Jimmy Butler

Heat Notes: Free Agent Targets, Butler, Olynyk, Restart

Though adding reigning MVP Giannis Antetokounmpo to their exciting roster remains the top goal for the Heat in 2021 summer free agency, they have many other viable options if Antetokounmpo is unavailable or uninterested, according to The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson.

Even with the prospect of a slight decline in the 2021 NBA salary cap due to the coronavirus pandemic causing a league revenue loss, the Heat should still have the cap space to add a maximum-salary free agent next summer to go along their intriguing core of All-Stars Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo, plus developing rookies Kendrick Nunn and Tyler Herro.

Pacers All-Star Victor Oladipo, who trains in South Florida during the offseason, would be a great fit on the wing along with Butler, Jackson notes. Pelicans guard Jrue Holiday, Celtics forward Gordon Hayward, and Nets guard Spencer Dinwiddie number among Jackson’s other preferences for free agent additions to the Heat in 2021. Wizards guard Bradley Beal and Thunder guard Chris Paul may be available via trade.

There’s more news out of South Beach:

  • The Heat’s top free agent acquisition of 2019, All-NBA swing man Jimmy Butler, has returned to Miami this week in anticipation of a league restart as Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald reports.
  • With just eight non-playoff games left for the top 22 teams, the Heat have officially clinched a playoff berth, per Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter link). This means that Heat big man Kelly Olynyk will earn a $400K playoff bonus written into his contract.
  • The Heat’s status for the season restart was explored in another piece from The Sun Sentinel’s Ira Winderman. Production of Heat game broadcasts will be handled away from the games to accommodate COVID-19 personnel restrictions. Center Meyers Leonard, who injured his ankle during the Heat’s last game to this point, on March 11, has recovered and will be ready once play resumes.

Southeast Notes: Hornets, Kulboka, Magic, Gordon, Heat

Lithuanian forward Arnoldas Kulboka is remaining with Spanish club Bilbao Basket for next season after receiving interest from Zalgiris Kaunas in his home country, according to Emiliano Carchia of Sportando. The 22-year-old was selected by the Hornets with the No. 55 overall pick in the 2018 draft, but has yet to sign an NBA contract.

According to Donatas Urbonas (Twitter link), Kulboka’s agent Tadas Bulotas said that if not for the coronavirus pandemic, his client was planning to join the Hornets this year. As leagues take different approaches to COVID-19, the NBA offseason will no longer necessarily line up with the offseason for European leagues, complicating decisions for players looking to make the jump one way or the other.

Kulboka could potentially revisit the possibility of joining the Hornets in 2021.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • NBA scouts believe Magic forward Aaron Gordon is best suited to play power forward and also feel as if he tries to do more than he should in Orlando, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic. “I think the thing for him is he just has to realize that he has to accept that he is going to be a high-level role player — a borderline All-Star if he plays his role really well,” one scout told The Athletic. “I think in his mind there are times when he sees himself in the same vein as some of the superstars, and I think sometimes that can get in his way.”
  • In a separate mailbag article for The Athletic, Robbins examines the Magic‘s free agency outlook and discusses whether it would make sense for the team to experiment with playing Nikola Vucevic and Mohamed Bamba alongside one another.
  • After spending most of the NBA’s hiatus in California, Heat forward Andre Iguodala has returned to South Florida, writes Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel. In Miami, Iguodala will be able to take advantage of the team’s reopened practice facility for individual workouts. Jimmy Butler and Solomon Hill are now the club’s only players not in town, Winderman notes.

Heat Notes: Butler, Haslem, Iguodala, Facilities

After rumors of discontent and/or tension with teammates followed Jimmy Butler from Chicago to Minnesota to Philadelphia, we’ve heard nothing but rave reviews this season about his fit in Miami. During a weekend appearance on Instagram Live with Sue Bird and Megan Rapinoe, Butler confirmed that he’s “hella happy” with the Heat, as Anthony Chiang and Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald relay.

