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Center Joel Embiid and guard Ben Simmons were caught off guard when they learned the Philadelphia 76ers had landed star swingman Jimmy Butler in a trade with the Minnesota Timberwolves, but it was a good kind of surprise.
Embiid told reporters he had not spoken with Butler — but that he did get a chance to speak with friends and Wolves center Karl Anthony-Towns and wing Andrew Wiggins.
“They thought that he was going to be good for us,” Embiid told ESPN. “They thought that we were definitely going to get along. He wants to win. Wiggs told me that he thought that we were going to win the East for sure.”
The Sixers agreed to trade forwards Dario Saric and Robert Covington, as well as point guard Jerryd Bayless and a 2022 second-round pick to the Timberwolves for Butler and center Jason Patton, as first reported by Shams Charania of Stadium.
Embiid doesn’t have a “personal relationship” with Butler, per ESPN, but the Sixers center does intend to reach out to Butler soon.
Meanwhile, Simmons said he texted with Butler on Saturday.
“He said he just wants to win,” Simmons told reporters. “I think that’s the mindset we all have here. We’re excited to get Jimmy in here.”
Both Simmons and Embiid did mention that the team will miss Saric and Covington.
“They gave us a lot the past couple of years,” Embiid told ESPN. “I felt like we were starting to play really well together and figure it out. Dario was finding himself again, and Cov is first-team all-defense, doing his job and knocking down shots. I felt like we were starting to like really figure it out and play well together.
“But it’s a business. Gotta move on. Love those guys. Wish them luck. I miss them, I love them. Gotta keep in touch with them.”
Still, both of the Sixers’ rising stars can’t deny that adding a player of Butler’s ability gives them sort of a new Big Three in the East — and improves their chances at real contention.
“You add another All-Star to the team, definitely,” Simmons said. “A guy like him who can come in, score the ball, veteran leadership, experience — he’s going to fit in here. Our culture is winning, playing together as a team and playing hard. I think he’s going to bring that.”
He later added that he doesn’t foresee Butler causing any chemistry issues.
“It’s not going to affect my game,” Simmons said. “I know how to play, wherever you want me on the floor. But at the same time, I know what I’m good at, I know what I can do on the floor. Him coming in helps us, adds another scorer out there, another vet who can play the game the right way. He’s going to fit in with us.”