Jimmy Butler

Heat Notes: Butler, Adebayo, Nunn

In an excellent piece, SB Nation’s Ricky O’Donnell takes a look at Heat superstar Jimmy Butler‘s sterling start for his new squad. O’Donnell contends that Butler has been everything the Heat wanted him to be when they inked him to a four-year, $141MM maximum contract in a sign-and-trade with the Sixers this summer.

Butler has been the rising tide to lift all ships on the Heat’s lengthy, defensive-oriented roster. As of this writing, Miami has leapt from No. 26 last year to No. 11 in offensive rating. The Heat are rated No. 8 on defense. Their 16-6 record is good for the third seed in the East, and they remain perfect (9-0) at home.

The 6’8″ wing has been stuffing stat sheets in every traditional and advanced category. Butler is averaging 20.5 PPG, plus career highs in rebounds (6.3 RPG) and assists (6.8 APG). In a 112-103 win over the Wizards last night, Butler recorded his second triple-double over the past three games. He scored 28 points (on 9-of-16 shooting from the field), pulled down 11 boards, and dished 11 dimes.

Following his Friday output, Butler currently ranks No. 5 in Player Impact Plus-Minus and No. 5 in FiveThirtyEight’s RAPTOR (“Robust Algorithm (using) Player Tracking (and) On/Off Ratings”) metric. He also sits at No. 6 in box score plus-minus, No. 5 in win shares per 48 minutes, and No. 7 in Value Over Replacement Player. Butler’s impact on the team can be felt on both ends of the court.

There’s more news out of South Beach:

  • David Furones of the South Florida Sentinel reports that Butler might be giving at least one player an additional financial incentive to expand the breadth of his offense. After scoring a career-high 24 points in a win against the Wizards (in addition to blocking two shots and pulling down 14 rebounds), Bam Adebayo apparently owes Butler $500. Why? Because he didn’t shoot a triple during the game. Apparently, Adebayo owes Butler money for every contest in which he does not attempt a three, a fact that Adebayo only discovered “literally before the game,” according to the Heat center. Though this new arrangement appears to be all in good fun, Adebayo might want to keep his checkbook handy: he has only attempted six threes in 22 games this season.
  • After going undrafted in 2018 out of Oakland University, Kendrick Nunn has earned some early Rookie of the Year buzz this season. The Miami Herald’s Barry Jackson details how the Heat’s vice president of basketball operations Adam Simon and general manager Andy Elisburg landed Nunn. As a backup guard for the Warriors’ G League affiliate last season, Nunn averaged 19.3 points. Miami inked Nunn on the final day of the 2o18/19 regular season, which equipped Nunn with full Bird rights for the moment his $3.1MM two-year-plus-one-day contract expires in 2021.
  • Nunn, his fellow Heat rookie Tyler Herro (the No. 13 pick in the 2019 draft), and the team’s other new veteran additions haven’t just been impressing fans and NBA writers with their play this season. They’ve been impressing their longer-tenured teammates, too. The Athletic’s Andre Fernandez and Manny Navarro spoke with 17-year Heat vet Udonis Haslem about his new teammates’ obsessive ambition. “We have a lot of guys that have a chip on their shoulder, something to prove, so naturally it’s in a lot of these guys’ DNA,” Haslem said.

Southeast Notes: Wizards, MCW, Butler

Criticism can be hard to give and harder to accept but it’s something that teams in the NBA need to be comfortable with in order to improve. Wizards players are still figuring out one another and being constructive with criticism is something that the team has discussed within the locker room, as David Aldridge of The Athletic relay.

“You do it strategically,” said Ish Smith, who was part of the rebuild in Philadelphia. “Everybody ain’t rah-rah. You’ve got to be able to talk to them. And you’ve got to read people’s body language. How people walk, how do people talk, how they’re feeling, if they’re down if they’re up. Those are the things you’ve got to be able to do. You’ve got to communicate, not just by yelling and screaming. You’ve got to be able to pull guys to the side. And that all grows with relationships and just building throughout the season.”

