Jimmy Butler

Jimmy Butler Talks Heat Struggles, COVID-19 Battle

After a rash of injuries to key players and inconsistent play, the Heat own a 12-17 record, a far cry from last season when the team made the NBA Finals. As Miami prepares for an NBA Finals rematch against the Lakers on Saturday, superstar Jimmy Butler discussed the team’s 2020/21 season.

Speaking to ESPN’s Rachel Nichols on The Jump, Butler discussed the Heat’s “terrible” play thus far, as well as his confidence that the team will things around. At 12-17, Miami occupies the 10th seed in the Eastern Conference but is just 1.5 games from the eighth seed. Butler expressed optimism for the remainder of the season and also covered his battle with COVID-19.

Butler’s assessment on the Heat’s performance this season:

“Terrible. Terrible. Just terrible. Not the way we say we want to play. Not the way we’re supposed to be playing. But it’s OK, because we will turn it around. And like the saying says, better late than never.”

Butler on Miami’s ability to turn things around:

“We know what adversity is. We’re supposed to be better. We’re supposed to get better and bring everybody up with us. Maybe here and there we’ve forgotten that. We will get back to it, though. I promise you that. We will.”

Butler on his fight with COVID-19 earlier this year:

“Yeah, it’s scary. Don’t believe reports of me losing 12 pounds, either, ‘cause that’s not the case. I had a light headache, and I felt like I was ready to go. I wanted to compete. Obviously, you cannot do that. But it didn’t hit me that hard.”

Windhorst’s Latest: Tucker, House, Shumpert, Oubre, Ball, Butler, Lowry

The Rockets are seeking a first-round pick or three second-rounders for P.J. Tucker, ESPN’s Brian Windhorst said on his latest Hoop Collective podcast. Houston was unable to reach an extension agreement with Tucker prior to the season and he has been the subject of trade rumors. He’s making a reasonable $8MM this season and will be an unrestricted free agent this summer.

The Rockets’ desire to accumulate multiple second-rounders for Tucker has previously been reported but Windhorst indicates they’d want a first-rounder as an alternative. Houston already has a stockpile of first-rounders from the James Harden blockbuster.

Windhorst also divulged a number of other tidbits during his podcast:

  • Speaking of the Rockets, forward Danuel House has attracted some trade interest around the league. House is signed through next season but he has a team-friendly contract — $3.72MM this season and $3.89MM next season.
  • Iman Shumpert’s new contract with the Nets is non-guaranteed. Brooklyn filled a roster spot by signing the veteran guard over the weekend.
  • There are rumors circulating about a potential WarriorsPelicans trade involving Kelly Oubre and Lonzo Ball. The Bulls, who continue to look for a long-term solution at point guard, might also be interested in Ball, who will have a qualifying offer in excess of $14MM this offseason.
  • Heat star wing Jimmy Butler lost more than 10 pounds during his recent bout with COVID-19, something that Ethan J. Skolnick also noted last week on the Five on the Floor podcast (hat tip to Radio.com).
  • The Raptors could be in the market for a player who could jolt their offense. If Toronto doesn’t turn things around, the team might consider offers for Kyle Lowry, who could become an “interesting” rental for a contender. Lowry is headed to unrestricted free agency but his $30.5MM contract would complicate the process of moving him.

Southeast Notes: Butler, Heat, Ball, Isaac

The Heat are looking to “right the ship” and improve on bad habits created during the absence of Jimmy Butler and others this month, Ira Winderman of The Sun Sentinel writes.

Butler, who returned on Saturday after missing ten straight games due to the league’s health and safety protocols, poured in 30 points, seven rebounds and eight assists in the contest. It was Miami’s first victory in over a week, snapping a five-game losing streak.

“It’s a start,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We just have to continue to forge ahead. Our spirit has been lifted. It feels different than it did two weeks ago.”

