“Go ahead Jo, give me a compliment.”
As the Sixers postseason has unfolded, it’s been impossible to ignore the rise of the Jimmy Butler and Joel Embiid podium game. Philly’s most dynamic young talent may be an imperfect fit next to the intense, sometimes-prickly vet they acquired in exchange for Process heroes Robert Covington and Dario Saric back in November, but there’s no doubting that Butler and Embiid have built up a wonderful sense of comedic timing with one another.
Podium games are a statement in the postseason, a chance for players to craft any narrative they wish. Sometimes that manifests itself in the way of grudges or continued battles between players and media members (see: Russell Westbrook’s “next question” or LeBron’s quips to ESPN’s Mark Schwarz). It also leads to some amateur sleuthing, especially when it comes to free agency.
For Embiid and Butler, it’s been a chance to show the pair really can – and do – coexist, even if that dreaded “chemistry” word keeps getting brought up. Not that anyone needed convincing after Game 3, in which the two dominated the Raptors early and often on both ends, frequently with one making a big play leading directly to the other for an emphatic finish or three-pointer.
“I think chemistry is a bad word,” Butler said in a black Jordan x PSG jacket after Philadelphia’s 116-95 win. “Like, everybody wants to say that because we played together, however many games we didn’t play together, however many games. It’s simple enough to know that whenever you have some good basketball players out there, the game happens. You make the right plays, you do what you’re supposed to do with the basketball, and that’s all it is. The game is really, really simple. I think at times we, as players, decide to make it hard. But if you’re open, shoot it. If you’re not, pass.”
Embiid, decked out in an Under Armour “The Process” sweatshirt, was in lock step with his teammate, echoing his thoughts by calling chemistry “overrated.”
What the two do have is respect, which is only growing the longer the Sixers are in the postseason. Philly needs “Playoff Jimmy” and a healthy Embiid individually, but Jimmy and Joel need those things to bring out the best in each other.