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Embiid/Butler Instagram exchange fuels speculation

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Any trade for Embiid would involve giving up Bam Adebayo.

Philadelphia 76ers v Miami Heat Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Could Joel Embiid take his talents to South Beach?

Joel Embiid and Jimmy Butler fueled speculation on Instagram Monday night after the 76ers center posted a photo of himself with his index finger up to his lips with the caption, “You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Embiid made the shushing gesture in Philadelphia’s win over the Chicago Bulls Sunday night. The Sixers fans had booed their team earlier in the night before an Embiid dagger. (Embiid said that the gesture was not directed to the home crowd.)

Butler commented on Embiid’s post, saying, “I know a place where villains are welcome,” a thinly-veiled reference to Miami, which most prominently took on the villain role during the Big Three era. Embiid responded, “Damn right my brother.”

The Sixers currently sit in fifth place at 33-21, just under Miami. For a team with championship aspirations, that’s disappointing. And ESPN’s Brian Windhorst recently said on his podcast, “The conversations people are starting to have is, ‘will they move Embiid? What’s the price? Where would he go?’”

Embiid’s current contract runs through the 2022-23 season. Any trade for Embiid would involve giving up Bam Adebayo, who only has one more year left on his rookie contract. Could the Heat trade Adebayo, who is only the second All-Star Miami drafted? (Dwyane Wade is the other.) Of course, the Heat balked at trading Josh Richardson for Jimmy Butler in 2018.