Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler had a strong message for Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid after he eliminated his former roster from the postseason with a 99-90 Game 6 win on Thursday.
Butler played with Embiid and the Sixers for a brief streak of his career during the 2018-19 season, losing to eventual champion Raptors in the Eastern Conference semifinals. Butler was eventually sent to Miami in a sign-and-trade, but his relationship with Embiid remained strong.
After bouncing the Sixers off the postseason, he expressed his admiration for Embiid, who was struggling with thumb and facial injuries.
“I love him,” Butler said in his on-court interview. “I’m proud of him. Yeah yeah yeah I still wish I was on his team. I definitely love the Miami Heat man. I’m glad I’m here but I have so much respect and love for Joel Embiid.”
Embiid turned to his friendship with butler in his post-game press conference.
“I still don’t know how we let him go. I wish I could have gone into battle with him anyway, but it is what it is. I just have to keep building and trying to reach that goal.
Embiid missed the first two games of the series after being punched in the face and suffering a concussion and an orbital fracture in the Sixers’ win over the Raptors. Not looking for an easy way out, Butler wanted to go full-on against Embiid and Philly.
“I feel bad for my husband,” Butler told reporters. “I think I speak for everyone who is part of this team, we want Jo to play. We want to face them with full force and prove that we can keep up with anyone and beat anyone.”
Embiid returned to the pitch in Game 3 and although he looked strained at times, he still made a big impression. He averaged 19.8 points and 9.8 rebounds.
“I talk to Jo every day. Even before this series, that’s my type. It’s like a brother to me,” Butler said of Embiid in his post-game press conference. “It’s a privilege to play against him. Of course, to be on the same team with him as I have been in the past, but damn, you want to be able to play against the best and have the opportunity to beat the best. And keep that in mind for years to come. But after basketball, that will still be my type.”
While much of the blame was placed on the Philadelphia coaching staff and front office, Embiid shifted that criticism onto himself and the other players.
“At some point you have to stop looking at the coaches or the front office,” Embiid said. “The players also have to do their job.”
Embiid will likely need thumb surgery and some time off after a tough run. At the end of the season, he revealed what he’s most looking forward to.
“I came home two days ago and got the best award I can get – most valuable dad,” Embiid said.
The Heat meets the winner of the Bucks-Celtics series going into Game 6 on Friday with a 3-2 lead from Milwaukee.