The Return of Jimmy Buckets

Sixers forward Jimmy Butler’s Game 2 playoff outburst reminds us why Elton Brand brought him here.

The Sixers finally woke up after getting thrashed by Kawhi Leonard and Pascal Sakiam in Game 1 of the Eastern Conference playoff semfinals. With a starting five that are all capable of dropping 20 points per contest, Philly got gritty on the defensive end and rode Jimmy Butler’s 30 points to a crucial 94-89 Game 2 win.

This is what Sixers General Manager Elton Brand envisioned when he traded for Butler and threw the veteran into the mix with his young superstars Ben Simmons and Joel Embiid. Butler’s playoff tested mettle and big-shot reputation would serve Philly well at some point in the playoffs.

On a night when Simmons, Embiid and Tobias Harris scored a combined 27 points, Butler kept his usual defensive intensity but also willingly carried the offensive load. When Embiid and Simmons can sit back and be defensive monsters while Butler carries the bucket load and takes all of the crucial shots, Philly becomes an even deadlier team.

Butler’s purpose on the Philadelphia 76ers will become more evident to those that originally doubted Brand’s executive acumen. Butler lives for these kinds of moments. He’s been putting in clutch work since his days with the Chicago Bulls. Brand understood that he had a special opportunity to grab a rare two-way player who thrives in primetime.  

When Butler arrived, it was on the heels of a nasty breakup with the Minnesota Timberwolves, where the 10-year-veteran publicly demanded a trade and openly criticized the work ethic, commitment and desire of his millennial co-stars Andrew Wiggins and Karl-Anthony Towns.

As the situation in Minnesota worsened, Brand was able to swoop in and nab Butler for shorts, creating a “Big Three” in Philly and strengthening the franchise. Some pessimists doubted that it would work. Brand also knew that it would take time for Butler, who is a free agent this summer, to find his footing in Philly. And for his teammates to get used to an OG style that can come off abrasive at times. It’s worked for the most part, but there’s been a few rough moments.

Game 2 showed us why he’s worth the risk. Butler has reiterated time and again that he has no problem playing with guys who are as passionate about the game as he is. Guys who can accept his form of leadership and understands that he might not be the most publicized or coveted All-Star on the team, but he is definitely the dude to call when you want to kill the Night King.

 

JR Gamble joined The Shadow League in 2012. The General Manager of Content & Social Media is in his 25th year of covering sports and culture professionally. He has covered a wide variety of major sports and entertainment topics across different mediums, including radio, newspapers, magazines and national TV. His passion is baseball, the culturing of baseball and preserving and documenting the historically-impactful accomplishments and contributions of African-Americans in baseball.