First, a harmless and innocent query:
Is this series over or the Heat still got a chance?— Joel “Troel” Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) May 26, 2022
But not satisfied with the results, he apparently felt a bit frisky on a warm Spring night:
Miami needs another Star— Joel “Troel” Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) May 26, 2022
The four word mic drop instantly went viral with folks trying to connect all kinds of dots. It’s no secret that Joel Embiid absolutely loved playing with Jimmy Butler back in 2018-2019 and was absolutely crushed when the pre-Daryl Morey “collaborative front office” didn’t drop a max to keep him. Does he want to be that star?!
“I won’t sit here and say I didn’t wish he was my teammate. Still don’t know how we let him go,” Embiid said after the Sixers were eliminated by Erik Spoelstra’s group.
Butler echoed the sentiment as well. “I love him. I’m proud of him. I still wish I was on his team. I definitely love the Miami Heat, though. ... I got so much respect and love for Joel Embiid.”
There’s also a social media history between the two. Back in 2020, when Joel was being booed by Sixer fans he posted ‘You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.’ #TheProcess.”
To which Butler replied the now infamous “I know a place where villains are welcome.”
And Joel, then flanked by the ill-fitting combo of Ben Simmons, Josh Richardson, Tobias Harris, and Al Horford did little to quell speculation he may have had a wandering eye by replying “Damn right my brother.”
Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler on Instagram pic.twitter.com/bnmVDIKfdT— ESPN (@espn) February 11, 2020
The whole shtick may have been harmless. Or maybe it was the gentle nudge the Sixers Management needed at the time. They had once felt that they didn’t need a Team President with final say. But by the following Fall, they hired Daryl Morey. And who are we to say that Embiid flirting publicly with the idea of joining the Heat wasn’t the push they needed.
So now it won’t be a shock if Butler responds to Embiid here. Perhaps he will have already by the time you read this. If not, go check and report back.
Obviously, Joel is a self-proclaimed social media troll, or ”Troel” as he calls himself. He loves to post things with double meanings, or vague references. And of course, you remember one of his recent works of art following Ben Simmons being traded:
Quick tangent: Embiid was snubbed for All-NBA First team despite finishing as runner up MVP for the second season in a row. Butler actually was snubbed from any of the All-NBA teams despite finishing as the best player on the best team in the East during the regular season. Devin Booker, who boasted the reciprocal accolade out West was on the First-Team. Jimmy didn’t even make the Third-Team. Weird. I wonder if Joel and Jimmy texted about that one.
OK, where were we?
Despite causing a bit of a row, letting fans wonder if he was at least flirting with the idea of joining the Heat, Embiid wasn’t done tweeting.
Boston just has too many weapons— Joel “Troel” Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) May 26, 2022
And then perhaps he saw a few too many of these types of replies:
So he tried to put an end to the speculation by making fun of everyone reacting umm... precisely how he probably hoped they would?
Ok y’all are stupid lmao— Joel “Troel” Embiid (@JoelEmbiid) May 26, 2022
In the end, Embiid is signed on a super max with Philadelphia that extends through the 2026-2027 season. He’s not eligible for free agency until summer of 2026. Daryl Morey was bluffing when he said the Ben Simmons saga could drag on for four years. But if Joel Embiid ever tried to get himself traded, I wouldn’t put it past Daryl to actually take the four years this time and say “screw this, Joel hold out forever if you want, we’re not trading an MVP.”
But if you really wanted to read between the lines, I suppose you could say this is the second time Embiid has teased us now regarding the Miami Heat. And he hasn’t been shy about missing Jimmy. It’s all in good fun and we know that. But is it one of those jokes you make because you’re still not over the post-process era’s biggest what if?
Maybe. And the truth is, that the Heat may not have needed another star to take a 3-2 lead on Boston. Jimmy Butler experienced a flare up of the knee inflammation that plagued him in the first round of the playoffs. He was making a case for himself as the best player in the entire playoffs prior to departing from Game 3 of the Conference Finals at halftime. After scoring 41 and 29 points in Games 1 and 2, he’s been an absolute shell of himself since, shooting just 10 of 40 from the field in the last three contests.
He hasn’t gotten a ton of help. Boston has had better fortune. Despite Robert Williams playing through a nagging knee issue, despite Marcus Smart rolling an ankle, and Jayson Tatum dealing with a shoulder, they’ve been mostly healthy. Their opponents on the other hand have been less lucky. Ben Simmons and Joe Harris never played in round one for the Brooklyn Nets. That’s two players who would have started if available. Khris Middleton was out the whole series for the defending champion Bucks. Kyle Lowry still doesn’t look right, Tyler Herro has missed the last two games, and now with Butler not moving well, the Heat don’t stand much of a chance. But sure, it would’t hurt if Miami had another star. They did pretty well with that whole super team thing a few years back.
Now that I think about it, maybe you could read Embiid’s tweet in reverse and say that he’s roasting Butler for leaving him, the deserving league MVP. And so Butler wouldn’t have been one star short of a title had he found a way to wrangle a max out of Philly. The beauty of these Troel Tweets is that they’re like a Monet painting, and what is seen depends on the viewer’s depth and perspective. Art, with limitless possibility. Is this grating satire, or utter nonsense? A playful jab at a former teammate, a barb directed at a front office, an inside joke? Something else? Three things at once? A private text meant for a friend that accidentally went out on his public Twitter? There’s something here for everyone.
Anyway, now it’s on Daryl Morey, and Elton Brand to finalize James Harden’s contract and see what other help they can get Embiid this off season. They’re the unit who could use another star even more than this Heat squad needed one. It takes one to know one. The Sixers may well have a draft pick to keep or trade. And maybe they’ll find that additional star that Joel thinks Miami needs. Heck, Boston didn’t give up much to get Al Horford and he’s playing like one. Maybe the Sixers can find a guy like him. That might make a good premise for Embiid’s next post.