The 76ers gave up so much for James Harden, and they’re probably going to have to pay him a ton of money while trying to reconcile that he took two shots and scored no points in the second half of a game with the season on the line.
It’s a pile of crashed train cars no one seems to bother to move off the tracks in Philadelphia. A fire department that ignores the perpetual blaze in the dumpster.
The Sixers again fell short, Joel Embiid is again not going to a conference finals, and his coach could again be on the hot seat.
Oh, the talk shows are going to have a field day with this one.
But at the other end of Wells Fargo Center Tuesday night, the best player on the court untucked his jersey and was headed toward the tunnel when the remaining fans started chanting his name.
It was mostly people wearing Miami Heat shirts doing the cheering, but there were more than a few Sixers fans joining in, wearing their blue “Butler 23” jerseys from the 2019 season.
And Jimmy Butler grinned ear to ear as he heard it.
“Some things happened, and now I’m where I belong, I guess where I should have been a long time ago,” Butler said. “A place where I’m welcome.”
The losing side of the 99-90 decision that went to the Heat in Game 6 of this Eastern Conference semifinal is the sexier side because of what it means for the Sixers’ uncertain future. But the rubble of another playoff disappointment — of Harden being here in the first place and then seizing up when his team needed him most and of Embiid going another summer without fulfillment — can all be traced back to Butler. And not just because he scored 32 points Thursday or averaged 27.5 points in a series where he was, by far, the most dominant player.