Jimmy Butler

Heat Notes: Butler, Reed, Nunn, Johnson

Heat fans have already embraced Jimmy Butler, which was evident during an intrasquad scrimmage, Anthony Chiang of the Miami Herald notes. Fans broke out a “We love Jimmy” chant during the proceedings.

“I think the fan base feels the same way we do about Jimmy,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “We just feel that he has Heat DNA, that he was meant to play here and meant to put on a Miami Heat uniform. He has a magnetic personality that the fan base is really going to enjoy and he’s a very good basketball player.”

We have more on the Heat:

  • Guard Davon Reed is competing for a two-way deal but he hopes to eventually receive a standard contract, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel writes. Reed, who spent most of last season with the Pacers’ G League affiliate, was signed to an Exhibit 10 contract in September. “I can do a lot of different things,” he said. “There’s a lot of facets to my game. Most important, I’m going to put my team first. I think my energy, my effort, my talking and just my game will show.”
  • Guard Kendrick Nunn led the Heat’s summer league team in scoring and Miami seems inclined to keep him on the regular roster, according to Khobi Price of the Sun Sentinel. Nunn will receive a $450K guarantee if he’s on the opening night roster. “We were fortunate to get somebody of his quality,” Spoelstra said. “He also was a fit with us in terms of the culture fit, the work ethic, the drive – there’s a long lineage of non-drafted Miami Heat players who have come through our player development program and he’s the next notable one.”
  • The biggest mystery regarding the James Johnson saga is whether both the forward and the team can eventually move past this moment, Winderman writes in a mailbag piece. Johnson hasn’t been allowed to participate in camp yet because he didn’t meet the team’s weight goal set for him.

Joel Embiid On Jimmy Butler: “I Wish He Was Still On The Team”

The Sixers made several changes this offseason, but the team looks like just as much of a threat to steal the Eastern Conference crown as they did last season before Kawhi Leonard‘s knockout shot. While center Joel Embiid is focused on getting the team to NBA Finals for the first time since 2001, he admits that having Jimmy Butler around would make for a better journey.

“It was a big loss because me and him, we got to the point where we were really close – we’re still close,” Embiid said of losing Butler (via ESPN’s The Jump; h/t Kurt Helin of NBC Sports).

“We talk a lot, that’s my guy, that’s my brother forever. I wish he was still on the team, because I feel like the relationship that I built with him could have gone a long way. When it was the fourth quarter, we knew the ball would either be in me or Jimmy’s hands. I knew I could count on him. This year it kind of changes around. Now other guys have to step up and I have to do more.”

Butler landed in Miami via sign-and-trade this offseason while the 76ers netted Josh Richardson. Philadelphia also brought in Al Horford to give the team arguably the best frontcourt in the NBA. GM Elton Brand‘s squad is expected to be one of the best defensive teams in the league. However, Embiid acknowledges that they haven’t accomplished anything yet.

“I think we should be up there. Obviously, we still have to prove ourselves,” Embiid said of the team’s title chances. “We lost a big piece in Jimmy, he did a lot of great things for us, but we should be up there. On paper, we got a really good team so now it’s on us to go out there and actually prove it.”

Heat Notes: Butler, Johnson, Haslem, Waiters

Jimmy Butler is insisting that his new Heat teammates follow his intense work ethic, writes Barry Jackson of The Miami Herald. In the week before camp opened, Butler set up early-morning workouts to prepare for this season. In Butler’s case, early meant 4 am.

“I got here at about 6:05 one morning, and Jimmy’s in a full sweat, and I’m thinking to myself, ‘Damn, I thought I was going to be the first guy working out,’” Meyers Leonard said. “I was with a couple of the young guys. That’s impressive to me. That’s a superstar and a guy you can count on and is clearly ready to put the work in and carry the load.”

That’s the type of extreme leadership that caused the Heat to make Butler the centerpiece of their offseason plans. Not only does he have his younger teammates in the gym before sunrise, he’s constantly challenging them to get better, particularly first-round pick Tyler Herro.

“He just wants to win,” Herro said. “He’s not a bad guy like everyone thinks he is. He’s a really good teammate. For him to take me under his wing early on just means a lot to me. He’s a really good guy.”