“Without a doubt. There ain’t a better place to be for me. Miami is it,” Butler said. “We got the right young guys, we got the right vets. (The young guys) get it. They get it and they’re thirsty to get back to hooping. I think I built bonds with a lot of my teammates on all my former teams. But this organization is special.”

According to The Herald duo, Butler also suggested that he likely won’t be part of USA Basketball’s 12-man roster for the Tokyo Olympics, which have been rescheduled for 2021. The star swingman won a gold medal with Team USA in Rio De Janeiro in 2016, but indicated he’s prioritizing the NBA over international competitions at this point in his career.

“I told (Carmelo Anthony) that if he plays (in the Olympics), I play,” Butler joked. “‘Melo said that he’s not playing.”

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Appearing this week on NBA TV (video link), Heat veteran Udonis Haslem admitted that the unusual circumstances of the NBA’s suspended season may influence his decision on whether to retire this offseason or return for another year. “One thing that I’ve always wanted is to be able to do is leave this game on my own terms,” Haslem said, per Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “Another thing that I’ve always wanted is to be able to have the opportunity to create a pathway for the next generation, as far as passing on the Heat culture. And the third thing that I wanted to do was to be able to leave this game with an opportunity to make a good playoff run. All three of those things have been taken out of my control right now. So we’ll just have to see.”
  • The NBA plans to allow teams to reopen their facilities for workouts as early as Friday, but the Heat don’t intend to start that process until Monday at the earliest, a source tells Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. The team also plans to call back Butler and Andre Iguodala soon, according to Winderman, who notes that the two veterans – both in California – are the only two players currently away from South Florida.
  • As Winderman observes in another Sun-Sentinel article, if the NBA ultimately decides to shift its annual calendar and start the regular season in December on a permanent basis, it could open the door for the Heat to once again host the All-Star Game. The usual February dates have been problematic for the city, since the Miami International Boat Show and Coconut Grove Arts Festival generally take place on the same weekend. The All-Star Game hasn’t taken place in Miami since 1990 and has never been played at AmericanAirlines Arena.

Pat Riley: Heat Are “Close” To Being Title Contenders

Heat president Pat Riley is delighted with the progress his team made this season and believes the organization is “close” to being at a championship level again, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Riley made the comments in a video released today, saying he hopes the league will find a way to salvage the playoffs so he can see the results of moves the team made at the trade deadline.

“I think we were (41-24) or something along those lines and headed to home-court advantage in the playoffs. It was a great year,” Riley said. “I’m really disappointed that we haven’t seen the finish, especially after we made the trade when we brought in Andre Iguodala, Solomon Hill and Jae Crowder. I thought that was going to give us a little bit of an edge going into the playoffs.”

Riley pinpointed the addition of Jimmy Butler in a sign-and-trade last summer for creating a lot of optimism for the new season. Another boost came from unexpected production by rookie guards Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, along with second-year forward Duncan Robinson.

“I’m so happy that we turned a lot of things around and we found the right players,” Riley said, “the right mix of pick-and-roll players, guys that can post up and really found a couple of guys that can shoot the ball — really shoot the ball — so we’re happy for that and we’re really optimistic about moving forward into the future with these players.”

Riley touched on a few more topics during the video:

