Jimmy Butler

Eastern Notes: Butler, Spoelstra, Hayes, Williams, Wizards

Heat star Jimmy Butler recently reflected on his relationship with head coach Erik Spoelstra, a partnership that’s lasted since the team acquired Butler in a sign-and-trade back in July of 2019.

Butler and Spoelstra are known as basketball purists, a competitive player-coach duo that helped lead Miami to its first Finals berth since 2014 last season.

“(We) keep it real with one another,” Butler said of his relationship with Spoelstra, as relayed by Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald. “We got in a little predicament [Wednesday against the Spurs]. But it’s nothing new. Everything is not all good all the time. But we both want to win, we both have the same agenda.

“So I think he’s helping me grow a tremendous amount, talking about leadership as a player and what to look for with my guys. He’s making sure that I put a lot of trust in my teammates and in my young guys, and I appreciate him for it.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Pistons rookie Killian Hayes is still playing with a sense of urgency despite his team being eliminated from playoff contention, as relayed by Rod Beard of The Detroit News. The 19-year-old Hayes was the team’s No. 7 pick in the draft last year and has only appeared in 19 games this season due to injury.
  • The Bulls need more production from rookie Patrick Williams, Joe Cowley of the Chicago Sun-Times opines. “I’m trying to be aggressive,’’ Williams said. “But kind of like I said, it’s a learning experience, for sure. We have some more games to go, so hopefully I can continue to get better at that.’’ On the season, Williams has averaged 9.2 points and 4.6 rebounds in 28.2 minutes per game across 63 starts.
  • The red-hot Wizards have three secret weapons in the middle, Thomas Boswell of the Washington Post writes. Boswell examines the production the club has received from Daniel Gafford, Robin Lopez and Alex Len, all of whom have seen valuable minutes in recent weeks. Washington has been playing without its starting center, Thomas Bryant, since he suffered a partially torn ACL in January.

Southeast Notes: Gill, Butler, Heat, Borrego

Wizards forward Anthony Gill made the most of his opportunity in the team’s game against the Thunder on Friday, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes.

Gill received more playing time largely due to the absence of Deni Avdija (season-ending fibula fracture) and finished with nine points and 10 rebounds in 20 minutes. It was just his 19th appearance of the season.

“AG, I’m proud of him. He hasn’t played much,” head coach Scott Brooks said. “The guy works harder than anybody on our team. He comes in every day. He comes in early. He’s always cheering his teammates on, he’s the first one up [off the bench].”

Gill will have a bigger opportunity on Sunday as he starts in place of injured forward Rui Hachimura against the Cavaliers.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

Southeast Notes: Butler, Riley, Beal, Hawks

Heat star Jimmy Butler gave a brutally honest assessment of his team after it dropped a third straight game on Friday to Minnesota, explaining that the club has been playing a “soft” brand of basketball. Miami’s record now stands at 28-28.

“We’re just being soft. That’s it,” Butler said, as relayed by ESPN. “Not getting into bodies, scared of some contact. Soft overall.”

The Heat lost the game 119-111, allowing the Timberwolves to shoot 52% from the floor and 42% from deep. Aside from being outworked, the team once again deployed a game plan of switching screens — a perplexing move by Erik Spoelstra with both Victor Oladipo and Andre Iguodala sidelined. The same scheme was also used in a loss against the Nuggets and Nikola Jokic on Wednesday.

“It’s not frustrating because we do it so often,” Butler said. “It’s almost like it’s expected, in a bad way to put it. We just think we’re such a good team, and then reality hits us, we’re humbled. And I’m glad, because that’s what this game does for you. Home, away, no matter what opponent you’re playing against, you just stroll into the game thinking you’re nice, you’re good. This is what happens.

“I’m glad it happened to us. And if we don’t fix it, I hope it continues to happen to us.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division today:

  • Speaking of the Heat, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines in his latest “Ask Ira” mailbag whether Pat Riley failed to properly size up the team’s roster this season. Miami has upcoming games against the Nets (38-18) on Sunday, the Rockets (14-42) on Monday, and the Spurs (26-28) on Wednesday.
  • Wizards star Bradley Beal feels somewhat vindicated by not requesting a trade earlier this season, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington writes. “It speaks volumes,” Beal said. “It’s always tough because when my name was buzzing, that’s all I heard early in the year is, ‘Trade Beal, trade Beal.’ It wasn’t anything other than that. So, me knowing who I am and just sticking through it, that’s a testament to what we did as a team this year.”
  • The majority of Hawks players received their second COVID-19 vaccine on Thursday, Sarah Spencer of the Atlanta Journal-Constitution writes. In addition, at least two players received their first dose.