There’s more Heat news to pass along:

  • Veteran forward James Johnson won’t be permitted to participate in the start of camp because he failed to meet conditioning requirements, Jackson tweets. Johnson has a $242K likely bonus built into his contract regarding body fat percentage and weight requirements that he has met the last two years, notes Bobby Marks of ESPN (Twitter link).
  • Even though he has barely played the past three seasons, 39-year-old Udonis Haslem wasn’t ready to retire, relays Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel. Haslem told reporters it would have bothered him that the Heat missed the playoffs in his final season. “These guys can come back another season and say, ‘OK, we didn’t reach our potential. Let’s try it again.’ I’ve got to live with it,” Haslem said. “I’ve got to sleep every night knowing I had a great 17-year career, but my last year we didn’t make the playoffs, my last year we didn’t reach our goals, my last year, we didn’t reach our potential, my last year, Dion [Waiters] wasn’t the best he could be, my last year, Justise [Winslow] wasn’t the best. I have to live with it.” Haslem added that he hasn’t decided if this will be his final season.
  • Personnel changes mean Johnson and Waiters will have to adjust to being complementary players this year, Winderman states in a mailbag column.

Heat Notes: Butler, Olynyk, Winslow, Haslem

The culture established by team president Pat Riley was a deciding factor in Jimmy Butler agreeing to join the Heat, according to Tim Reynolds of the Associated Press.

“The winning habits, the winning ways. I mean, who wouldn’t want to be a part of that?” he said. “I was excited to have an opportunity to come here, to be here, but when I keep hearing about this culture I was like, ‘I need that in my life.’”

Butler, who received a four-year deal worth approximately $141MM as part of a sign-and-trade with the Sixers, has shown that work ethic during early-morning workouts and in pickup games. Riley describes his biggest summer acquisition as a top-10 player in the NBA

“The one thing that I feel that I owe the franchise and this city is to put the most competitive team on the court that we can and one that will compete for championships,” Riley said. “I think having Jimmy Butler here is a step in that direction.”

We have more on the Heat:

  • Big man Kelly Olynyk won’t be available for the start of training camp but he’s expected to be ready for the opener, Reynolds reports in the same story. He suffered a bone bruise in his right knee while playing for Team Canada prior to the FIBA World Cup. Every other player on the training camp roster is expected to be available at the start of camp.
  • Riley wasn’t thrilled that Justise Winslow said publicly he wanted to be the starting point guard, Reynolds tweets. Winslow commented that he wanted to be the team’s floor leader earlier this month. He played well in that role last season after injuries struck but the starter in recent seasons, Goran Dragic, remains on the roster.
  • Butler would consider playing for Team USA in next year’s Olympics if he’s asked, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel tweets.
  • Prior to re-signing veteran forward Udonis Haslem, Riley asked him if he wanted to coach this summer, Reynolds tweets. Haslem said he wasn’t interested in coaching but Riley believes he’ll eventually change his mind, Reynolds adds.

Goran Dragic Talks Trade Rumors, Butler, Health

Shortly after free agency opened on the night of June 30, the Heat appeared to have a trade in place to send Goran Dragic to Dallas in order to help make room under the team’s hard cap for swingman Jimmy Butler. However, a miscommunication between the Heat and Mavericks scuttled the deal, and while Dragic remained on the trade block for at least another day or two, he’ll ultimately return to Miami to start the 2019/20 season.

As Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald relays, Dragic missed out on much of that trade-rumor drama on the first night of free agency, since he was asleep in Slovenia when those reports surfaced.

“Of course, the next day, in the morning, I received a lot of texts,” Dragic said. “It was a little bit crazy, because at first you didn’t know if the deal went through or not. So a lot of my friends called me and were asking me. But I did not have a clue, because I had just woke up.”

Interestingly, Dragic said he didn’t speak to his agent or the Heat about the trade rumors and opted to “just let it go” when it became clear he’d be staying put. As he prepares to enter a contract year, Dragic expressed enthusiasm about Miami’s offseason moves (“I think we’re a better team”) and touched on a handful of other topics.

Here are some highlights, via Chiang:

On the acquisition of Jimmy Butler:

“I mean, he’s a great competitor. You can see that on the court. I don’t know him personally, but as a player, when I play against him he’s really a tough defender, he’s really vocal on the floor. I think he sets an example for the other players. I think he’s a huge addition for us, especially to lead this group. He can play on both ends, defense and on offense. He’s a great addition to our team.”

On the health of his right knee, which was an issue in 2018/19:

“I’m good, I’m good. I was working hard. My leg is way stronger than last year. Basically the right leg is stronger than the left one. I’m doing some basketball drills, some lifting weights. Everything is going like we planned.”