Here’s more from the Southeast Division:

  • The Magic have listed Michael Carter-Williams as doubtful for Tuesday’s contest vs. the Wizards, Josh Robbins of the Orlando Sentinel tweets. The designation is technically an upgrade on out, which is what MCW has been for the last six contests, so the point guard may be nearing a return.
  • Jimmy Butler is proving to be the ultimate teammate, Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel writes. Butler is simply trying to win games and he’s not making it about personal glory or any statistics during his first year with the Heat.
  • In the same piece, Winderman explains why Justise Winslow has been playing in crunch time for the Heat over Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn. Winslow remaining on the floor has to do with his defense and coach Erik Spoelstra valued that late in games recently.

Heat Notes: Winslow, DeRozan, Leonard

Justise Winslow made his return to the lineup on Wednesday, playing 34 minutes in his first game back from a concussion. After the game, coach Erik Spoelstra said that the plan moving forward is not to have the Duke product play that much.

“I had no intention of playing him that much. K-Nunn got hit in the chest. He couldn’t play. Duncan got five fouls. So thank goodness we had Justise for those minutes,” Spo said (via Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald.

The team was also without Jimmy Butler, who missed the contest because he was not feeling well. Butler is expected to be back in action on Friday, so that will also cut into Winslow’s playing time.

Here’s more from Miami.

Southeast Notes: Fultz, Wizards, Butler, Waiters

Markelle Fultz has been aggressive and productive for the Magic in recent games, Roy Parry of the Orlando Sentinel writes. Fultz, who is eligible for a rookie scale extension next offseason, has scored in double figures the last four games while recording at least 14 drives in three of his past four games, Parry notes. The increased offensive production from the top pick in the 2017 draft comes at a time when top frontcourt players Nikola Vucevic and Aaron Gordon are nursing ankle sprains. “With a couple of our main guys out, I wanted to get guys going and I knew I had to be aggressive to help us make up those points that we were missing,” Fultz said. “It’s just about me getting into the paint and letting my guys know if they are cutting I’ll find them and also scoring when I have to.”

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • Beyond Bradley Beal, there are no players who are guaranteed crunch time minutes with the Wizards, Kevin Brown of NBC Sports Washington notes. During a close win against Charlotte last week, coach Scott Brooks used three reserves down the stretch. “I think we’re a team that doesn’t worry about rotations,” forward Davis Bertans said. “Whoever has their game going, those guys are going to be in the game and…that’s beneficial for the team and I think that’s everyone agrees with that.”
  • Jimmy Butler was greeted with mostly boos and jeers when the Heat played Philadelphia last week and he was fine with that, Michael Lee of The Athletic relays. Butler chose Miami at the start of free agency and the teams eventually agreed to a multi-team sign-and-trade. “I’m the enemy. I mean, you don’t got to like me ‘cause I’m on the other team. I’m OK with that. I really am,” he said. “They don’t know what’s going on. I love fans. I love my fans. But you don’t know what happened.”
  • Dion Waiters‘ appeal of his 10-game suspension could drag on for quite awhile, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. Waiters was suspended by the Heat for conduct detrimental to the team. Often a compromise is worked out behind the scenes in such cases and the arbitrator’s ruling might happen during the offseason, when all parties are available to participate in the process, Winderman adds.

Jimmy Butler Talks Sixers, Heat, Big Twos, Embiid

The Kawhi Leonard buzzer-beater that eliminated the Sixers from the playoffs in the spring and helped propel the Raptors to their first NBA championship was a sliding-doors moment for the league — and for star forward Jimmy Butler. Speaking to Michael Lee of The Athletic, Butler mused about what might have happened if Philadelphia had pulled out a win in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Semifinals in May.

“What happens if we win that game?” Butler said. “Do we win a championship? Am I in Philly? All of these ifs. Who knows?

“But you think about it. It’ll haunt you for the rest of your days — especially if you don’t get an opportunity — that you were that close. And then you’re like, man, one play, one possession, one anything and it easily could’ve been us winning that championship. If I ask you, who would you pick if we win that? You’d probably say Philly. Golden State is not healthy? I would say Philly. I don’t know many people who would say Golden State, if they’re not healthy.”