  • The Heat are running through scenarios for free agency, but everything is “up in the air” because of uncertainty over whether the season will resume. Miami has several important decisions to make, with new acquisitions Crowder and Hill both headed for free agency, along with Goran Dragic, Meyers Leonard, Derrick Jones Jr. and Udonis Haslem. In addition, Kelly Olynyk has a $13.2MM player option. Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald suggests Riley’s comments are a sign that he will try to keep the team together instead of renouncing the free agents and operating under the salary cap (Twitter link).
  • There’s strong support around the league for finding a way to complete the season, Riley added. He said all 30 teams have been participating in conference calls with the commissioner’s office and players union to discuss strategies. “I think that’s a very important thing for all of the franchises, complete the season even if it moves on later,” Riley said. “I think we’re all right behind Adam Silver and him waiting until he launches us back into action.”
  • Riley was “stunned” when he learned that the season was being suspended in the wake of a positive coronavirus test by Jazz center Rudy Gobert, but ultimately believes it was the right decision. “We heard that a player from the Utah Jazz had tested positive,” Riley said. “But I didn’t think it was going to last that long or turn out to be what it is today for not only the Heat, but for everybody to have to shut it down. Shut the country down, shut the world down and try to fight this thing. So it was pretty innocent that night only from the standpoint that, ‘OK, we can take care of this and then we’ll be back.’ But I think Adam Silver made an incredible move, and that just sort of cascaded into a lot of other decisions by other teams and other sports and industries.”

Bulls Notes: Jordan, Management, Butler

Happy Last Dance Day! Tonight is the first of 10 episodes of the Michael Jordan documentary. In honor of the occasion, allow me to pass along one of my favorite quotes from Jordan:

“It’s heavy duty to try to do everything and please everybody. My job was to go out there and play the game of basketball as best I can. People may not agree with that. I can’t live with what everyone’s impression of what I should or what I shouldn’t do.”

It’s a quote that I vividly remember reading before making a leap into sports full-time, leaving the comfy confines of a corporate position. It’s something I recall every time I make a move that hopefully brings me closer to my goal of being an NBA GM (dreamers can still dream), and it’s a reminder that everything you do is not going to please everyone, so excuse the bad analogy, but shoot your shot.

While we await an inside look into Jordan’s final season with the Bulls, let’s take a look at some notes from Chicago:

  • Sam Smith of NBA.com explains how the conflict between management, players, and coaches helped motivate Jordan’s final championship season with the Bulls. Jackson and Jordan knew they had to go out as winners and the internal feuds fueled the team.
  • Chicago feared paying Jimmy Butler the supermax and made one of the bolder franchise pivots over the past decade when they traded away the All-Star for a package of young prospects, ESPN’s Zach Lowe contends. The Bulls felt that a new core would bring them closer to championship contention, though they have yet to make the playoffs since trading Butler.
  • In the same piece, Lowe argues that better play-makers – whether acquired via outside acquisition or internal improvements – would help the Bulls’ young frontcourt improve. Neither Lauri Markkanen nor Wendell Carter Jr. has played at a high level for consistent stretches during their respective young NBA careers.

Atlantic Notes: Butler-Brown, Theis, Knicks, Celtics

Current Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler, formerly a clutch swingman on the star-studded, title-contending 2018/19 Sixers, acknowledged that his relationship with coach Brett Brown was not particularly great, as he told his former Philadelphia teammate J.J. Redick on The J.J. Redick Podcast With Tommy Alter.

On the podcast, Butler described an uncomfortably tense and silent film-watching session with Redick, Butler, and Sixers All-Stars Joel Embiid and Ben Simmons. “And I told you this as we walked out, ‘J.J., why would we ever go in there again?,'” Butler said on the podcast. “‘Nothing’s getting accomplished. Nobody’s saying nothing to anybody.'”

Butler also discussed having spoken up about the offense in a subsequent film-watching session in Portland that became a hot topic in the national media. Butler suggested the conversation was blown out of proportion by outside observers, a point his former Sixers teammate agreed with. “I don’t know why it got reported the way it did,” Redick said.

