Joel Embiid Laments 76ers Losing Jimmy Butler: 'I Still Don't Know How We Let Him Go'

Doric SamMay 13, 2022

PHILADELPHIA, PA - MAY 12: Jimmy Butler #22 of the Miami Heat and Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers hug after Game 6 of the 2022 NBA Playoffs Eastern Conference Semifinals on May 12, 2022 at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2022 NBAE (Photo by Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images)
Jesse D. Garrabrant/NBAE via Getty Images

Throughout the Philadelphia 76ers' series against the Miami Heat, star center Joel Embiid had an up-close look at another superstar he felt his team was missing.

Heat forward Jimmy Butler was the engine that powered Miami past Philadelphia, culminating in Thursday's elimination in Game 6. After the contest, Embiid openly expressed that he wished he was still teammates with Jimmy Butler, telling reporters, "I still don’t know how we let him go."

The feeling is mutual, as Butler also said after the game that he misses playing with Embiid.

"I love him. I'm proud of him," Butler said. "Yes, yes, yes, I still wish I was on his team. I definitely love the Miami Heat, though. I'm glad that I'm here, but I've got so much respect and love for Joel Embiid."

Butler was traded to the Sixers from the Minnesota Timberwolves early in the 2018-19 season. Philadelphia went 51-31 that year and was one of the top contenders in the Eastern Conference, but the team's season came to an end against the Toronto Raptors on a heartbreaking buzzer-beater by Kawhi Leonard in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals.

The Sixers chose to trade Butler to the Heat ahead of the 2019-20 season, ending a promising partnership between him and Embiid after less than a year. Butler led Miami to a berth in the 2020 NBA Finals, but the team fell short against the Los Angeles Lakers.

Embiid is possibly wondering what could have been with Butler after James Harden's disappointing performance throughout the postseason. Harden was acquired in a blockbuster trade with the Brooklyn Nets and was expected to create a dynamic duo with Embiid, but he struggled to find a rhythm against Miami.

After finishing as runner-up for NBA MVP in each of the last two years, Embiid is in the prime of his career. It will be important for the Sixers to put the right players around him if they hope to be a title contender.