While it’s an agonizing what-if to consider for 76ers fans, that second-round loss ultimately opened up a path for the team to make some major changes in the offseason. According to ESPN’s Zach Lowe, the parent of one member of the Sixers told higher-ups that team chemistry felt off in the wake of the end of the 2018/19 season, and improving that chemistry has been a priority this fall, with Tobias Harris and Al Horford frequently organizing dinners that many players attend.

Lowe doesn’t suggest that Butler was responsible for last season’s chemistry issues, but he does confirm that the Sixers didn’t make the 30-year-old a five-year, maximum-salary offer during free agency, as previously reported by Adrian Wojnarowski and Shams Charania. For his part, Butler has found a new home with the Heat, telling Lee that Miami “just fits” him.

“Basketball is great here, but the people here, what they expect of you on a daily basis. The level that they hold you accountable at here, is something that I respect,” Butler said. “It’s something that I really love — not just like, really love — because it’s about having good people and doing things the right way. Because when this basketball thing is over with, you’re still going to have to have those morals. And if you don’t have that, you’re in for a rude awakening.”

Here are a few more noteworthy quotes from Butler, via Lee, on his offseason decision, his new team, and one of his former teammates:

On not teaming up with a star to form a “Big Two” this past summer, as other players did in Los Angeles and Houston:

“It just wasn’t the way that it worked out. I’m not one to go with the trend anyways. I don’t do what everybody else is doing. I’m not saying that it’s bad, it’s good, it’s just I worry about myself, first of all. I worry about the people that I’m around. And then you move down the line. I mean, I don’t care who I team up with. Organizational-wise, this was the place for me.

“Now, if you get some other people that think like I think, that go about things the way that I go about it, this is the place for them as well. I don’t know. I didn’t talk about it. … I leave people alone and do what I’m going to do and that’s what I did.”

On the Heat’s upside:

“The ceiling is a championship. And I don’t care what nobody has to say. If the stars align, we can get it done. If we figure this thing out, we stay together, we get our defense on track, we get our offense on track, and we become top five in both categories, we right there. We right there. We’ve got an opportunity to do something special and we’re working at it every single day.”

On former teammate Joel Embiid:

“That m———er is special. For real. Any time I text him, which we text plenty, FaceTime, phone calls. I always tell him, ‘Continue to show why you’re the best player in this league.’ Because I saw it. I saw it. He can do everything. Like, legit, he can do everything. He works and I respect it. … That’s how you become the best player, you’ve got to be obsessed with it. And he is. He is.”

Jimmy Butler: “Nobody Really Knows What Went On In Philly”

Jimmy Butler‘s departure from the Sixers wasn’t simply a desire to play in Miami. He had some issues in Philadelphia which convinced him not to sign long-term with the organization, as he told Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports.

Butler made it known in the days leading up to free agency that he would leave Philadelphia, Haynes continues.

“Nobody knows what really went on in Philly and we’re going to leave it that way,” Butler said. “But it was a great opportunity for me.”

Butler chose the Heat on the first day of free agency and secured a four-year, $141MM contract when the Sixers agreed to a sign-and-trade that involved multiple teams.

Butler said his problems with the Sixers organization had nothing to doing with center Joel Embiid. Butler refused to elaborate what exactly led to his decision.

“All of that will come out whenever it’s time,” he said. “Right now is not the time. I’m locked in with this. I’m happy, man. … I’m not saying Philly wasn’t great, man. We had some really good players. I talk to Joel (daily). It’s a brotherhood, man. I love that guy. I’m going to always have his back and I know he’ll always have mine.”

Butler noted that he wanted to be traded to Miami when he had a falling out with the Timberwolves. He also expressed disdain for critics who believe that he’s not an franchise player.

“(They) act like I’m not a good basketball player,” Butler said. “Like for real. Just think about that. Like I can’t come in and make a huge difference. I’m not going to say ‘carry a team’ because nobody can do it by themselves and I mean that. I’m not putting it all on myself, but I know what I’m capable of.”

