Jimmy Butler

Heat Notes: Riley, Untouchables, Herro, Nnaji

In speaking to reporters last Friday about the Heat‘s NBA Finals loss to the Lakers, team president Pat Riley said “there’s always going to be an asterisk, that caveat” from the Heat’s perspective due to the fact that neither Bam Adebayo nor Goran Dragic was fully healthy for the series. However, Riley made it clear in his follow-up comments on Sunday that he wasn’t saying that an “asterisk” should be placed next to Lakers’ championship itself.

The asterisk is next to the Heat’s name, not the Lakers,” Riley said, per Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press (Twitter link). “Their title is legitimate. Our loss has an asterisk (next) to it. The Lakers were the better team. Period.”

While Riley’s initial wording left some room for interpretation, reading it as a dig aimed at the Lakers would’ve meant ignoring the surrounding context, according to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel, who noted that when Riley wants to make a point, he’s rarely subtle about it.

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • In a separate article for The Sun Sentinel, Winderman considered which Heat players could be had in hypothetical trades and which would be off the table, identifying the team’s “untouchables” as Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and – for entirely different reasons – Udonis Haslem.
  • After a surprise run to the NBA Finals, the Heat will have to decide how aggressive they want to be with their current roster, writes Zach Harper of The Athletic. Within the story, Harper says league sources believe that if the Heat were to explore a trade for Victor Oladipo, they wouldn’t consider including Tyler Herro in any offer.
  • Former Arizona forward Zeke Nnaji worked out for the Heat on Sunday, according to Marc J. Spears of The Undefeated (Twitter link). The reigning Pac-12 Rookie of the Year, Nnaji is the No. 35 prospect on ESPN’s big board but could be an option for Miami at No. 20 in next month’s draft.

Heat Notes: Dragic, Butler, Offseason Decisions

Although Heat point guard Goran Dragic was active for Game 6 and was able to play 19 minutes on Sunday, he was limited by his torn left plantar fascia. After the game, he told reporters that the injury – which he suffered in Game 1 of the Finals – won’t require surgery and that it should heal on its own now that he has plenty of time for rest and rehab.

The one thing I didn’t have (until now) was time,” Dragic told reporters, including Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald (Twitter link).

Dragic will be a free agent this offseason and will be able to sign with any team. However, his comments after the game suggested he’ll be looking to re-sign with the Heat. In a message to fans on Twitter, he said of the Heat, “What we’ve built is something special and we’ll be back!”

Heat star Jimmy Butler, for one, would welcome Dragic back with open arms. Butler said after the game that he wishes he could play with the veteran point guard “forever,” according to Jackson (Twitter link).

Here’s more on the Heat:

  • Despite making the Finals and getting to within two games of a championship as a No. 5 seed, Butler said on Sunday night that the team fell short of its goals for the season. “I told them that I would win them (a title) and I didn’t hold up my end of the bargain, so that means I got to do it next year,” Butler said, per Nick Friedell of ESPN. “I told Coach Pat (Riley), I told Coach Spo (Erik Spoelstra) I’m here to win one. I didn’t do my job, so moving forward, I got to hold up my end of the bargain.” Butler also reiterated a point he has made in the past, stating after the loss that playing for the Heat is “where I belong.”
  • While the Heat’s magical Walt Disney World run was cut short a couple wins shy of a title, the team is well-positioned to enjoy more success in the coming years, writes Manny Navarro of The Athletic.
  • In an Insider-only piece for ESPN.com, Bobby Marks previews the Heat’s upcoming offseason, including the team’s decisions on a possible rookie scale extension for Bam Adebayo and new contracts for veteran free agents Jae Crowder and Dragic.

Heat Notes: Butler, Robinson, Spoelstra, Campus

Heat guard Jimmy Butler has cemented his status as a respected star and leader regardless of the NBA Finals outcome, Ramona Shelburne of ESPN.com writes.

Butler, who’s in his first season with Miami, has guided his team to a 14-6 postseason record, trailing the Lakers 3-2 in the Finals despite coping with key injuries to Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo since Game 1 of the series. He willed his team to victory in Game 5, pouring in 35 points, 12 rebounds, 11 assists and five steals in over 47 minutes.

