Jimmy Butler: Sixers tried to 'control me'


No matter where Jimmy Butler goes with his present team, questions persist about his previous stops.

Butler, set to play in his first NBA Finals after knocking off the Milwaukee Bucks and Boston Celtics in the playoffs, embarked on a relatively unusual odyssey for a player of his caliber before his arrival in South Beach last offseason.

His six-year stint in Chicago ended with a trade to the Minnesota Timberwolves in 2017, where he lasted just a season-plus before a midseason deal to the Philadelphia 76ers last year. It appeared Butler might have found a championship-caliber nucleus to settle down with for a few years -- but it didn't play out that way.

The Sixers declined to retain Butler, instead moving him to the rival Heat in a polarizing sign-and-trade deal that brought Josh Richardson back to Philly.

Butler, speaking with reporters on Tuesday ahead of his Finals debut against LeBron James and the Lakers, reiterated that chemistry played a factor in his short stint in the City of Brotherly Love.

"I just get to be me here," Butler said. "I get to call it how I see it, nobody takes it personally. Don't have to worry about anybody trying to control me -- as it was said, people were trying to do over there.

"But I have no hard feelings for any of those players, anybody in that organization. I'm glad to be where I am. As you can tell, it's worked out. And that's where I leave it."

The Sixers took a step back without Butler, eventually leading to the dismissal of former head coach Brett Brown, with whom Butler previously admitted he didn't always see eye-to-eye. The Sixers were reportedly interested in newly available veteran coaches Doc Rivers and Mike D'Antoni.

Meanwhile, Butler appeared to have decidedly fonder memories of his years in Chicago, where he established himself as an All-Star after the Bulls drafted him as a relatively unheralded prospect out of Marquette in 2011.

"I'm grateful for that part of my journey, and for those guys," Butler said of former teammates Luol Deng, Taj Gibson, and Joakim Noah. "They showed me the way to being a pro, they showed me what hard work will get you, and how you just can never give up. I talk to a lot of those guys still, and I let them know how thankful that I am, because I don't think I'd be here without them.

"Them letting me know that, 'You have to stay ready, your time is coming, and you belong here.' They were constantly telling me how I could play in this league for a very long time. So, looking back on it, I guess I could say a part of the reason I'm here is because of those guys."

But ultimately, Butler said he's more interested in authoring a new chapter in his journey than looking back at the old ones.

"I knew what we could do here," he said. "We added some key pieces in the middle of the year, and we are where we are. So, I don't really look back on it too much. I've got to stay focused on the right now, and with the group that I have."

Game 1 was set for Wednesday at 9 p.m. ET.