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Brown says Butler ‘mirrors spirit of Philadelphia’

MIAMI — It took more than two days, but Philadelphia 76ers coach Brett Brown could finally talk about acquiring forward Jimmy Butler before Monday night’s game against the Heat.

And, now that the four-time All-Star is finally in the fold, Brown can’t wait to begin working with him when Butler joins the team for Wednesday’s game against the Orlando Magic.

“I mean where do you begin,” Brown said at American Airlines Arena. “I think that defensively, and with the physicality that he plays with, and he replicates … he mirrors the spirit of Philadelphia.

“He is a fierce competitor, and there is toughness that he plays with. It’s who he is. He wears it on his face. It’s seen in his game. It’s confirmed by multiple All-Defensive teams, and it’s a perfect fit for our city, and our program defensively.”

The trade to send Butler from the Minnesota Timberwolves to Philadelphia was agreed to Saturday, but wasn’t officially completed until a trade call between the two teams took place Monday morning. With that out of the way, though, the deal — which saw Butler and Justin Patton sent to the Sixers and Robert Covington, Dario Saric, Jerryd Bayless and a second-round pick go the to Wolves — could be announced, mercifully bringing a six-week saga since Butler requested a trade to an end.

Along the way, Butler did plenty of things to try to expedite his departure — from sitting out part of training camp to coming back and breaking his silence in a televised interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols to sitting out of regular season games due to “general soreness.”

But when asked about the way things transpired in Minnesota, and if that was a concern to him as Butler comes to Philadelphia, Brown said that as long as the line of communication remains open, he doesn’t see there being a problem.

“He and I have FaceTimed, we’ve talked on the phone, we’ve gone there, and it’s a comfortable conversation,” said Brown, who said he talked to Butler while going on a 20-minute run. “I get whatever things fly around, but this is the NBA, this is my job, and how we integrate into a pretty strong culture and fabric. … We’re six years in. It’s not like we don’t have a way we behave and how we play. It’s on display. We’ve been doing this for awhile.

“So to inherit him, to absorb Jimmy into our culture and in that locker room, I am fearless, I am incredibly excited. Because, what I do know, is he cares and he competes. You take those two qualities, and all the other stuff? I’ll figure out. I’ve got it. I believe I’ve got it.

“I’m just really excited to bring him into the program. I think he’s at a stage in his career, in his basketball life, where I think we can help him as much as he can help us. I hope he believes that as much as I’m saying.”

The other question surrounding Butler’s arrival is what it means for Philadelphia’s starting lineup moving forward. The Sixers have already had a complicated arrangement to navigate even before the trade, as last year’s No. 1 overall pick, Markelle Fultz, has been starting the first halves of games, with JJ Redick replacing him to start the second half.

On Monday, the Sixers started both Fultz and Redick alongside Ben Simmons, Wilson Chandler and Joel Embiid. When Butler arrives Wednesday, he will take one of those spots — with the overwhelming likelihood being that it will be Fultz who he replaces. With Simmons, Butler and Embiid on the floor, Philadelphia needs both quality shooters and players who don’t need the ball around them — something Redick is, and Fultz is not.

Brown said he knew what he was going to do, but that he wasn’t ready to discuss it.

“In my head, I know, [but] in my mouth, I’m not going to say it,” he said with a smile. “I don’t feel comfortable right now declaring that for the marketplace.

“So tonight, we’ll roll. But it’s something, like all of it, it’s all not anything knee jerk. I hope that it’s well thought out. I know it is well thought out.”

Brown also said that it was tough seeing Covington and Saric leave the team. Now in his sixth season with the franchise, Brown had coached both players since they arrived in Philadelphia — Covington in 2014 and Saric in 2016.

“There was the natural human pain that you’re going to lose two friends and two teammates and two people that I feel like I raised,” Brown said. “You know, we drafted Dario at the end of my first year, and we knew he wasn’t going to come over for a while and we’d visit him in Spain and I’d see him every year in Turkey. And Covington came out of this jack-it-up three-ball program in the G League for the Houston team and we learned that he could actually play defense and grew to be a first-team [All-Defensive team] player, and then was somebody [we] thought highly enough of to give him $60 million.

“So both of those two young men, you saw them blossom and grow before our eyes. And, you know, you’re going to miss that.”

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