Joel Embiid on 76ers Drama, Jimmy Butler, Trade Rumors: Controversy Is Good

Megan ArmstrongSenior Analyst IFebruary 21, 2020

PHILADELPHIA, PA - FEBRUARY 20: Joel Embiid #21 of the Philadelphia 76ers reacts against the Brooklyn Nets at the Wells Fargo Center on February 20, 2020 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The 76ers defeated the Nets 112-104 in overtime. 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. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

Philadelphia 76ers All-Star center Joel Embiid, one of the NBA's most prolific trash-talkers, isn't worried about avoiding drama.

"I always say, controversy is good," Embiid told ESPN's Rachel Nichols on Friday's episode of The Jump. "Going back from the social media—me, Jimmy, I think it's fun. There's really not much to look into it, but at the end of the day, you know, we gotta play better. I gotta play better. We gotta play better. We gotta win games. So, that's the bottom line."

Embiid was addressing a shushing gesture during the Sixers' 118-111 win over Chicago on Feb. 9 at home and ensuing back-and-forth with former Philly teammate and now-Miami Heat guard Jimmy Butler:

Butler downplayed the ensuing speculation during an interview with NBA TV at All-Star Weekend (h/t NBC Sports Philadelphia): "To me, Joel Embiid, he's not a 76ers player. That's my brother, that's my guy. I went through the trenches with him. It has nothing to do with that. But, because I did comment, it damn near broke the Internet."

Butler finished last season in Philadelphia once a November 2018 trade sent him there from the Minnesota Timberwolves. Then, he was traded again to Miami in July.

ESPN's Tim Bontemps reported Thursday on the growing drama around the Sixers potentially executing a trade after this season to break up the Embiid-Ben Simmons duo:

"There is no consensus, but league execs think that if the Sixers do explore a trade, Embiid is more likely to be moved—health being the determining factor in building around Simmons. One exec added that a big trade featuring Simmons or Embiid might be the only way to reshape the team."

An anonymous league executive added to Bontemps: "If they tried to move [Tobias Harris or Al Horford], I don't think they'd get value in return. They'd ask to be incentivized. Whereas if they move Ben or Joel, they'll get a lot more."

As things stand now, the Sixers are 35-21 to begin the second half of the season—good for fifth place in the Eastern Conference—and rank 21st in offensive rating. 

Philadelphia entered last week's All-Star break on a four-game winning streak that immediately followed a four-game losing streak. The 76ers have 26 regular-season games remaining to decide which streak is truer to who they actually are entering the postseason.   

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