Let's Stop Talking About Jimmy Butler
We all agree they fucked up. Can we move on?
Andrew Unterberger is a famous writer who invented the nickname 'Sauce Castillo' and is now writing for The Rights To Ricky Sanchez, as part of the 'If Not, Pick Will Convey As Two Second-Rounders' section of the site. You can follow Andrew on Twitter @AUGetoffmygold and can also read him at Billboard.
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I don't think I'm breaking any news here by proclaiming the Rights to Ricky Sanchez to be a pro-relitigation institution. Going back over the minutiae of The Process to a maddeningly fine degree, imagining what should have been over what actually was, making sure the greatest sins of the Sixers and their front office are never forgotten by anyone -- I mean, that's our bag, always has been. Really, RTRS might as well stand for the Right to Relitigate Shit. It's part of all of our DNA as post-Hinkie Sixers fans, and I'm certainly no exception to that.
So please understand that I don't arrive at it lightly when I say that I really believe it's time for everyone to just stop talking about how the Sixers screwed up with Jimmy Butler.
The Sixers screwed up with Jimmy Butler. At this point, it's no longer arguable. They sent him to the Miami Heat for a return of Josh Richardson, and now he's up 2-0 in the conference finals as the best player on a team that looks like it very well could go all the way, while the Sixers have already been home for nearly a month after being unable to win a single playoff game without him. What the Sixers should have done instead with Jimmy is a little more arguable -- particularly if you subscribe to the notion that retaining both him and Ben Simmons for 2019-20 would have been untenable -- and folks certainly have argued it plenty the last few months. But the best course of action was clearly not to gift him to Miami, forming an insta-contender in the process, while attempting to replace his production with Al Horford. That's an L, and not a small one. Jimothy will haunt this franchise for years, even if he doesn't recruit Joel Embiid to force a trade to come play with him in the next couple seasons. (Which, y'know, he still might.)
But that's it. It's over. It's decided. It's bad, and it's going to be bad, and in all likelihood it's going to get even worse. No one is arguing at this point that things are OK. No one thinks the Sixers knew what they were doing last summer. No one (with the possible exception of Spike) still doubts how great Jimmy Butler is and can be. The Sixers had one of the best players in the league, they let him go for not that much in return, they did a shit job of replacing him, and now they're in a pretty fucking tight spot without him. Argument settled. We lose.
And yet, just losing doesn't seem to be enough. With every game where Jimmy Butler gets the Heat one W closer to the Larry O'B, it's an unending Twitter maelstrom of Sixers fans, of our people, tweeting about how great Jimmy Butler is and how dumb the Sixers were to let him go.
True! All true. Undeniably, unmistakably true. But sometime around Game Three of their Milwaukee series -- when it became clear that the Bucks were not gonna charge back to take control of the East semis -- it started to become more and more redundant. Now, we're at the point that Jimmy Butler might very well end up the MVP of the NBA Finals. He might not, but he might. It's a very real, non-disregardable possibility. And that means that nothing can happen at this point that will change the situation for us. Even if Jimmy tanks the next four games of the Boston series, flailing in a delirious daze of clanked jumpers and Marcus Smart threes, it's too late to redeem the Sixers in any way. No matter what happens now, he's gone too far and been too good for too long for us to act like we were right about anything.
So why are we doing the Heat fans' jobs for them by continually rubbing our own noses in it? I mean, I sorta get it. Part of it is just the bottomless well of anger we have at our own ownership and front office right now for getting us to this position, to the point where hating on them feels almost completely divorced from hating on the team we're still ostensibly rooting for. Part of it is a kind of Stockholm Syndrome where, staring down the worst-case-scenario of the Heat and the Celtics facing off for the Eastern Conference crown, we have to find something to latch onto and hope for and emotionally invest in out of self-preservation, even if it ultimately amounts cheering for a very big own goal. Part of it is just... shit, playoffs are still going, gotta tweet about something. I understand and sympathize with all of that.
But like... does it have to be every game? Every big play? Every time someone on the Heat sneezes and Jimmy says God Bless You? Miami could win as many as six more times in these playoffs -- does that mean six more nights of Sixers Twitter self-immolation in worship of Jimmy Butler and contempt of team management? Can't we just take the asteroid-sized L and move on?
All right, I'm not totally dense -- the answer to that last question is of course no. The idea of "moving on" is antithetical to the very nature of Sixers fandom, an absolute non-starter. I still haven't moved on from the Nerlens trade three years ago; plenty of other Sixers fans haven't moved on from the Elton Brand contract or the Shawn Bradley pick or the Roy Hinson trade from decades earlier. This summer was as bad as any of those moves, so I imagine the Sixers fans currently stewing over it now will still be seething many years down the line. Can't argue with that.
Not talking about it is an option, though. There's a world in which you can watch Jimmy Butler play well in the Eastern Conference Finals, realize that it sucks that he's doing so for the Miami Heat and not the Philadelphia 76ers, and just kinda leave it at that. Curse quietly about it to yourself, find other shit to focus on (like the Celtics blowing consecutive double-digit second-half leads) or just change the channel. None of us needs to make a ten-hour-a-week commitment to bathing in South Beach-temped toxicity. Even Philly sports fans deserve some degree of self-care -- there's no way any of us are making it through the remainder of this Phillies or Eagles season without it, certainly. Give yourself a break, and the rest of us too.
And if any of us still need a release for all that bile, there's plenty of more productive shit to still be getting publicly, vocally angry about. Get angry about the team continually using Keith Pompey as a mouthpiece to attempt to control perception of the narrative about their coaching hunt. Get angry about the team already starting to telegraph their interest in every point guard and combo guard in the league, further guaranteeing that they'll be extorted when the time comes to actually try to acquire any one of them. And of course, get angry about the team still not producing any results whatsoever from their Inspector Clouseau-esque investigation into their own front office, despite guaranteeing change nearly a month ago. Not only is this stuff all worth getting pissed over, there's still at least a small chance that directing your fury at it can help make some degree of difference in eventual outcomes related to it. With Jimmy, what's done is done -- there's no way to make the situation better, only ways to make it less painful.
A good start for that? Let's all agree not to tweet about how the Sixers fucked up the Jimmy Butler situation during Game Three of Miami-Boston tonight. Take it one game and a time and go from there. I promise you there will still be just as ample opportunity to tweet about it during game four, or after the series is over, or after the finals is over, and that it won't be any more or less true or applicable at that point than it is tonight. The case is already closed. For one night, let's let the relitigation prosecution rest.