Injury Notes: Holmes, Bagley, Butler, Augustin, Hayward, SGA

Kings center Richaun Holmes will miss at least three games with a strained right hamstring, writes Jason Anderson of The Sacramento Bee. After suffering the injury in Monday’s game, Holmes underwent an MRI that revealed the extent of the damage.

He will be held out of tonight’s game against the Wizards and won’t accompany the team on a two-game road trip to face the Suns and Mavericks. Holmes is averaging 14.1 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.6 blocks per game this season.

“We’ll see how he’s doing as we get back into town,” coach Luke Walton said. “Clearly, we’ll miss him. He’s had an incredible year for us so far and he’s a big part of what we’re trying to do.”

There are more injury updates from around the league:

  • The Kings got good news about Marvin Bagley III, who will rejoin the team Thursday in Phoenix, according to Jason Jones of The Athletic (Twitter link). Bagley has been away from his teammates while rehabbing a fracture in his left hand, and there were plans for him to return to the club when he was close to being able to play again.
  • Heat forward Jimmy Butler had an injury scare involving his ankle in Tuesday’s game, but he will be in the starting lineup tonight in Denver, tweets Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. “There’s no doubt about it, that Jimmy will always want to go,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “But we evaluated him today and he passed all the tests with the trainers and that allowed him to where we all feel comfortable, him going tonight.”
  • Rockets guard D.J. Augustin had an MRI today on his sprained left ankle, tweets Mark Berman of Fox 26 Houston. Coach Stephen Silas said Augustin is using crutches and a walking boot and has been ruled out at least through Monday. Danuel House, who hasn’t played since April 4 due to a sprained ankle, and Eric Gordon, who has been sidelined since March 11 with a groin strain, are also both expected to miss another week or so.
  • Hornets forward Gordon Hayward still has a protective boot on his strained right foot, according to Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer (Twitter link). He is expected to be re-evaluated early next month.
  • Thunder guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander was projected to be out through at least mid-April with plantar fasciitis, but his condition hasn’t been re-evaluated yet, coach Mark Daigneault told Joe Mussatto of The Oklahoman (Twitter link).

Eastern Notes: Butler, Pistons, Bogdanovic, Oladipo

Heat star Jimmy Butler is appreciative of his teammates’ “disciplined gambles” on defense, Khobi Price details for The Sun Sentinel. Miami most recently defeated Cleveland for its fourth straight victory, winning the contest 115-101 and forcing 15 turnovers.

“I love that we got some guys who’ll gamble,” Butler said, “so I won’t be the only one getting in trouble when I miss an assignment.”

In addition to Butler, the Heat also have defensive-minded players Victor Oladipo, Trevor Ariza and Andre Iguodala on their roster. All three are known for getting in the passing lanes or stripping ball-handlers, which often leads to easy points in transition.

Since Oladipo debuted with Miami, head coach Erik Spoelstra has rolled with a starting lineup of Oladipo, Duncan Robinson, Butler, Ariza, and Bam Adebayo to turn the heat up (no pun intended) defensively.

Here are some other notes from the Eastern Conference:

  • Keith Langlois of Pistons.com shared 24 thoughts on the present and future of the Pistons, who currently own the third-worst record in the league at 14-35. Detroit most recently suffered a 125-81 defeat to the Knicks and will visit the Thunder (20-29) on Monday.
  • Chris Kirschner of The Athletic recently published a Q&A with Hawks wing Bogdan Bogdanovic, who discussed his role with the team, changes under Nate McMillan, and more. Bogdanovic has poured in 76 points over his last three games, shooting 29-for-52 (56%) from the floor. “I’m just being more aggressive and I feel like we’ve started to build chemistry between us,” Bogdanovic said. “When you really look into it, we’ve only played a couple of games together. It hasn’t been many. Since I got hurt, having the restriction minutes off and now that I’ve been off of it, it’s been fun.”
  • Heat guard Victor Oladipo admitted that the major leg injury he suffered in 2019 isn’t fully behind him, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel tweets. “One leg is stronger than the other,” he explained. “So I have some hypertrophy in one leg than the other. So working my way back and finding my balance is something I’m continuing to work at.” Oladipo underwent surgery just over two years ago on a ruptured quad tendon.

Central Notes: Hayes, Theis, Okoro, White

Rookie Pistons point guard Killian Hayes discussed his first game for Detroit in almost three months with reporters, as captured by The Detroit News (video link). “It’s a whole different team from when I left,” Hayes said. Detroit has subtracted Blake Griffin and added Hamidou Diallo and Cory Joseph since the rookie last played.

The No. 7 pick in the 2020 draft, Hayes has missed 41 games thus far this season with a right hip subluxation. In his first game back on the court since January 4 (and eighth overall) against the Knicks yesterday, Hayes went scoreless on 0-of-3 shooting, but pulled down five rebounds and dished out three assists.