“His will to win is remarkable,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said postgame. “To do that in 47-plus minutes and take the challenge on at the other end — every young player coming into this league should study footage on Jimmy Butler.”

Miami has surprised the basketball world these playoffs, sweeping the Pacers in round one, upsetting the Bucks 4-1 in round two and defeating a star-studded Celtics team 4-2 in the Eastern Conference Finals. The team has generated its momentum behind the likes of Butler, Dragic and Adebayo, plus the emergence of Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson.

There’s more out of Miami tonight:

  • The Lakers learned in Game 5 that Duncan Robinson can be exceptionally deadly from three-point range once he catches fire, Jeff Zilgitt of USA TODAY writes. Robinson scored a career-high 26 points on 7-for-13 shooting from deep on Friday, further solidifying himself as one of the league’s elite shooters. “Obviously, they’ve done a really good job scheming to take things away, but for me, it’s just about finding a way – whatever it takes to get to my spots,” Robinson said. “If you continue to do that, you’ll have your openings. You’ll be able to find spots here and there. If I catch the ball and can see the rim, it’s going up, pretty much.”

Goran Dragic Suffers Plantar Tear; Bam Adebayo Strains Shoulder

The Heat suffered a blowout loss to the Lakers on Wednesday night in Game 1 of the NBA Finals, falling behind in the third quarter by 32 points before ultimately losing by 18. To make matters worse, a number of the team’s most important players were dealing with injuries by the time the final horn sounded.

Goran Dragic suffered the most significant of those injuries, according to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, who reports that the Heat’s starting point guard has been diagnosed with a plantar fascia tear and will be re-evaluated before Game 2.

Wojnarowski notes (via Twitter) that Dragic has been able to put pressure on his injured left foot and hasn’t ruled out a return this series. The veteran left the arena without using a walking boot and wasn’t favoring his left foot much, adds Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports (via Twitter).

Still, the injury is a painful one that typically sidelines players for multiple weeks, as Jeff Stotts of In Street Clothes explains. There’s precedence for a player sustaining a torn plantar fascia in the playoffs and attempting to play through it, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks (Twitter link), who points to Nets forward Joe Johnson in 2013. However, Marks cautions that, despite receiving injections for the pain, Johnson’s effectiveness was compromised for the rest of that series.

Told after Game 1 on Wednesday about the severity of Dragic’s injury, Jimmy Butler said the club has to be ready to play with or without its starting point guard in Game 2, per Malika Andrews of ESPN.

“He’s a big part of what we’re trying to do, but until we can have him back, we got to go out there and we got to fight even harder,” Butler said. “We got to try to cover up what he gives us and make up for it. We’re capable of it. We have to be capable of it. Moving forward, with or without Goran, we better hurry up and tie it up 1-1.”

In addition to Dragic, the Heat’s two All-Stars – Butler and Bam Adebayo – will also have to deal with health issues going forward. Butler was able to remain in Game 1 after rolling his left ankle, while Adebayo suffered a left shoulder strain that knocked him out of the game.

Having finished out Game 1, Butler is expected to be available going forward. As for Adebayo, the Heat said X-rays on his shoulder were negative, and he intends to play on Friday, according to Tim Reynolds of The Associated Press, who cautions (via Twitter) that there will be “a lot of treatment” in the big man’s future on Thursday.

If Dragic is unavailable and Adebayo is limited, the Heat figure to reinsert All-Rookie First Team guard Kendrick Nunn and veteran big man Kelly Olynyk into their rotation. However, those injuries will make the Heat an even longer shot to pull off the upset and defeat the Lakers for this year’s title.

Rockets Notes: Butler, Coaching Search, Lue, JVG, Cassell

Before he committed to the Heat during last year’s free agency period, Jimmy Butler was a prime target for the Rockets, who attempted to go all-in for him on two separate occasions, as Jonathan Feigen of The Houston Chronicle details.