Miami has battled COVID-19 and a series of injuries thus far, opening the 2020/21 season with a 7-12 record. The team has upcoming games scheduled against the Hornets on Monday and the Wizards on Wednesday and Friday.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • The Heat and Butler mutually missed each other during his absence, David Wilson writes for The Miami Herald. Butler is coming off a season that saw him average 19.9 points, 6.7 rebounds and six assists per game, leading Miami to its first Finals appearance since 2014.
  • Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer examines whether Hornets rookie LaMelo Ball is ready to make his first NBA start. Ball scored a career-high 27 points in the team’s win over Milwaukee on Saturday, also adding five rebounds, nine assists and four steals on 8-of-10 shooting.
  • Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is embracing the grind of his rehab, working his way back from a torn ACL suffered last August, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes. “I like the work. I like getting in and grinding every day,” Isaac said. “I think most people would think that that’s the hardest part but I take it like I’m out there playing on the court when I’m doing my rehab. This is my game right now. But the hardest part is definitely just being on the sideline and watching those guys fighting and just wishing I was out there with them.

Jimmy Butler Returns For Heat

Jimmy Butler will be back in Miami’s lineup tonight after missing the past 10 games due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, tweets Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press. Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said the All-Star forward won’t be on a minutes restriction (Twitter link).

Butler will be a welcome addition for Miami, which has lost five straight games and is 2-8 since he was sidelined. Butler spent most of the week doing conditioning work and was deemed ready to return tonight.

“He’s worked extremely hard behind the scenes,” Spoelstra said in a tweet from the team.

Butler, whose addition sparked Miami to an NBA Finals run last year, has been limited to just six games this season. He’s averaging 15.8 points, 5.5 rebounds and 5.3 assists per night and will be crucial to helping the Heat move back up the standings.

Southeast Notes: Butler, Dunn, Richards, Hawks

Heat All-Star swingman Jimmy Butler will remain out of commission for tonight’s contest against the Clippers, Ohm Youngmisuk of ESPN tweets. The 31-year-old forward has been out since January 9 due to the league’s coronavirus protocols. He has been doing conditioning work this week, though there is no timetable for him to return to the court, according to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press (Twitter link).

After a stellar postseason run that resulted in an all-time 2020 NBA Finals performance, Butler has appeared in just six games for the Heat this season. Miami has struggled in his absence, going 3-8 without him. The Heat will also be without several other rotation players tonight, including Goran Dragic, Avery Bradley, Andre Iguodala, Maurice Harkless, Meyers Leonard and Chris Silva, per Reynolds (Twitter link).

There’s more from around the Southeast:

  • As he recovers from a December 29 right ankle surgery, Hawks reserve wing Kris Dunn will miss at least two more weeks before being re-assessed, according to press release from the team. The Hawks indicated that Dunn has been able to partake in individual on-court practice activities.
  • The Hornets have recalled rookie Nick Richards from the NBA G League’s Orlando “bubble” campus, per Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer. Richards was added back to the club so that Charlotte could have 12 active players, the required threshold unless a team is limited by injuries or COVID-19 protocols. After sending five players to suit up for their NBAGL squad, the Greensboro Swarm, yesterday, the Hornets were left with just 11 available players. Bonnell anticipates that Richards return to the “bubble” at some point this season (Twitter link).
  • Although the Hawks made a splash with several big-money veteran free agent signings during the offseason, it is the 9-9 club’s incumbent youngsters that have had the biggest impact so far this season, as Chris Kirschner of The Athletic details. Second-year swingmen De’Andre Hunter and Cam Reddish, both 2019 lottery selections, have made impressive strides as scorers, while big man John Collins has vastly improved on defense. “We feel like we can be in the mix with some of these top teams,” third-year All-Star point guard Trae Young said. “For us, we’re just going to go out there and believe we should win each and every game, which we should.”

Avery Bradley Discusses Positive COVID-19 Test, Potential Return

Veteran guard Avery Bradley, one of several Heat players to miss time this month due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, confirmed in a conversation with Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports that he tested positive for COVID-19.

