Jimmy Butler spent a little over half a season with the 76ers last season before they ultimately fell to the raptors on 4 bounces in the Eastern Conference Semis. Up till that point and after it was a wild ride.
From mini vans to country music to explosive film sessions and game winners. Philly fans got the full spectrum of what having Jimmy Butler on their team felt like.
Then came the off season. With a ton of possibilities and a lot of questions still around the team no one knew what would happen. The Sixers traded fan favorites Roco and Dario, well favorites for some fans and maybe not other, for Jimmy and if he walked that could have been all for nothing.
There was much debate on whether the Sixers should run it back, or let Jimmy walk and go a different direction. In the end it was clear, Jimmy requested a sign and trade to Miami and the Sixers obliged. Whether Jimmy was offered the full max and he turned it down or he was never offered it doesn’t matter, the reality was team run it back wasn’t happening. Jimmy was traded to the Heat for Josh Richardson.
Then last night came and Jimmy was coming back to South Philly in what we thought would be a revenge tour. The Heat has been playing well, young guys that can get buckets and defend, and Jimmy. The Sixers struggling on offense to start the season, it was perfect spot for Jimmy to show the Sixers what they missed out on, no matter what the reason was.
Jimmy was heavily booed during intros. Agree or disagree with boo’n him it happened. Then fear set in that Jimmy thrives off of being the bad guy and boo’n him would only make him play harder. Then fans booed every time Butler had the ball. No doubt this was a set up for him to ball out and go off.
But he didn’t.
In fact, most of the game was no contest. The Sixers opened the game on a crazy run and never looked back leading by 41 at one point. The Sixers defense was suffocating and the ball movement on offense was a thing of beauty. It really felt all night that the Sixers didn’t miss and the Heat did nothing but miss. In the Heat’s defense their back to back was on a travel night where they lost an hour due to time zone change. But that’s a small part of the story, the Sixers straight up embarrassed them last night. Jimmy didn’t make it through the 3rd quarter when Miami waived the white flag and sat him to rest for the remainder of the game. There was no revenge game.
Well maybe there was. Lost in all the Jimmy Butler talk was Josh Richardson, the guy who was traded for Jimmy. Josh played his heart out in Miami, did everything asked of him, was on a team friendly deal, improved every year, and was a great teammate and friend to most of the younger players down there. By all accounts he was happy being in Miami. Then he was traded to Philly.
Last night turned out to be the Josh Richardson Revenge game. You could tell that Josh had a point to prove. It seemed like he didn’t miss, and if he did it wasn’t a lot. Josh dropped 32 in 26 minutes and was 6/7 from 3. With the spotlight the whole time on Jimmy’s return Josh stole the spotlight when the game started and showed the Heat what they missed out on when they traded him.
This isn’t to say Josh is better than Jimmy or that the Heat made a mistake trading him, but just a friendly reminder that Richardson can hoop, and it seemed like he was intent on reminding the Heat that last night.
The Sixers ended up winning 113-86. The starters dominated, and proved to be way to big and too strong for the Heat. Ben Simmons may have had the best 4-point game in the history of the NBA. Ok, maybe that’s a stretch but he was good last night. Got out and ran, got his teammates involved, and was a complete shutdown defender. The Sixers controlled the game from the first quarter and never looked back. Last night was an example of how good this team can be.
Jimmy Butler and the Heat return to Philly in December 18, maybe he can get some revenge then, or maybe this Sixers team is just too good for the Heat. We should find out then though.
While the game was the main story there is another story that happened outside the game. Prior to the game, outside in a parking lot, a large group of fans decided they were going to tailgate the game. The Mike Scott Hive was out in full effect yesterday. A group of fans with name inspired by Sixers bench players Mike Scott. This group not only tailgated and had a giant watch party to support the Sixers but they took this day and turned it into a way to give. They took donations and people donated items for a raffle and all the money went to Philabundance. With Thanksgiving right around the corner it’s easy to forget that some people may not be able to eat let alone have a feast like most of us do. The Hive took a party and a fun time and turned it into a time for giving and they should be recognized for that.
Cool for them, they not only got a shout out and picture on the Sixers twitter account but were mentioned during an NBC sports interview by Sixers president Chris Heck. A lot of critics said the fans would never come back after the process but after last night and the 100th straight sell out it was clear that the fans either never left or are back and better than ever, with The Hive helping lead that charge. Fandom, Fun, and Giving. I applaud you guys.
– Robert Manoff
– @manoffrm on Twitter.