Houston’s first run at Butler came during the 2018/19 league year, when he was being shopped by the Timberwolves. At the time, the Rockets were willing to offer a package that included four first-round picks, but Minnesota ultimately preferred a Philadelphia offer headlined by two affordable veterans who were ready to contribute immediately (Robert Covington and Dario Saric).

Still convinced that Butler could be the player that helped push the team over the top, Rockets GM Daryl Morey was prepared to renew his push for him during 2019’s free agent period. According to Feigen, the club was lining up trades to move Clint Capela and Eric Gordon in order to create the cap flexibility necessary to land Butler. However, despite the fact that he’s from the Houston area and is close with James Harden, Butler decided early in free agency that he wanted to head to Miami, closing the door on the Rockets’ pursuit.

Here’s more on the Rockets, with a focus on their head coaching search:

  • While the Rockets have interest in Doc Rivers, they’re also preparing to schedule meetings with several other candidates for their head coaching job. According to Feigen, Houston had planned to begin scheduling those interviews by this Wednesday and Thursday, and the club’s list of candidates is expected to include Tyronn Lue, Jeff Van Gundy, Kenny Atkinson, Wes Unseld Jr., Stephen Silas, and perhaps Sam Cassell.
  • Lue and Van Gundy were the first two candidates identified as possibilities for the Clippers, but it sounds like both coaches are high on Houston’s list as well. According to Marc Stein of The New York Times (Twitter links), Morey wanted to hire Van Gundy in 2016 and owner Tilman Fertitta is believed to be a JVG fan, while Lue has also “received support” for the Rockets’ job.
  • Kelly Iko of The Athletic explores whether Lue or Cassell would be good fits as the Rockets’ head coach, expressing a belief that Cassell may actually check a lot of the boxes on Houston’s list.

Heat Notes: Adebayo, Riley, Heat Culture

The Heat aren’t saying how much Bam Adebayo‘s aching left wrist and forearm are affecting him, but he turned in a sub-par performance Friday night as the Celtics stayed alive in the Eastern Conference Finals, writes Manny Navarro of The Athletic. Afterward, the All-Star center told reporters he accepts responsibility for Miami’s failure to close out the series.

“I’ll put that game on me,” he said. “It’s not my teammates’ fault. It’s not my coaches’ fault. It’s me. I missed too many shots I should have made. … I wasn’t being the defensive anchor I should’ve been. I don’t think I was communicating fast enough. I feel like I was a step behind today. I wasn’t a difference-maker today. I didn’t get us into fast enough triggers. That’s on me.”

Adebayo posted 13 points, eight rebounds and eight assists, but allowed 1.65 points per possession as the screen defender on direct pick-and-roll plays, which is well above his average. Adebayo’s teammates stuck up for him afterward, and Navarro notes that poor 3-point shooting had a lot to do with the loss.

“That’s not on Bam. He should not say that,” responded Goran Dragic. “We know it’s not like that. It’s not on nobody. It’s on us together as a team. We should do a better job as a team. Everybody looked terrible in the third quarter. We didn’t defend. We didn’t do our job.”

There’s more Heat news to pass along:

  • Kentucky’s John Calipari, who coached Adebayo in college, tells Marc Stein of The New York Times that the 23-year-old has been able to create his own position in the NBA. “He’s a point-center. Tell me the last one,” Calipari said. “And I mean truly a point-center. Not a big guy who can pass. He can bounce it and get by you. He can make bang-bang plays like a point guard. He can do Eurosteps. And he’s still going to rebound and block shots.”
  • As the Heat near the one-year anniversary of the start of training camp, Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel looks back at comments from team president Pat Riley to see how they panned out. Of particular interest are his predictions for Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn and his excitement over acquiring Jimmy Butler“The fact that Jimmy Butler wanted to come and play in Miami, that was enough for me,” Riley said last September. “We’re going to find out how he meshes with our team. We’ll see what his impact on winning is. That’s what I’m encouraged about. I embrace all the qualities he has.”
  • Nick Friedell of ESPN asked several players to explain the “Heat culture” philosophy that defines the organization. “You had to go through something in life that put a chip on your shoulder,” said veteran forward Udonis Haslem. “And that’s built grit inside you that you’re willing to go through extreme circumstances to get where you’re trying to go.”