Bradley opted out of the NBA’s restart over the summer in large part because he has a seven-year-old son who suffers from a respiratory illness and didn’t want to risk his family’s health. When he tested positive during the second week of January, he had to self-isolate from his family members. He told Haynes that they continued to test negative, much to his relief.

While he was relieved not to have affected the health of his wife and children, Bradley was frustrated to have contracted the virus despite following all the required protocols, as he told Haynes.

“I was upset because I come to work and I do the right things, I come to work every single day and do all the protocols to make sure I’m protected so I can protect my family,” Bradley said. “To come up with the news knowing that I got it at work, I was a little frustrated to be honest. I was frustrated because I felt like it compromised my family’s safety.”

Bradley, who signed with the Heat in the offseason, was off to an impressive start with his new team before being sidelined, averaging 10.0 PPG on .490/.448/.778 shooting in seven games (22.9 MPG), while playing solid perimeter defense. He told Haynes he thinks he’ll be back in action for Miami on Wednesday night when the team faces Denver.

Heat forward Jimmy Butler is nearing a return as well, though Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel hears that the five-time All-Star is a couple days behind Bradley in the protocol process. If that’s the case, a Thursday or Saturday return may be more likely for Butler.

Southeast Notes: Butler, Bamba, Hawks, Len, Wizards

The Heat may not be without star swingman Jimmy Butler for much longer. According to Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald, the expectation is that Butler – who hasn’t played since January 9 – will clear the NBA’s health and safety protocols on Monday.

The Heat will be in action tonight in Brooklyn, but Butler will need a little more time to get his conditioning back up to speed and to pass a cardiac screening before he’s cleared to play in a game. Jackson says there’s optimism that Butler will be able to return later this week and that the same is true of Avery Bradley, who has also been in the league’s COVID-19 protocols for over two weeks.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • The sixth overall pick in 2018, Magic center Mohamed Bamba has an underwhelming NBA résumé so far, but it’s unfair to label him a bust since injuries and a lack of playing time have prevented him from showing what he can do, contends Jonathan Tjarks of The Ringer. The 22-year-old has been limited to 33 total minutes across four games so far this season.
  • In an official press release, the Hawks shared details on their plan to begin allowing fans into their home games at State Farm Arena. The club will initially only fill the arena to about eight percent of its capacity.
  • Alex Len was an ideal addition for the Wizards, who needed to fill a hole in their frontcourt and didn’t want to give up anything to do so, says Fred Katz of The Athletic. As Katz notes, the veteran big man was able to assume a rotation role immediately and looked comfortable in his first game with the team on Sunday.
  • While the Wizards were back in action for the first time in nearly two weeks on Sunday, it’ll be a little while longer before things are “back to normal” for the team, writes Ava Wallace of The Washington Post.

Eight Heat Players Unavailable Due To COVID-19 Protocols

3:58pm: In addition to Bradley, the Heat will be without the following players for Tuesday’s game in Philadelphia due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols, per Reynolds (Twitter link): Jimmy Butler, Goran Dragic, Bam Adebayo, Kendrick Nunn, Maurice Harkless, Udonis Haslem, and KZ Okpala.

That would leave the team with nine available players, assuming everyone else is healthy. Meyers Leonard (shoulder) is currently listed as questionable, while Kelly Olynyk (groin) and Gabe Vincent (knee) are probable, Reynolds notes (via Twitter).

2:14pm: The Heat are preparing to be without “at least five” players for the next several days due to possible exposure to the coronavirus, reports Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press.

Miami didn’t have the required minimum of eight players available on Sunday due to an inconclusive COVID-19 test and subsequent contact tracing, per Shams Charania of The Athletic. As a result, the team’s scheduled game in Boston was postponed. Subsequently, the Heat spent Sunday and Monday awaiting the results of the NBA’s contact tracing investigation to find out which players may be required to self-isolate for the next week, says Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald.

