Joel Embiid: Since Jimmy Butler trade ‘I haven’t been myself’

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Since the Sixers traded for Jimmy Butler they have gone 8-3, outscoring teams by 4.1 points per 100 possessions in that time. They have looked good — not elite like Toronto yet, but a team that could be on its way.

Joel Embiid, however, is not comfortable an altered role in a Jimmy Butler world. He said he played like “trash” in his last game and was given Friday night’s game against Detroit off for rest. Embiid’s counting stats are off just slightly since the trade — his offensive and net ratings are up — but from what he told Keith Pompey of the Philadelphia Inquirer he is not comfortable in a new role that has him on the perimeter more.

“I haven’t been myself lately,” said Embiid, who was held out of Friday’s game against the Pistons by coach Brett Brown. “I think it’s mainly because of the way I’ve been used, which is I’m being used as a spacer, I guess, a stretch five, which I’m only shooting [29] percent” from three-point range.

“But it seems like the past couple games, like with the way I play, our setup, [Brown] always has me starting on the perimeter … and it just really frustrates me. My body feels great, and it’s just I haven’t been playing well.”

In the Sixers’ last game, a showdown with Toronto on national television, Embiid had 10 points on 17 shots, going 4-of-7 at the rim (5-of-9 in the paint overall) but struggling with his shot when poping out off a pick or on trail threes in transition (0-of-4 from three near the top of the arc, plus one long-two miss where he stepped on the line). Embiid stymied by a trio of Raptors defenders giving him different looks. Embiid has looked off his game the last few games.

Butler has the gravity to space the floor off the ball, he’s shooting 42 percent from three, and has comfortably played as a catch-and-shoot wing when Embiid and Ben Simmons (or someone else) are running a two-man game. However, Butler’s nature is to attack the rim, he prefers to drive, not pull up. Embiid has to vacate that space to make room for those drives, but there is not yet a comfort level with that for the big man.

It’s a balance the Sixers have yet to find: When to have Embiid post up and bully his way to the rim (or pass out when the double comes) and when to space the floor so Butler or Simmons can get to the rim. The addition of Butler has changed the equation and Embiid is still figuring it all out, but he would like more post touches, he said.

It’s all part of an ongoing process with Philadelphia — they are a win-now team after the trade, but that doesn’t mean there is not a lot of work still to do.