All Joel Embiid tweeted was, “IF……” but social media filled in the rest for him.
What if the 76ers had kept Jimmy Butler?
That seemed to be on Embiid’s mind, and likely plenty of fans in Philadelphia, on Monday night as they watched Butler drop 40 points and take over late to lead the Heat to an upset of the Bucks in Game 1 of their Eastern Conference semifinal series.
Embiid’s 76ers had traded for Butler last season and he helped them push the Raptors to the brink before falling in seven games in the 2019 Eastern Conference semifinals on a miraculous Kawhi Leonard buzzer-beater.
Then last summer, instead of re-signing Butler to keep him in Philadelphia, they executed a sign-and-trade to send him to Miami and got back Josh Richardson. The 76ers instead re-signed Tobias Harris to a five-year, $180 million and inked Al Horford to a four-year, $109 million deal.
Now, the 76ers are sitting at home after getting swept by the Celtics in the first round — with coach Brett Brown now out of a job — while Butler is putting on a show, delivering the kind of takeover Philadelphia could have used.
“Jimmy Butler #TooGood,” Embiid tweeted shortly after his initial tweet, which coincided with Butler closing out the 115-104 win for the Heat.
It’s not clear whether Butler actually wanted to stay in Philadelphia, as NBC Sports previously reported he turned down a $190 million max contract offered by the 76ers. Instead he took a $141 million deal with the Heat, a team he had reportedly long wanted to end up with.
But that hasn’t stopped Embiid from wondering what could have been.
“The way things happened last summer, it was just so frustrating,” Embiid said on JJ Redick’s “The Old Man & The Three” podcast last month, “so I was kind of mad at the whole world and I was just like, ‘Eh, whatever. I’m just coming to work and I’m going to do my best,’ but I wasn’t playing up to my standards.”