Southeast Notes: Graham, Capela, Butler, Magic

Hornets guard Devonte’ Graham enjoyed a breakout 2019/20 campaign, boosting his scoring average from 4.7 PPG to 18.2 PPG to go along with 7.5 APG and a .373 3PT% on 9.3 attempts per game. However, the former second-round pick wasn’t a finalist for the league’s Most Improved Player award, finishing fifth in voting.

“Obviously, I was upset about it. I’m pretty much over it now,” Graham said on Thursday following the Hornets’ group workout, per Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer. “I just know the people who really watch and are around basketball know.”

Having initially signed a three-year, $4.07MM contract with the Hornets after being drafted 34th overall in 2018, Graham will be entering a contract year in 2020/21 and said on Thursday that he’s open to discussing an extension with the team this offseason, according to Bonnell.

Because he’s a minimum-salary player, the Hornets guard would be eligible for a starting salary worth up to 120% of the league’s estimated average salary. If the cap stays at the same level in ’20/21 that it did in ’19/20, that would translate to a maximum extension of $51.4MM over four years.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Having been fully cleared after battling a foot injury for the second half of the 2019/20 season, Hawks center Clint Capela has been able to participate in drills and mini-scrimmages at the team’s in-market bubble camp, writes Chris Kirschner of The Athletic. Head coach Lloyd Pierce is excited about how Capela will be able to help Atlanta on the glass. “Defensive rebounding has been a big issue for us,” Pierce said. “He just knows how to do it. He knows how to hold off a guy with one arm and get (the ball) with the other. Just really simple things that you can’t teach. … He showed a couple of those possessions where you instantly look down there, and you’re like, ‘We’ll be all right there.'”
  • With the Heat one win away from returning to the NBA Finals, head coach Erik Spoelstra looked back this week on the team’s meeting with Jimmy Butler in free agency last summer, discussing how the two sides immediately connected, as Barry Jackson and Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald detail. “We have the same shared values about competition. It works for us. We don’t have to apologize for it,” Spoelstra said. “Times he’s been criticized for it, who cares? Just really grateful we got him.”
  • The coronavirus pandemic has slowed construction of the Magic‘s new practice facility, according to Josh Robbins of The Athletic, who says that team officials are now hopeful the project will be completed by December 1, 2021. The original target date was September 2021.

Timberwolves Notes: Butler, D-Lo, Layman, Gershon

Observing the 2020 postseason ascent of one-time Timberwolves All-Star Jimmy Butler has allowed Patrick Reusse of the Minnesota Star Tribune to glean some perspective on Butler’s old team.

Reusse opines that former Timberwolves coach Tom Thibodeau‘s instincts were correct in making his 2017 trade with the Bulls to acquire Butler — but that the team erred in signing 2014 No. 1 pick Andrew Wiggins to a his full five-year, $148MM maximum contract extension. When it became clear that this meant Butler would not be able to get the kind of maximum extension he desired, he forced his way out of Minnesota.

There’s more out of the Gopher State:

  • Point guard-turned-assistant coach Pablo Prigioni could be the key to improving the play of Wolves star point guard D’Angelo Russell, according to Jon Krawczynski of The Athletic. Prigioni was also a part of the Nets coaching staff when Russell made his lone All-Star appearance for Brooklyn.
  • Wolves forward Jake Layman recently discussed the team’s in-market group practices, which commenced this week. “It has been great,” Layman said, per a team tweet. “I think going over those little things really builds the chemistry on and off the court and that has translated well to playing our 3-on-3 drill and 5-on-5.”
  • As we previously relayed, the Wolves ahead of the 2020 draft will add 247 Sports analyst Josh Gershon to their front office. He will serve as a consultant for the team’s draft preparation and player personnel.

Atlantic Notes: Celtics, Nets, Knicks, Raptors

If the Celtics are unable to come back from a 3-1 deficit to knock off the Heat in the Eastern Conference Finals, they may not be able to help looking back on a pair of 50-50 outcomes from past drafts that didn’t go in their favor.