There’s more out of the Atlantic Division:

  • Daniel Theis, the Celtics‘ starting center replacement for the departed Al Horford, was having a comparable season to his predecessor before play was suspended due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to The Stats Corner of NBC Sports Boston. Theis’ production per 36 minutes has actually been better than Horford’s during 2018/19. Their scoring numbers are similar, while Theis is pulling down more rebounds and blocks and shooting at a higher field goal percentage. The 27-year-old German signed a two-year, $10MM contract with Boston during the summer of 2019. The 33-year-old Horford, meanwhile, inked a four-year, $97MM contract ($109MM if he hits all incentives) with the Sixers this summer.
  • As the Knicks continue to overhaul their front office, Cavaliers salary cap expert Brock Aller has emerged as a potential addition to new team president Leon Rose‘s staff, according to Stefan Bondy of the New York Daily News. After spending a decade as the personal assistant to team owner Dan Gilbert, Aller graduated to a position as senior director of basketball operations in 2017.
  • The Celtics team, staff, and attendant beat reporters experienced a tense journey on the road as the coronavirus spread beyond tenable levels, according to Adam Himmelsbach of the Boston Globe in his first-person account of what transpired.

Southeast Notes: Herro, Butler, Hawks, Jones Jr.

Heat guard Tyler Herro initially feared he might be done for the regular season when he injured his foot, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald tweets. Herro, who suffered the injury on February 3, might be able to take off the protective boot sometime this week, Chiang adds. The 13th pick in last June’s draft, Herro is averaging 13.1 PPG and shooting 39.3% from deep.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Jimmy Butler‘s personality hasn’t changed but he has helped, rather than hurt, the Heat’s team chemistry, as Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald details. Guard Goran Dragic says the franchise’s culture made Butler fit seamlessly into the locker room. “They push you here. Jimmy is the same,” he said. “If you’re not used to it, it can [be] like, ‘I don’t like him.’ But this is the perfect situation for us and Jimmy. He just wants you and the team to get better.”
  • The Hawks will be looking to accelerate their rebuild during this offseason, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic writes in his latest mailbag. They will likely look to add younger veterans instead of acquiring bad contracts as they did last offseason, Kirschner continues. Davis Bertans, Joe Harris, Gordon Hayward, Evan Fournier and Maurice Harkless are potential targets, Kirschner adds.
  • Re-signing Derrick Jones Jr. and Dragic will likely be at the top of the Heat’s priority list this offseason, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel opines. Negotiations will Jones could be tricky, since Miami wants to protect its cap space for the summer of 2021, when the free agent market could be robust. At his young age, Jones will probably be looking for a long-term contract, Winderman adds.

Jimmy Butler Does Not Rule Out Return To Bulls

In Chicago to play in the 2020 All-Star game, Heat All-Star Jimmy Butler said it’s a “definite possibility” he could suit up for the Bulls once again later in his career, tweets Cody Westerlund of 670TheScore.

Butler spent his first six seasons in the Windy City, transforming from a 30th overall pick into a perennial All-Star. Chicago traded Butler to the Timberwolves in June 2017. Butler’s time in Minnesota lasted just over a season before he was dealt to the Sixers. He signed a four-year, $141MM deal with the Heat as part of a sign-and-trade this past summer.

The 30-year-old is committed to Miami for three additional seasons after 2019/20. However, he had praise for Chicago’s front office and what the team is building.

“I got faith in (Bulls) management,” he said, per K.C. Johnson of NBC Sports Chicago (Twitter link). “They have a lot of young talent.”

In 46 games this season, Butler is averaging 20.6 PPG, 6.8 RPG and 6.1 APG for Miami.

Southeast Notes: Winslow, Butler, J. Robinson, Embiid

Justise Winslow is thrilled about his new start in Memphis, but in an interview with Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel he offered little insight into an injury that has forced him to miss all but 11 games this season. Winslow has taken the court just once since December 6 because of a lower back bone bruise. “The (Miami) coaching staff thought I was able to play,” Winslow said without further explanation.

After being taken with the 10th pick in the 2015 draft, Winslow developed into a versatile forward for the Heat and often handled play-making duties. However, the lingering injury and the development of young talent in Miami made him expandable in last week’s trade for Andre Iguodala.