In his first three games with the Heat, Butler has averaged 14.7 PPG, 7.0 RPG, 7.3 APG and 4.3 SPG. His debut was delayed due to the birth of his daughter.

Heat Notes: Herro, Waiters, Winslow, Butler, Arena

Heat rookie Tyler Herro has impressed during his first five games with the franchise, scorching teams on the offensive end and displaying a level of maturity not typically seen in 19-year-old players.

Herro, the No. 13 pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, has averaged 16.4 points, 5.8 rebounds and 32.2 minutes per contest thus far. He holds shooting marks of 45% from the floor and 36% from three-point range, starting in three of those five games. He’s slated to once again come off the bench against Houston on Sunday night.

“This is my first time [coming off the bench], but I’m willing to do whatever coach wants me to do,” Herro said, according to Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald. “Whether it’s start or come off the bench — whatever is best for the team.

“I’ve never come off the bench, so as long as I’m playing my minutes — and however much coach thinks that should be. But as long as I’m playing my minutes that I’ve earned, then I’m good.”

Many league observers tabbed Herro as most likely to start at shooting guard for Miami this season, but the elevated play from fellow rookie Kendrick Nunn (22.4 PPG on 52% shooting) has kept Herro from receiving a solidified starting role.

The Heat have opened the 2019/20 season at 4-1, with their only loss coming on the road to Minnesota during the second half of a back-to-back.

There’s more out of Miami tonight:

  • Dion Waiters will be available to play for the Heat in their home game against the Rockets on Sunday, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald (Twitter link). Waiters was suspended by the team for their first game after expressing frustration over his lack of playing time in the preseason, with the 27-year-old being listed as out since then.
  • Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel examines whether a Justise WinslowJimmy Butler pairing will work for the team. Both Winslow and Butler share similar play styles, working hard on the defensive end while mostly operating inside the arc offensively.
  • TD Bank has had serious discussions with Miami-Dade County to acquire naming rights for the Heat’s arena, Jackson writes for the Miami Herald. One source labeled TD Bank as front-runners to acquire naming rights for the arena, according to Jackson, though another source cautioned that other companies still remain in the mix. American Airlines will not be pursuing a renewal of its 20-year contract for naming rights.

Sixers Expect To Pay Luxury Tax In 2020/21

Sixers managing partner Josh Harris anticipates that the team will be a luxury tax payer for the 2020-21 season, as he told Rich Hofmann of The Athletic in a Q&A session that also included GM Elton Brand.

Harris said there “are definitely issues” that come with being a taxpayer, including some roster restrictions. But he has no qualms about that prospect.

“If that’s what it takes to win, we’re going to do it,” he said.

The luxury tax threshold is approximately $132.6MM and Philadelphia is currently a few million below that number. However, the Sixers already have nearly $144MM in contract guarantees for next season. That’s due in large part to Ben Simmons‘ max extension. He’ll jump from $8.11MM this season to $29MM in the first year of that extension. The combined salaries for Tobias Harris, Joel Embiid and Al Horford next season total up to more than $91MM.

Harris and Brand provided some other interesting insights in the Q&A:

  • Harris expects the team to get deeper in the playoffs and everyone is accountable:  “I think we all feel some pressure. Elton does. I do. Brett and the players all want to deliver for the city,” he said.
  • Harris had hoped Jimmy Butler would re-sign but was impressed by the way the front office shifted gears to re-sign Harris, acquire Josh Richardson in a sign-and-trade with Miami, and bring in high-profile free agent Horford. “He obviously had a lot of choices and we’re happy for him that he’s with a great organization,” Harris said of Butler. “But for us, the job that Elton and his team did to pick up Al Horford and Josh Richardson on the heels of that and to get Josh Richardson back in a sign-and-trade obviously, I watched it from the inside and it was incredible.”
  • Brand presents Harris with various scenarios in free agency and trades to spell out how each move would impact the bottom line: Brand told Hofmann how he breaks it down to his boss. “Hey, these are our options. If this happens, I don’t know, but this player could be available, this player could be available, this player could be available. This looks like a 50-win season, this looks like a 55, our penetration could be this in the second round to the Eastern Conference Finals, to the finals. If we lose this player and can’t do a sign-and-trade, we’re going to be here.”