There’s more out of the Central Division:

  • Darnell Mayberry of The Athletic assesses how new Bulls big man Daniel Theis can make an impact in Chicago. Theis is already impressing his teammates. “He’s a difference-maker,” All-Star shooting guard Zach LaVine raved. Mayberry contends that adding the 6’8″ Theis, the starting center for the Celtics across the past year-and-a-half, was a coup at the deadline. “Whenever I step on the court I just want to give everything I’ve got,” the 29-year-old said. “I just want to help the team, whenever I’m out there, get better and win games.” 
  • Although the Cavaliers fell 115-104 to the Heat yesterday, rookie shooting guard Isaac Okoro scored 17 points on 5-of-7 shooting from the field and won the respect of star Heat wing Jimmy Butler, according to Chris Fedor of Cleveland.com. “His potential is out of this world,” Butler said of 2020’s fifth overall pick drafted out of Auburn. Okoro has had an erratic 2020/21 season (averaging a relatively modest 8.0 PPG, 2.8 RPG and 1.7 APG), but he has started in all his 44 games with Cleveland thus far.
  • Second-year Bulls reserve point guard Coby White has entered the NBA’s coronavirus health and safety protocols, K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago tweets.

Latest On Kyle Lowry

The Heat and the Sixers continue to be the teams most frequently linked to Raptors point guard Kyle Lowry, and ESPN’s Brian Windhorst suggested on the latest episode of his Hoop Collective podcast that whichever team Lowry finishes the season with would be the frontrunner to keep him beyond 2020/21.

“I was talking to a GM this morning and he basically described it as this: ‘Kyle Lowry’s free agency is happening right now,'” Windhorst said, per RealGM. “The expectation is that Kyle Lowry will have a new contract by the end of this week. It is either going to be to stay in Toronto, whether it’s signed or an understanding that is going to happen. It’s going to be Miami or Philadelphia. Those are the three options that the expectation is out there.”

While Windhorst’s comments, as well as the latest article from Barry Jackson and Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald, suggest that an extension could be in play for Lowry this week – either from the Raptors or a new team – my understanding is that the veteran point guard doesn’t meet the NBA’s criteria for a veteran extension and will have to wait until free agency to sign a new deal.

Still, it’s safe to assume that if he’s traded this week, Lowry’s new team would have a pretty clear idea of what his next contract might look like and would be confident about getting something done.

As for the likelihood of a trade, Jackson and Chiang hear that as of Tuesday morning, Lowry hadn’t asked to be dealt. However, he remains curious about interest in him and has yet to rule anything out. The Raptors’ front office has also let him know they’ve had conversations with other teams.

Kevin O’Connor of The Ringer reported on Sunday that Miami would be Lowry’s preferred landing spot if he’s dealt, which Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press confirmed today (via Twitter). O’Connor also noted that Lowry’s close friendship with Jimmy Butler is an important factor in that equation, something that Jackson and Chiang wrote about today as well. Butler’s presence on the Heat roster also fueled James Harden‘s interest in the Heat earlier this year, according to the Herald duo.

If the Heat do attempt to make a deal for Lowry, they’ll likely resist including Tyler Herro unless the trade is expanded to include someone like Norman Powell, per Jackson and Chiang, who say that Duncan Robinson is more likely to be part of the package.

Heat president of basketball operations Pat Riley is a major advocate of going after Lowry, Jackson and Chiang add. If Miami doesn’t acquire Lowry this week, the team could target him in free agency.

Heat Notes: Butler, Silva, Trade Deadline, Vučević

Heat wing Jimmy Butler, a five-time All-Star, has been having an MVP-level impact on Miami’s success when available this season, writes Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald. Butler has led the way during the team’s recent 13-4 tear, which has propelled Miami from a 7-14 record to its current 20-18 mark, good for the No. 4 seed in the East.

Butler is averaging team bests in points (22.5 PPG), assists (9.1 APG), steals (2.1 SPG) and plus-minus (plus-117) during this 17-game turnaround. Though missing 14 games early may keep Butler from actually netting MVP honors, his impact on one of the best teams in its conference should certainly help cement his status as an All-NBA player for the 2020/21 season. The club is 16-8 when Butler plays and 4-10 when he sits.

There’s more out of South Beach:

USA Basketball Expands Finalist List for Olympic Roster

Fifteen players have been added to the list of finalists for the U.S. Olympic Men’s Basketball Team, USA Basketball announced today in a press release. The group will eventually be pared down to 12 players who will participate in the Olympic Games, which are set for July 23 to August 8 in Tokyo.

Spurs coach Gregg Popovich will serve as coach for the U.S. team, with Warriors coach Steve Kerr, Villanova coach Jay Wright and former Hawks coach Lloyd Pierce as his assistants.

