Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid were full of compliments for each other in their respective press conferences after the Miami Heat beat the Philadelphia 76ers 99-90 to advance to next week’s Eastern Conference Finals.
The two All-Stars grew a close bond while Butler was with the 76ers, helping complete the infamous process by helping Embiid lead Philly to a second-round playoff series in 2018, their first appearance since the 2012 postseason. In the 2019 offseason, Butler left Philly during the 2019 offseason, choosing to play in Miami after agreeing to sign and trade deal.
Miami pulling away 👀 (via @NBATV) pic.twitter.com/oyskAqcSve— SLAM (@SLAMonline) May 13, 2022
According to Ramona Shelburne of ESPN, the decision boiled down to Philly choosing to invest in Ben Simmons, who was reportedly growing disenfranchised with Butler’s leadership and playstyle. Butler and Simmons are ball-dominant players, which pitted them against each other, per Shelburne. Eventually, the Sixers chose Simmons due to his youth and cheaper contract. Philly also believed Simmons had a higher ceiling.
Since then, Butler has led Miami to two Eastern Conference Finals as of Friday and one Finals appearance in 2020, losing the 2020 championship to the Los Angeles Lakers in six games.
“I’m happy for him,” said Joel Embiid. “I won’t sit here and say I didn’t wish he was my teammate. I still don’t know how we let him go. I wish I could’ve gone to battle with him still, but it is what it is. Just gotta keep building and keep tryna reach that goal.”
“That’s my guy, that’s my brother. It’s tough, but I’m proud of him. He’s playing at an unreal level. He’s something else right now, and I’m proud of him for being at this level and carrying them and what he’s been able to do.”
During his live TV interview, Butler revealed what he said to Embiid as The Process left the court.
“That I love him,” Butler said. ” I’m proud of him. Yes, yes, yes, I wish I was still on his team; I definitely love the Miami Heat, though; I’m glad that I’m here, but I got so much respect and love for Joel Embiid.
“Still don’t know how we let him go”— Bleacher Report (@BleacherReport) May 13, 2022
Embiid on Jimmy Butler no longer being a 76er pic.twitter.com/kyGhZ4dLuI
The Heat will play the winners of the other Eastern Conference semifinals series between the Celtics and Bucks. The Bucks are in the driver’s seat with a 3-2 lead heading into Friday’s Game 6 in Milwaukee.