On his upcoming free agency in 2020:

“If I’m honest, I don’t even think about it, because I’m more in the present, because I’m trying to get back to being healthy this year. So this is my priority, just to stay focused and do my job. And when the time is going to come, then I’m going to think about my future. So, it doesn’t make sense to think it right now, because the season still didn’t start. And I haven’t felt how my body is going to react. So, we’ll see.”

Heat Notes: Leonard, Butler, Rotation

The Heat have been quiet about their plans for Meyers Leonard, though Ira Winderman of the Sun Sentinel notes that if the big man remains on the roster through the start of the season, he’ll likely be the team’s backup center.

Miami acquired Leonard in a four-way trade over the summer that allowed the team to net Jimmy Butler as well. The Heat cannot aggregate Leonard’s salary in a trade until September 6 — two months after the acquisition date. It’s possible that the team hasn’t been vocal about Leonard’s role because they are planning to flip him. However, at this point, any Leonard trade talk is strictly speculation.

Here’s more from Miami:

  • Leonard has privately made it known that he would like to make it work with the Heat, Winderman relays in the same piece. The big man has come off the bench for nearly the entirety of his career, so backing up Bam Adebayo at the five shouldn’t be a major issue.
  • Don’t expect the Heat to take a load management approach with Butler, Winderman explains in a separate piece. That could change if Miami is able to clinch a playoff berth early. Yet, with the team making the postseason just once over the past three years, the club may not have the luxury of resting players this season.
  • Assuming the team doesn’t make any major moves, Winderman (same piece) anticipates coach Erik Spoelstra will stagger the minutes of Butler, Goran Dragic and Dion Waiters. Winderman expects the Heat to have at least two of the three on the court the majority of the time.

Southeast Notes: Washington, Butler, Beal, Heat

Hornets‘ rookie forward PJ Washington, the 12th overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, is ready for training camp after a nagging foot injury that kept him out of summer league, notes Rick Bonnell of the Charlotte Observer.

“I’m pretty much cleared to do everything,” Washington said. “After summer league, it was about two weeks.”

As Bonnell notes, head coach James Borrego relayed back in July, the day before leaving for Las Vegas, that the Hornets were taking the precaution of shutting down Washington for summer league after pain in Washington’s left foot which caused him to miss two NCAA tournament games with Kentucky lingered upon his entry into the NBA.

Washington, who is expected to line up mostly at power forward this upcoming season, may see some time in the G League with both Marvin Williams and Miles Bridges already set to see a plethora of playing time at the four.

There’s more from the Southeast Division this evening:

  • Per Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel, it’s very important for new Heat superstar Jimmy Butler to come into training camp ready to be the team leader, a role he struggled with in his previous NBA stops.
  • According to Rachel Hopmayer of NBC Sports Washington, Wizards shooting guard Bradley Beal refused to sit out last season when playoff hope was lost because – as he told head coach Scott Brooks – he signed up to be the leader of the Wizards and do it every night.
  • Winderman adds in a separate piece that the Heat, because they are not in contention mode, should focus on developing players based on where their potential lies, not on current talent level.

Southeast Notes: Winslow, Chalmers, Isaac, Wall

The Heat will need to use Justise Winslow at either point guard or power forward to optimize their other main wing options, Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun Sentinel opines in his latest mailbag. Putting Winslow at the ‘one’ or ‘four’ would allow coach Erik Spoelstra to play rookie Tyler Herro and Dion Waiters more often with the team’s top player, Jimmy Butler. If Winslow ends up playing regularly at small forward, Spoelstra would have to choose between Herro and Waiters as a mainstay in the rotation, Winderman adds.

We have more from the Southeast Division:

  • A reunion between the Heat and point guard Mario Chalmers is unlikely at this point, Winderman writes in another mailbag post. Chalmers, 33, is aiming for an NBA comeback after playing in Italy last season. However, even if the Heat are interested, they’d have to release Kendrick Nunn in order to create a roster spot for Chalmers since the team is hard-capped, Winderman notes.
  • Entering his third season, Magic forward Jonathan Isaac is brimming with optimism over his team’s future after it reached the playoffs last season. Isaac likes the team’s continuity after it re-signed key free agents Nikola Vucevic and Terrence Ross, as he told John Denton of the team’s website. “We’re all hyped up for the season,’” he said. “And I’m sure as guys get together and start playing again, we’ll have more of those talks about, ‘Hey, we can go even farther than we did last (season).'”
  • The Wizards are closely monitoring John Wall‘s rehab process as he works his way back from a ruptured Achilles, Chase Hughes of NBC Sports Washington reports. They are even providing owner Ted Leonsis with daily progress reports. “I used to start my day reading the Washington Post. Now I start my day reading [and watching] my daily John Wall exercise video,” Leonsis told Hughes.