According to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel, the Heat are arranging for the players who need to self-isolate due to contact tracing to fly back to Miami on a private plane. The player who tested positive for COVID-19 will be sequestered in a hotel, while the rest of the team flies to Philadelphia in anticipation of playing vs. the Sixers.

Based on Winderman’s report, it sounds like the Heat expect to have enough players to resume their schedule on Tuesday vs. Philadelphia, though we don’t know yet who will and won’t be available. Avery Bradley‘s absence due to the league’s health and safety protocols was the only one reported on Sunday — all signs point to Bradley being the player who tested positive for the coronavirus, Winderman notes, but that hasn’t been confirmed.

Injury/Coronavirus Updates: Craig, Butler, Okongwu, Snell, Caruso, Anthony

Bucks swingman Torrey Craig suffered a nasal fracture on Sunday against the Knicks and won’t play against the Heat on Tuesday, the team’s PR department tweets. Craig signed with Milwaukee last month after the Nuggets failed to extend a qualifying offer.

We have more injury and COVID-19 news:

  • Heat star Jimmy Butler is doubtful to play against the Bucks on Tuesday, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets. Butler sprained an ankle during the team’s game on Friday.
  • Hawks rookie big man Onyeka Okongwu (left foot inflammation) and guard Tony Snell (right foot inflammation) have been cleared to progress to live contact workouts, Chris Kirschner of The Athletic tweets.
  • Alex Caruso became the first Lakers player to miss a game due to COVID-19 protocols. Caruso sat out against Portland on Monday. Coach Frank Vogel said no other players or staff members were held out due to contact tracing, according to ESPN’s Dave McMenamin. Trail Blazers forward Carmelo Anthony wasn’t with his team due to the same reason, as Casey Holdahl tweets.

Heat Notes: Bradley, Achiuwa, Butler, Bench

Heat guard Avery Bradley made the most of his opportunity on Christmas Day, recording 12 points, four assists and two steals in the team’s first win of the season, Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel writes.

This was Bradley’s first action with Miami, who signed him to a free-agent contract last month. His pesky defense was notably effective against Pelicans guard J.J. Redick, holding the veteran shooter to just 1-of-7 from the floor.

“It’s something that just sort of happened,” Bradley said. “But this league is a league where you have to always be prepared. We’re professional athletes, and part of being professional is always staying ready.

“I knew if I got my opportunity, I was going to make the most of it and go out there and play as hard as I can and leave everything on the floor. And that was my goal, to play that way and live with any mistakes that I make.”

Bradley’s career has been predicated on hard-nosed defense, especially against smaller guards, though many wonder how productive he can be offensively. Should he continue playing as he did on Christmas, the 30-year-old would have a legitimate shot at becoming a regular rotation piece for the defending Eastern champs.

There’s more from the Southeast Division tonight:

  • Heat rookie Precious Achiuwa is already impressing coaches and teammates alike during his first month in the NBA, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald writes. Achiuwa finished with 11 points off the bench on Friday, but the 21-year-old fouled out in just 19 minutes off the bench. Still, the Heat are enamored by his skillset, maturity and intangibles, envisioning him as a potential long-term fit next to Bam Adebayo.
  • Jimmy Butler exited Friday’s game early after experiencing stiffness with his injured ankle, Chiang writes in a separate article for the Miami Herald. Butler first sustained the injury against Orlando on Wednesday, attempting to play through it on Christmas. He managed to play 16 total minutes before exiting.
  • Miami’s bench could be exceptionally special this season, Chiang opines, noting how deep the team is for a second consecutive season. While the starting lineup still isn’t finalized, the Heat currently have Goran Dragic, Avery Bradley, Kendrick Nunn, Andre Iguodala, Kelly Olynyk and others all coming off the bench. The team’s depth played a key role in its success last season and could prove to be effective once again this year.