As Sam Amick of The Athletic details, the first of those draft-day coin flips came in 2011, when the Celtics owned the 27th overall pick and had narrowed down their choice to JaJuan Johnson or Jimmy Butler. Boston selected Johnson, allowing Butler to fall to Chicago at No. 30. Today, Johnson is eight years removed from playing in his last NBA game, while Butler is on the verge of eliminating the C’s from the postseason (albeit after changing teams three times).

Meanwhile, Game 4 star Tyler Herro, who established a new career high on Wednesday with 37 points, was selected by the Heat in the 2019 draft at No. 13, one pick ahead of the Celtics at No. 14. Those draft slots were as a result of a three-team tiebreaker for the Nos. 12-14 selections, after Charlotte, Miami, and Sacramento all finished the season with identical records. The Hornets won the tiebreaker and claimed the No. 12 pick, while the Heat got No. 13. The C’s, who owned the Kings’ pick, ended up at No. 14.

As A. Sherrod Blakely of NBC Sports Boston writes, there was a “collective moan” among the Celtics’ brass after the Heat selected Herro at No. 13 a year ago, since the C’s had their eye on the Kentucky sharpshooter. They would have had a shot to draft him if they’d had better luck in that draft tiebreaker.

Here’s more from around the Atlantic:

  • Brian Lewis of The New York Post questions whether the Nets really need to make a trade for a third star, suggesting that the missing piece for the roster may instead be a tough wing defender who could be signed using the mid-level exception. Lewis points to veteran forward Andre Roberson as one possibility, assuming he’s fully healthy.
  • David Nurse, a life/skills coach for a number of NBA players, believes that the Knicks will benefit from new assistant coach Johnnie Bryant‘s player development abilities, as Ian Begley of SNY.tv relays. “He focuses on the details and the specifics for each player,” Nurse said on Begley’s podcast, The Putback. “Player development gets thrown out there as a buzzword, like culture. No one really knows what it means. Most (people think of it as) being just rebounding for players, shooting spot shots. But that’s not player development. Johnnie realizes it’s about the details with helping these players that he works with, focusing on their strengths.”
  • Blake Murphy and Eric Koreen of The Athletic explore a few Raptors offseason topics, including how much the team’s initial offer to free agent guard Fred VanVleet should be worth, while Doug Smith of The Toronto Star says that president of basketball operations Masai Ujiri and GM Bobby Webster will earn their money during this offseason of uncertainty.

Heat Notes: Butler, UD, Wade, Riley

Heat All-Star wing Jimmy Butler has emerged as the leader of a team two games away from the NBA Finals this season. His departures from his prior three teams painted a different picture of his personality.

In a revealing piece, ESPN’s Nick Friedell takes a look at Butler through the eyes of teammates, coaches, front office executives, and team owners past and present, navigating historic quotes that cover Jimmy’s debut in the league all the way through his current standing as one of its premiere players.

There’s more out of South Beach today:

  • Butler’s uniqueness as a team-first All-Star has made scoring a lesser priority for him. Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel examines whether Butler can be a dominant scorer for the Heat, especially in the first halves of games, in the rest of the postseason.
  • Veteran Heat power forward Udonis Haslem credits the father of teammate Jae Crowder, Corey, with his 17-season NBA career. After going undrafted in 2002, Haslem headed to France, where he linked up with the elder Crowder as both played for French club Chalon-sur-Saône. After Haslem began dominating team practices, he found encouragement from Crowder to try again at the next level. “That’s when I told him, ‘You’ve got to get to the NBA,’” Corey Crowder said.
  • As Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald recaps, former Heat All-Star Dwyane Wade spoke on 790 The Ticket’s Tobin & Leroy Show about the Heat’s youth movement this season and the future of longtime Heat mastermind Pat Riley, who is 75. “I think [Riley’s] going to be around [well after this season],” Wade said. “His office is going to still be his office. Even if he’s not in that position, he’s still going to come into practice everyday. This is his life. This is what he loves. This is him. I don’t see him going anywhere.”