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Jimmy Butler gives insight into decision to leave 76ers and why he’s happy with Heat

In his first season with the Heat, Jimmy Butler is happy.

But last season? Things were very different for Butler, who spent most of last season with the 76ers after the Timberwolves traded him to Philadelphia in November 2018.

“It was difficult. It was so different,” Butler said when asked about his 76ers experience during a recent appearance on “The JJ Redick Podcast With Tommy Alter” podcast. “On any given day, me as a person and as a player, I didn’t who the [expletive] was in charge. I think that was my biggest thing. I didn’t know what the [expletive] to expect whenever I would go into the gym, whenever I go into the plane, whenever I got into the game.”

While Butler has declined to give a detailed reason behind his decision to leave the 76ers and join the Heat as a free agent this past summer, he offered some insight during his appearance on Redick’s podcast. When Butler was asked for the moment he knew he wouldn’t be returning to Philadelphia, he brought up a conversation he had early in the free agency process.

“Somebody told me a main reason that I didn’t go back was because somebody asked, ‘Can you control him? Can you control Jimmy? If you can control Jimmy, we would think about having him back,’” Butler recalled on the podcast. “I was like, ‘You don’t got to worry about it. Can’t nobody [expletive] control me.’ For one, I ain’t just out there doing no [expletive]. But the fact that you’re trying to control a grown man — nah, I’m cool.”

Butler also described his relationship with 76ers coach Brett Brown as “professional.” But Butler said he didn’t agree with the coaching staff’s decision to take the ball out of Ben Simmons’ hands late in the season, a move that allowed Butler to run Philadelphia’s offense in the playoffs.

“To this day, I don’t think that was fair to switch over like that,” Butler said on the podcast. “Even though I think we played great basketball like that, I don’t think it was fair because the entire year, Ben had the ball. The entire year, Ben had the ball. So you mean to tell me that in one playoff series, you just switch it up like that? I would be like he was, I would feel a type of way.”

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Butler, 30, was eligible for a full five-year, $190 million maximum contract if he remained with the 76ers as a free agent this past offseason, but he decided to move elsewhere after Philadelphia was eliminated by the eventual NBA champion Raptors in the second round of the playoffs. It’s still unclear whether the 76ers offered Butler the full five-year maximum deal.

Either way, Butler opted to sign a four-year, $142 million maximum contract with the Heat this past offseason. Miami ended up acquiring him in a sign-and-trade transaction, with the Heat sending Josh Richardson to the 76ers and Hassan Whiteside to the Trail Blazers as part of the deal.

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“I get to be me,” Butler said on the podcast of playing for the Heat. “I’m not worried about anybody trying to control me, first of all. ... But I get to be me. Being who I am every single day is exactly what they ordered. I say what I want to say the way I want to say it. I think I’ve gotten better at relaying it to this guy, that guy, whatever it may be. But they know where it’s coming from, it’s from the heart and it’s because I want to win.”

What makes the Heat different than other teams around the league?

“No matter if you’re on a minimum contract or a max contract, everybody is running in the conditioning test at the beginning of the year,” Butler said on the podcast. “No matter if you’re on a minimum contract or a max contract, everybody is showing up to the plane in Heat gear. It’s the smallest things that just show who that organization is. Come on, coach Pat [Riley] is in every practice, at every home game, he’s going a lot on the road. But it’s like all hands on deck. Everybody is in this thing.”

The Heat can clinch a playoff berth with a win over the Hornets on Wednesday night at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Butler (left big toe), Tyler Herro (right ankle soreness), Kendrick Nunn (cold) and Udonis Haslem (stomach illness) are questionable for Wednesday’s contest. Jae Crowder (concussion protocol) is listed as probable.

Meyers Leonard (sprained left ankle) remains out. Wednesday marks the 16th consecutive game he has missed with his injury.

This story was originally published March 11, 2020 12:27 PM.

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