No tryouts will be held this year. Instead, USA Basketball will choose the final roster by early summer. Training camp is scheduled to being in early July before the conclusion of the NBA playoffs.

“With the postponement of the Tokyo Olympics from 2020 to 2021, it’s important that we continue to remain flexible and consider all players who can contribute to our efforts to field the best USA team possible,” USA Basketball men’s national team managing director Jerry Colangelo said. “These additions we are announcing today will help ensure that we are doing that. Having a larger player pool than what we normally have is critical because of all of the uncertainties we face about availability. But for USA Basketball to receive the commitment of so many outstanding players remains an indicator of the great honor of representing your country means to these men.”

The new names under consideration are:

  1. Jarrett Allen (Cavaliers)
  2. Eric Gordon (Rockets)
  3. Jerami Grant (Pistons)
  4. Blake Griffin (Nets)
  5. Jrue Holiday (Bucks)
  6. DeAndre Jordan (Nets)
  7. Zach LaVine (Bulls)
  8. Julius Randle (Knicks)
  9. Duncan Robinson (Heat)
  10. Mitchell Robinson (Knicks)
  11. Fred VanVleet (Raptors)
  12. John Wall (Rockets)
  13. Zion Williamson (Pelicans)
  14. Christian Wood (Rockets)
  15. Trae Young (Hawks)

Forty-two players remain from the original list, which was announced in February 2020:

  1. Bam Adebayo (Heat)
  2. LaMarcus Aldridge (Spurs)
  3. Harrison Barnes (Kings)
  4. Bradley Beal (Wizards)
  5. Devin Booker (Suns)
  6. Malcolm Brogdon (Pacers)
  7. Jaylen Brown (Celtics)
  8. Jimmy Butler (Heat)
  9. Mike Conley (Jazz)
  10. Stephen Curry (Warriors)
  11. Anthony Davis (Lakers)
  12. DeMar DeRozan (Spurs)
  13. Andre Drummond (Cavaliers)
  14. Kevin Durant (Nets)
  15. Paul George (Clippers)
  16. Draymond Green (Warriors)
  17. James Harden (Nets)
  18. Montrezl Harrell (Lakers)
  19. Joe Harris (Nets)
  20. Tobias Harris (76ers)
  21. Gordon Hayward (Hornets)
  22. Dwight Howard (Sixers)
  23. Brandon Ingram (Pelicans)
  24. Kyrie Irving (Nets)
  25. LeBron James (Lakers)
  26. Kyle Kuzma (Lakers)
  27. Kawhi Leonard (Clippers)
  28. Damian Lillard (Blazers)
  29. Brook Lopez (Bucks)
  30. Kevin Love (Cavaliers)
  31. Kyle Lowry (Raptors)
  32. JaVale McGee (Cavaliers)
  33. Khris Middleton (Bucks)
  34. Donovan Mitchell (Jazz)
  35. Victor Oladipo (Rockets)
  36. Chris Paul (Suns)
  37. Mason Plumlee (Pistons)
  38. Jayson Tatum (Celtics)
  39. Myles Turner (Pacers)
  40. Kemba Walker (Celtics)
  41. Russell Westbrook (Wizards)
  42. Derrick White (Spurs)

Two players removed from that list are Warriors guard Klay Thompson, who is out for the season with a torn Achilles tendon, and Celtics guard Marcus Smart. Sources tell Shams Charania of The Athletic that Smart turned down an invitation because of injury concerns due to having a short offseason and playing late into consecutive seasons (Twitter link).

Southeast Notes: Nunn, McMillan, Butler, Hornets

Kendrick Nunn has reestablished himself as a starter and that’s a big reason for the Heat‘s resurgence, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. During the Heat’s 10-3 stretch, Nunn has averaged 17.1 PPG, 3.8 RPG, 3.2 APG and 1.3 SPG. Nunn will be headed to restricted free agency after the season.

“Defensively, he has really helped us,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “This has been a year and a half process of really learning our system, being held accountable to that, growing comfortable and being able to defend different ways.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Nate McMillan, who was named interim head coach of the Hawks on Monday, confirmed that Lloyd Pierce talked him into being his replacement, according to Charles Odum of The Associated Press. McMillan initially rebuffed GM Travis Schlenk’s offer to take the reins. “We had a conversation about the team and the move … and he just felt he didn’t think this would happen but he felt I could step in and do a good job with the team,” McMillan said. “He basically felt I should take this opportunity.”
  • Heat swingman Jimmy Butler will miss his second straight game on Tuesday due to right knee inflammation, Chiang tweets. Miami has one more game remaining prior to the All-Star break — a road matchup with the Pelicans on Thursday.
  • The Hornets are the latest team to receive approval to have fans in the stands. According to a team press release, they will host crowds at 15% capacity, or approximately 3,000 fans, beginning on March 13.