redick, Wilson Chandler and Amir Johnson have seen some things as 10-plus-year vets — as Butler said, basketball is still a job, and people do occasionally disagree with their bosses in the real world, too. The rest of the guys, most of whom have never played anywhere else in the NBA or started careers in any field, may not feel comfortable being as vocal yet.


That would be a relatively minor problem, assuming there was any validity to the idea at all. It’s only a guess, but would be preferable to the other possibility.

Somebody in that locker room or building simply doesn’t care very much for Butler.

It’s difficult to envision how anybody benefits from this story leaking, and even Brown insisted it wasn’t planted. Fine, nobody is actively trying to sow dissension within the Sixers. Regardless, somebody felt Butler was being disrespectful, to the point it became discussion-worthy around the league.

Sounds like there might be an ax to grind there. If I’m the Sixers, I’m more worried about who got annoyed and started running their mouth about Butler than I am about Brown’s throat. Between this, the complicated Joel Embiid-Ben Simmons dynamic and the Markelle Fultz saga, infighting might be a bigger threat to the team’s short-term and long-term success than Butler’s antics.

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