'Keep Smiling, Man'
Over the course of the 76ers’ four-game, nine-day Western Conference tour, we compiled a collection of short stories involving members of the team, and its traveling party.
This installment of our ‘Reflections From the Road’ series is the final one from the trip.
• Part I: Hard to Leave Home
• Part II: The Altitude, It's Real
• Part III: Binge Watching is Coming
• Part IV: A Summertime Destination
• Part V: Bring That Bell, Brotha!
• Part VI: A Running Habit
• Part VII: Friendship Gets Finer With Age
'KEEP SMILING, MAN'
For a few good minutes, Jimmy Butler sat without much expression in the folding chair in front of his locker stall inside the visitors locker room at Golden 1 Center. Given the circumstances, it wasn’t too hard to presume what might have been on the mind of such a highly driven, supremely competitive All-Star.
Just moments earlier, the 76ers had walked off the floor following a narrow loss that brought a demanding four-game, nine-day road trip to an end. The club was so close to backing up an exceptional performance against the Golden State Warriors with a third consecutive win, but it was not to be.
Butler, who with 18 fourth-quarter points helped the Sixers make a late charge against the Sacramento Kings, was seemingly taking some time to himself to decompress and digest the difficult defeat.
Then, with bright red JBL Flip in hand, it was off to the showers, singing along to the K-Ci & JoJo that was playing from the portable Bluetooth speaker. When Butler reemerged, the playlist had shifted to Florida Georgia Line, a well-documented favorite of the 29-year old veteran.
Whether it got the toes of a couple media members waiting to speak to Butler tapping, or was the source of good-natured snickers from teammates, the music had an effect, if only to lighten the vibes a little bit.
This was precisely Butler’s intent. His mood will dictate the style of tunes he plays.
“It makes me smile, it keeps my energy up, and it gets on everybody’s nerves, so as long as I’m doing that, I know I’m doing something right.”
With Cruise playing from his JBL Flip, Jimmy Butler told some teammates to ‘keep smiling, man’ on their way out of the locker room.
— brianseltzer (@brianseltzer) February 3, 2019
Butler’s been around the block long enough to know that the NBA revolves around an at times torturesome dynamic. The games come so quickly that a team can be on top of the world one night, then dip to a completely different place 48 hours later.
So it was for the Sixers, which in the span of 48 hours experienced the elation of beating the defending champion Warriors, and the sting of a setback to Sacramento.
As players left the locker room Saturday, Butler offered words of encouragement, telling guys: ‘Keep smiling, man.’
“I’ve been in this league going on eight years, now. I’ve had some really great times, I’ve had some times where you hit the bottom. You got to stay in the middle, be consistent with who you are.”
Reflecting on the Sixers’ now-completed Western Conference trek, Butler shared some positive thoughts. In the same breath, with the FGL megahit ‘Cruise’ playing in the background, he made sure to punctuate his remarks with a key point.
“Guys out there having fun and smiling, that’s where all that happens. When you’re spending time with each other - on planes, buses, a lot of off the floor - it translates. When everybody enjoys playing with one another, the chemistry thing comes naturally. But, as great as our chemistry has become, we still got to win.”
Such will be the mission as the scenery shifts to South Philadelphia, and a long trip fades into the rearview.