Brett Brown spoke for nearly 20 minutes pre-game Saturday night about the ESPN story regarding a recent film session confrontation with Jimmy Butler.
The Sixers head coach confirmed that the incident happened but downplayed its severity. He spoke at length about the idea of managing superstar talent within the team ecosystem while continuing to win games, and he reiterated several times that his team is doing just that – winning games and performing well offensively when Butler is on the floor.
I honestly think the whole thing is a little overblown, but I get it. Most professional sports teams are going to have varying degrees of internal strife or conflicting opinions over strategy and playing time. Look at the Kevin Durant and Draymond Green beef as an example. It is what it is.
That said, here are the most relevant parts from Brett’s presser:
On the ESPN report and what happened:
“I have had many meetings with Jimmy over the duration of coaching him – Facetime, hotel meetings, late night phone calls. I enjoy it. I don’t mind talking to my players. In that film session that was referenced, I didn’t feel like any of it crossed the line. And if it did, it would have been dealt with quickly. So people speculating about an argument or some type of ‘aggressive disagreement’ – if it were, I would own it. From his standpoint, that is unfair. From my standpoint, judging it in the light of day, I’ve had many conversations with players over the years that would warrant that type of description. This wasn’t one of them”
On Butler bringing up his role in the offensive system:
“That was true, he wanted to be in more pick and rolls. I’ll say this first; my job is to try to find ways to make this work. This is my job. When you come into the situation with Ben and Joel and JJ, it doesn’t always equal immediate sort of pleasure, it doesn’t always equal immediate comfort. As I’ve said to all of our guys over the years, you can’t always win on your own terms. And since December 25th last year until now, we have the best record in the NBA. Not the 3rd or the 5th, the best. And since the trade, only three other teams have more wins. With him playing with us, we have the second ranked offense in the league when he’s on the floor. We’re doing okay. The notion of being in more pick and rolls, I agree with. His usage, his touches, his shots, is the same. He is in less pick and rolls but the team is doing well. So that ecosystem of me doing my job and coexisting within the framework that we have is part of the challenge. Joel will want to be posted more. Ben will want to be in pick and rolls more. JJ will want my shots. It’s all ‘2018 coaching in the NBA, welcome to it’ kind of stuff. And I think if we do anything here, my opinion comfortably is communicating. Everything I’ve said to you is the truth, how I see it. That has been spoken to my team and to Jimmy and we’ll move on.”
More after the jump:
On whether or not this disagreement was overblown by a third party or is it a non-story:
“I think it’s a non-story. I get today’s sort of marketplace where this is exciting for people in some ways. For me, to come here and speak to everybody here, you know it’s coming, and I’ve been looking forward to this since it broke, because I know what I think and I know what I was a part of. In a crazy way, I think it’s unfair to Jimmy Butler. The history he has had with other programs and other coaches, that’s not fair in regard to the particular film session that was referenced. In my eyes, that’s not it. And if it crossed the line, we would talk about it soon. I would own it and it would be fixed. So this version is, I have these conversations with my family. I have them privately with Joel or Ben, the team. We’ve already spent quite a bit of time talking about it and I just don’t feel it or see it or recognize it for the attention it’s received.”
Brown was asked whether he’d change anything as a result of the confrontation, to which he said no. That mirrors comments he’s made throughout his tenure. He likes his motion offense and will try to add wrinkles here and there, but the base is not going to change in the middle of the season and it probably won’t change as long as he’s in charge.
On keeping a balance in the team:
“I think it ends up with respect. As I tell them, you don’t have to have pizza with each other, you have to play with each other. You don’t entirely have to really like each other, but you have to respect each other. Respect always comes with accountability, professionalism, truly where winning is the most important thing. You can’t always win on your own terms. So when you have four guys you’re trying to figure out shot selection and play calls and substitution patterns. It’s 2018 and it’s part of my job. This is the new NBA.”
Kyle Neubeck asked a good question about Butler’s participation in team meetings and film sessions and how it differs from the atmosphere of having Robert Covington and Dario Saric in the room:
“He’s vocal. If you came into my film sessions over the years, it’s never ‘yes coach, no coach,’ it’s never that. It’s always some level of ‘what do you think? This is what I see, what do you see? How can we help, what can we do better?’ It’s always that. The participation in that open forum isn’t always rampant. There are some people that feel comfortable, there are some people who don’t. He’s all in. He’s got opinions. But it’s instigated by me – ‘what do you see and what do you think?’ And so all of a sudden when somebody sees something or thinks something, you know, I like it. I got no problem saying, ‘I have no idea why you would say that, I don’t think that at all.’ Or, ‘That’s a hell of a good point.’ We know his personality. None of this should surprise anybody with regards to, he’s got opinions, he wants to be heard. He should be heard. And you know, it’s born out of the way I do my job, and the way I feel most comfortable talking to you or my team, it’s who I am. And it’s part of the thing I love about coaching, the communication the relationships, the competition, all that. That’s the whole truth and nothing but the truth.”
Two more quotes, first a question from me about why the team’s dirty laundry continues to enter the public forum and whether or not Brett has had discussions with his players about keeping everything in-house:
Brown: “All the time. The thing that I feel we do a decent job of is, I try to get way out in front. When something comes up, either I’ll own it, I’ll always talk to the person, or I’ll fight, (i’ll say) ‘that’s not fair.’ About Joel wanting more touches or Jimmy wants more pick and rolls, it’s not something at all that I like dealing with in front of you all. I don’t believe topics like this are appropriate for the media.”
Crossing Broad: Are you telling them to keep it in-house instead of going to the media?
Brown: “What do you think?” (laughs)
Crossing Broad: Well obviously, sure.
Brown: “Maybe at times it doesn’t work so well.”
Crossing Broad: I know you said this isn’t fair to Jimmy, and I won’t speculate on who leaked it or how this got out to the media, but it just makes you wonder how these things keep ending up in the public forum anyway.
Brown: “Think of the world, we all live in this world. I have coaching friends. The players have playing friends and agents. All of you guys have people where you feel like you can reach out and learn a little bit more from. It’s your job and I don’t begrudge anybody for doing it. But stuff moves. Stuff moves. The fact that this came out, it didn’t surprise me. The vision line I have and my interpretation and memory of what happened, that does surprise me, and I didn’t see it like that. How stuff gets out is obvious to everybody. It wasn’t planted. There’s no conspiracy theory here. Whether it was a player or an agent, I don’t know, and it would be reckless of me to speculate on that.”
On running more pick and rolls and Jimmy’s fit in the offense, part 2:
“He doesn’t like DHO’s, he likes pick-and-rolls. Ok. The DHO’s are not sort of his thing. Coming off staggered DHO’s especially not his thing. He likes to be in a pick-and-roll. I think over time when you look at what he’s been put into, although the numbers aren’t great right now, it’s true, it’s where he should be placed. And so, more and more of those should be run. But not to the detriment of Joel Embiid. Not to the detriment of some other things. I think If you put a gun to my head and said, ‘Where should our bread be buttered?’ It’s through Joel Embiid and then Jimmy Butler. And JJ is going to move and do his thing and Ben is going to find his way and that’s the ecosystem. That’s on me to create that.”
That’s the money quote right there.
It’s Joel Embiid’s team. Jimmy can still take 15 shots a game, but it’s Jo’s team and Butler needs to realize that. It’s then on Brett Brown to massage a bunch of superstar personalities under a high amount of stress, because the goal is a championship, not the fourth seed in the east and another second-round playoff exit.