Southeast Notes: Heat, Hornets, Thomas, Wizards

As we relayed earlier today, Dion Waiters won’t travel with the Heat this weekend as he looks ahead to potentially making his season debut next Tuesday. However, he won’t be the only Miami veteran who is potentially away from the team on its road trip.

Head coach Erik Spoelstra said today that the Heat are planning to be without Jimmy Butler and James Johnson for Saturday’s game in Milwaukee and Sunday’s contest in Minnesota, per the team (Twitter link). Butler’s regular-season debut with Miami has been postponed due to the birth of his daughter, while Johnson is still working on his conditioning.

According to Ira Winderman of The South Florida Sun Sentinel (Twitter link), Udonis Haslem is also dealing with a wrist injury and won’t play on Saturday, so two-way players Daryl Macon and Chris Silva should both be active, joining the other 10 players on the Heat’s standard roster. Miami has one open spot on its roster but can’t currently fill it due to hard-cap limitations.

Here’s more from around the Southeast:

  • Terry Rozier, the Hornets‘ big offseason acquisition, struggled in his debut on Wednesday and found himself on the bench down the stretch as Devonte’ Graham handled point guard duties, racking up 23 points and eight assists. That may not happen often, but James Borrego‘s decision to roll with Graham showed that the Hornets head coach is willing to make good on his preseason promise to dole out minutes based on performance, writes Rick Bonnell of The Charlotte Observer.
  • While Isaiah Thomas isn’t quite ready to return from his thumb injury, he believes he’s capable of helping the Wizards and improving his own stock in the process — and he thinks head coach Scott Brooks will put him in position to do just that, writes Fred Katz of The Athletic. “He wants what’s best for me,” Thomas said of Brooks. “He wants me to play well, obviously, and get what I deserve. And that’s to get paid one day.”
  • Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington examines the Wizards‘ options for filling Jordan McRae‘s minutes as the guard recovers from a broken finger.

Eastern Notes: Oladipo, McCaw, Richardson, Prince

Victor Oladipo will begin participating in some full-contact 5-on-5 half-court scrimmages in the coming days but he still has more hurdles to clear before he’ll return to action, Tyler Kraft and Nathan Brown of the Indianapolis Star report. The Pacers have yet to announce a target date for the star guard, who suffered a ruptured quad tendon last season.

“He’s been doing some things 1-on-1,” Pacers head coach Nate McMillan said. “But this is a good sign. They’re going slowly to try to work him into being able to go every day, but it’s good news to know he’ll be able to participate in that first part of practice.”

We have more Eastern Conference news:

  • Raptors swingman Patrick McCaw had an MRI on his left knee which revealed no structural damage, Josh Lewenberg of TSN Sports tweets. McCaw suffered the injury during a preseason game last weekend. The Raptors re-signed McCaw to a two-year deal in July.
  • The Sixers were interested in acquiring Josh Richardson last season from the Heat before they traded for Jimmy Butler, Michael Lee of The Athletic reports. The Sixers were open to being a third party when the Heat were in trade talks with the Timberwolves for Butler with Philadelphia targeting Richardson. When those talks collapsed, the Sixers eventually worked out a trade for Butler. Those two swingmen were the main components of the sign-and-trade this summer when Butler agreed to join Miami.
  • Forward Taurean Prince is hopeful that he can reached an extension agreement with the Nets prior to Monday’s deadline, as he told Brian Lewis of the New York Post. He’ll be a restricted free agent next summer if he doesn’t sign an extension. “I want to be here as long as I can. And whatever happens, happens, but I’m just happy to play good basketball,” Prince said. “One hundred percent, yeah. For sure. This is the best organization I’ve been in.”