“I’m not going to give any dates (for a possible return), I’m sorry,” Winslow said. “But it’s been an ongoing thing this season. That’s the bottom line. I’m sure the Miami Heat did everything that they thought was right to try to help me. Things didn’t work out. I’m here now. I wish I could tell you a date that I’m expected to be back, but there isn’t one.”

There’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • Jimmy Butler has finally found a team that views the NBA the same way he does, writes Nick Friedell of ESPN. Butler clashed with teammates, coaches and management in his previous three stops, but his ultra-competitive attitude is welcome with the Heat“When [Butler] was in other places, he got knocked for (speaking his mind),” Iguodala said. “He was disruptive toward his other teammates, but you put him around some guys that actually want to get to the grind, what did he do for them? He upped their level of play, right?”
  • Jerome Robinson sees the Wizards as an ideal fit and is ready for the opportunity he never got with the Clippers, relays Chase Hughes of NBA Sports. Robinson was a lottery pick in 2019, but often languished on the bench as L.A. focused on challenging for a title. He’s hoping for more playing time in Washington after being traded there last week. “Experience, that’s what you really learn from,” Robinson said. “To grow as a player and a person, I think this is a great step for me right here.”
  • Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer believes the Hornets should pounce on the opportunity if Sixers center Joel Embiid ever goes on the trade market.

Latest On Joel Embiid, Sixers

Things have felt a little off in Philadelphia this season. Widely considered a top-two team in the Eastern Conference entering the season, the fifth-seeded Sixers have fallen short of those expectations so far and have struggled to smoothly incorporate major offseason signee Al Horford.

Franchise center Joel Embiid hasn’t been immune to the ups and downs of the 76ers’ season, having spoken last week about wanting to “get back to the fun Joel.” On Sunday, when Philadelphia hosted the Bulls, Embiid heard some boos from fans during pre-game intros and later appeared to shush the home crowd and say “Shut the f–k up” after hitting a dagger three in the fourth quarter (video link via Michael Lee of The Athletic).

Embiid, who claimed after the game that his comment was aimed at himself and not Philadelphia fans, said he didn’t care how it looked, adding that he wants to get back to being a “good a–hole.” On Monday, he posted an Instagram photo of that shushing moment, accompanied by the caption, You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain.”

Not content to leave it at that, Embiid later exchanged comments with Heat swingman Jimmy Butler, who replied to his former teammate’s Instagram post with the message, “I know a place where villains are welcome,” an apparent reference to Miami. Embiid’s response? “Damn right my brother.” (hat tip to Bleacher Report).

It’s premature to read too much into Embiid’s on-court actions on Sunday and his social media posts after the game. Considering the way the 76ers’ season has played out, the big man was probably just letting out some frustration and then engaging in some light trolling. He published a tweet later on Monday night reasserting his commitment to Philadelphia.

Still, given the ongoing drama, this is a situation worth keeping an eye on. When the Sixers were eliminated in the second round of the playoffs last spring, head coach Brett Brown‘s job security seemed tenuous, and if the team doesn’t advance even further in this year’s postseason, changes of some kind are probably coming.

A head coaching change and/or secondary roster moves are much more likely than anything drastic involving Embiid or Ben Simmons, but teams around the NBA are monitoring the situation. ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his podcast this week (hat tip to RealGM) that rival executives have started to openly wonder whether the Sixers would consider moving Embiid. As Windhorst acknowledged, that’s an extremely unlikely scenario, but it’s notable that execs don’t believe it’s an impossibility.

“My point is people are talking about that,” Windhorst said, per RealGM. “I don’t think they would do that without making an adjustment to the head coach. It’s such a radical thing. But the fact that we’re in mid-February and the people who work in the league, who have to prepare in advance, are mulling over Joel Embiid potentially coming to market, whether that’s true or not… I mean, (Sixers owner) Josh Harris can come on this podcast and deny it if he wants, but the fact people are talking about it, is not good. It’s a symptom of where they are.”