Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler had a strong message for Philadelphia 76ers big man Joel Embiid after eliminating his former squad from the postseason with a 99-90 victory in Game 6 on Thursday.
Butler played with Embiid and the Sixers for a brief stint of his career during the 2018-19 season, losing to the 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 from the postseason, he pronounced his admiration for Embiid, who battled through thumb and facial injuries.
“I love him,” Butler said in his on-court interview. “I’m proud of him. Yes, yes, yes, I still wish I was on his team. I definitely love the Miami Heat though man. I’m glad that I’m here but I got so much respect and love for Joel Embiid.”
Embiid addressed his friendship with Butler in his postgame press conference.
“I still don’t know how we let him go. I wish I could have gone to battle with him still, but it is what it is,” Embiid said. “Just got to keep building and keep trying to reach that goal.”
Butler Was Hoping Embiid Returned After Injury
Embiid missed the first two games of the series after being struck in the face in the Sixers’ series-clinching win against the Raptors, suffering a concussion and orbital bone fracture. Butler wasn’t looking for an easy way out and wanted to face Embiid and Philly at full strength.
“I feel bad for my guy,” Butler told reporters. “I think I speak for everybody that’s a part of this team, we want Jo to play. We want to go up against them at full strength and prove that we can hang with anybody and we can beat anybody.”
Embiid returned to the court in Game 3, and while he looked labored at times, he still made a big impact. He averaged 19.8 points and 9.8 rebounds.
“I talk to Jo every day. Even before this series, that’s my guy. That’s a brother to me,” Butler said of Embiid in his postgame press conference. “It’s a privilege to play against him. Obviously, to be on the same team with him, as I was in the past, but damn you want to be able to play against the best, and have an opportunity to beat the best. And hold that over one another’s head for years to come. But after basketball, that’s still going to be my guy.”
Embiid Shifts Blame From Coaching After Elimination
While much of the blame has been placed on the coaching staff and front office in Philadelphia, Embiid shifted that criticism, putting it on himself and the other players.
“At some point you gotta stop looking at the coaches or the front office,” Embiid said. “The players also got to do their jobs.”
Embiid will likely need surgery on his thumb and some time off after a grueling run. With the season wrapped up, he pointed to what he’s looking forward to most.
“I got home two days ago and got the best award i can get — most valuable father,” Embiid said.
The Heat will face the winner of the Bucks-Celtics series, which heads to Game 6 on Friday with Milwaukee up 3-2.