NBA Basketball

Mavericks-76ers Preview

The possibility of disharmony in the City of Brotherly Love is gripping the Philadelphia 76ers, stemming from the player they acquired in hopes of becoming Eastern Conference contenders.

According to a report by ESPN, forward Jimmy Butler is dissatisfied with his role in the offense and has "aggressively challenged" coach Brett Brown about it. Brown, according to ESPN, has dismissed the confrontation as nothing out of the ordinary.

However, following a recent film session in which Butler became vocal in contesting Brown, witnesses told ESPN that they considered the exchange to be "disrespectful" on Butler's part.

Butler did not practice Friday due to an upper respiratory infection, according to reports, making his status for Saturday's home game against the Dallas Mavericks uncertain.

"We're coming together. We have a new opportunity. You don't just click your heels and throw Jimmy Butler in and everybody's going to be playing the same way and style. It (doesn't) work like that," Brown said following Tuesday's win against the Los Angeles Clippers, which was followed by a win Wednesday at Phoenix.

"So my job is to grow a team. ... Playing together is what's always, by a long shot, on my mind."

Butler, a four-time All-Star, wasn't content playing for the Minnesota Timberwolves and demanded a trade. The Sixers, seeking a solid, two-way veteran to pair with their young stars, traded for Butler in mid-November, giving up Robert Covington and Dario Saric.

Since the deal, the Sixers (25-14), are 16-8 and 15-6 in games in which Butler played.

They'll seek a third consecutive victory Saturday against a Mavs team that dropped to 3-17 on the road after a 21-point loss Friday night at Boston.

All eyes will be on Dallas' rookie sensation Luka Doncic. The 19-year-old from Slovenia, taken third in the NBA Draft, has a legitimate shot to earn a spot on the Western Conference All-Star team following the NBA's release of the first returns in fan voting on Thursday.

Doncic, averaging 19.5 points, 5.0 assists and 6.6 rebounds, was fourth in total votes in the West, and even accumulated over 30,000 more votes than Joel Embiid, Philadelphia's top vote-getter so far.

But after Dallas (18-20) dropped yet another road game Friday, the Mavs weren't in the mood to talk about Doncic's outstanding start and surprising popularity not even halfway into his rookie campaign.

"He did some good things, but look, when you get beat big and you never had a lead in the game, it's hard to look for individual positives," Carlisle said. "This is a team game and we've got to approach it that way."

Adding to Dallas' woes, it has lost all six games -- by a margin of 13.2 points -- that it has played on the second night of a back-to-back. The Mavs have lost all but two of those games by at least 10 points.

"It's a tough one," Carlisle said of matching up against the Sixers. "The good thing about (Friday night) was the game was relatively quick; we've got to get out of here quick and get to Philly."

Updated January 5, 2019

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