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Ever since Jimmy Butler went public with his request to be traded from the Minnesota Timberwolves, the possible destinations varied.
At some point last week, the Philadelphia 76ers entered into the picture, though GM Elton Brand said he was making daily calls about Butler. By Saturday a deal was in place and by Monday, Butler was officially a 76er.
Butler is expected to make his debut for the Sixers Wednesday night when they visit the Orlando Magic.
“I made this move because I feel it’s what’s best for our team,” Brand said at the press conference to introduce Butler at the team’s practice facility in Camden, N.J. “We have a championship window, and it’s important for us to capitalize on that. Jimmy is one of the best players in the league, hands down.”
Butler was officially introduced as the newest 76er after being acquired from the Timberwolves on Monday for Dario Saric, Robert Covington, and Jerryd Bayless. He played 10 games for the Wolves, whom he requested a trade from in September after saying he was going to opt-out of his contract and did not intend on re-signing in Minnesota.
At various points, Butler was linked to Houston, which reportedly offered four first-round picks. He also was linked to Miami and mentioned with a few other teams but after a few weeks of daily phone calls with Brand and Minnesota GM Scott Layden, Butler joined a team with Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons.
“In my opinion, we have three of the top 20 players in the NBA,” Philadelphia owner Josh Harris said.
Butler is going from a 4-9 team to a team with nine wins in its last 15 games. In their first game since officially obtaining Butler, the Sixers improved to 2-6 on the road with a 124-114 win at Miami on Monday.
“We’ll find ways to make things work,” Butler said. “I know what I’m capable of doing out there on the floor. I think it’s going to be easy to play off the guys we have I don’t think the offense is going to be a problem at all.”
On Monday, Embiid totaled 35 points and 18 rebounds, marking the second time in three games he had at least 35 and 18 boards. He also made 16 of 20 free throws and leads the league with 14 double-doubles and has a league-best nine game with at least 30 and 10 rebounds.
“The way he has been dominating, it truly doesn’t surprise me,” 76ers coach Brett Brown said. “I will admit, when I come back and I see the stat sheet, I’m shocked at how dominating at times he is.”
Butler will likely slide into the backcourt along Simmons. Markelle Fultz has been Philadelphia’s other starting guard but likely will come off the bench, leaving Brown to figure out how to best use Fultz, who is averaging nine points per game.
Following a 120-95 home loss to the Los Angeles Clippers on Nov. 2, Orlando coach Steve Clifford said he sensed within the first two minutes energy was lacking. Since then, the Magic have won six of their last eight games.
Orlando missed a chance to get a three-game winning streak when it took a 117-109 loss at Washington on Monday. Following a 115-89 rout at New York on Sunday, the Magic committed five turnovers and allowed Washington to shoot 69 percent in the fourth quarter.
“When you are tied entering the fourth quarter and you score (26) points in the fourth quarter on the road, it should be enough to win,’ but we didn’t get to the stops to win it,” Magic guard Evan Fournier said.
Orlando’s problems Monday started shortly after its second 10-point lead in the third quarter. The Magic were outscored 50-32 over the last 16:17 and it was similar to a week ago against Detroit when they held an 11-point lead late in the third only to absorb a 103-96 home loss.
“It’s frustrating because this was a good opportunity for us,” Orlando center Nikola Vucevic said. “We had a 10-point lead in the third and we let it slip away really quick. In the fourth, we didn’t execute on the defensive end.”
Reserve Terrence Ross led the Magic with 21 points after getting 22 in New York. Fournier added 20 while Aaron Gordon contributed 18 after sitting out Sunday with an ankle injury.
Philadelphia has won the last four meetings with the Magic. The Sixers rallied from 16 points down on Oct. 20 at home when Embiid totaled 32 and 10 in a 116-115 victory that ended with Ross missing a game-winner 3-pointer with 2.6 seconds left.