Last season, the Philadelphia 76ers were the new kids on the block when playoff time rolled around. Although they were a talented young core, their star power on the team lacked postseason experience and veteran leadership. Ben Simmons, he was a rookie. Joel Embiid was playing in his first postseason himself. Other guys like Robert Covington and JJ Redick have been around for some time, but they weren't offering the Sixers the type of leadership that a guy like Jimmy Butler does this season.

We've heard Jimmy Butler get called every name under the sun throughout the last couple of years. From the outside looking in, Butler got painted as the villain within whatever locker room he was in. The national media acted as if Jimmy Butler was a cancer to his teammates when in reality he was just misunderstood.

Criticism can be tough to hear, but as long as it is constructive, it's hard to be reasonably upset. Some guys can handle it. Others, not so much. Butler may come off as arrogant to some, but in reality, he means well. Maybe someday everybody will be able to see that. And that day could come much sooner than later.

The Sixers started round one of their playoff run this past Saturday, and there wasn't too much to be proud of for the home team. A nine-point loss to the underdogs on your own court is a bad look. As a collective, the Sixers played terribly. But at least their star acquisition lived up to the playoff hype. Butler was great on the court. He put up a playoff career-high of 36 points on Saturday and was the lone star of the game. While his statistical production was something to be excited about, his leadership off the court ended up becoming much more intriguing.

Following Saturday's loss, Sixers players were expecting questions about their stance on the crowd's reaction throughout the game. The boo's were loud, and they were warranted. But some guys didn't like it — specifically, Ben Simmons. Butler, on the other hand, embraced it. He understood why everybody was booing. Just like the crowd did, Butler expected more out of his teammates. Now, he didn't react negatively towards his teammates as the public would assume but handled his emotions and disappointment with maturity, which could go a long way in this dogfight of a series.

Brett Brown acknowledged Butler's maturity following the loss this past Saturday. During his postgame press conference, Brown referred to Butler as the "adult in the room," in comparison to other young guys surrounding him on the team. As it comes off like a shot towards the younger players, who have shown signs of immaturity, it's more of a compliment to Butler's attitude as of late.

Putting up close to 40 points in a loss can be extremely frustrating, but Butler kept his calm and looks forward to Monday's matchup. On Sunday, Butler was all smiles at the Sixers' practice facility in Camden. Knowing it's just one game, the Sixers' veteran refuses to lose confidence and overreact to a single loss. The Sixers know they are the better team on paper, and Butler's goal is to show Brooklyn that. Now, the young guys need to get on board and follow Butler's lead for Game 2 and beyond.

Follow Justin on Twitter: @JGrasso_


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