Inside Kawhi Leonard’s Path To The Clippers

The Clippers were portrayed as a distant third in the Kawhi Leonard sweepstakes before the opportunity developed to trade for Paul George, but their work behind the scenes paved the way for success, according to Jovan Buha and Sam Amick of The Athletic in a detailed look at one of the offseason’s most important stories.

Everything came together late on the night of July 5 when a tentative deal was reached with the Thunder that would deliver George for a generous return of Shai Gilgeous-Alexander, Danilo Gallinari, five first-round picks and two pick swaps. The Clippers’ front office then held its collective breath during a phone call to Leonard and his representatives to make sure he was on board.

When the answer came, L.A. vaulted into a short list of the league’s elite teams. Pairing Leonard and George gives them a pair of two-way stars in their prime who are capable of delivering the first championship in franchise history. It also brings a pair of Southern California natives back home, but the authors suggest that storyline was overblown in Leonard’s case.

From the start of free agency, Leonard was focused on finding a team that could contend for a title every year. He spoke to the Clippers several times each day once free agency began, continuing the conversation past his official meeting on July 1. The team’s selling points included owner Steve Ballmer’s commitment to winning and to spending whatever it takes to get there, a player-friendly environment and a planned new arena in Inglewood.

It turns out that discretion also worked in the Clippers’ favor. They have a history of making major deals without leaking to the press, as evidenced by recent trades involving Blake Griffin and Tobias Harris. It’s an approach that Leonard’s camp insisted upon, and it helped them as Leonard sorted through his options.

The payoff came late that Friday night as George and Leonard committed to joining forces. As Buha and Amick note, the moves validated everything the Clippers have set up since Ballmer bought the team and allowed them to cash in the assets they collected in the Griffin and Harris deals. All the small moves they had made in recent years suddenly turned into a very big deal.

There are a few more significant details from the Athletic story:

  • In contrast to the Clippers‘ reputation to operating in the shadows, the Lakers tend to be very public about their business. Some observers believe their chances at Leonard were severely damaged when details of his meeting with former team president Magic Johnson became public. “I truly believe that when Magic started telling the media about the meeting he had with Kawhi and (his uncle and confidant, Dennis Robertson) that sealed the fate of the Lakers,” a person involved in the process told the authors. “I think that right there was when Dennis and Kawhi decided we can’t trust the Lakers as an organization. And that was it. I think that was it for them.”
  • Before learning of the opportunity with George, the Clippers ran through exhaustive scenarios about NBA stars who might be available. They contacted the Wizards about Bradley Beal and the Rockets about James Harden, but were turned down in both cases. Leonard, meanwhile, reached out to Jimmy Butler and Kevin Durant about coming to Los Angeles.
  • George and Russell Westbrook both talked to the Thunder in June about shaking up the franchise, frustrated by a second straight early playoff exit. However, Oklahoma City management believed everything had been smoothed over by the time free agency began.
  • Leonard, who has built a reputation of knocking off “super teams,” wasn’t especially interested in forming another one by joining LeBron James and Anthony Davis on the Lakers. “Elite players like Kawhi earn their stripes, and he was not going to be a guy who joins a so-called ‘super team,’” a source told The Athletic’s Shams Charania. “Now, if a super team forms around him, there is nothing he can control. The Clippers were the best long-term fit.”

Heat Notes: Butler, Adebayo, Nunn, Paul

The Heat won Jimmy Butler over in their free agent meeting by emphasizing a commitment to conditioning, toughness and winning, writes Anthony Chiang of The Miami Herald. Team president Pat Riley made a “strong impression” during the four-hour presentation on June 30 and was focused on getting a definitive answer before it was over. Butler had more meetings scheduled, but canceled them and committed to Miami.

Butler was being sought by other teams in better position to contend right away, such as the Clippers, Lakers and Rockets, or he could have stayed with the Sixers, but he liked the idea of being the first star for the Heat to build around. He also remembered the words of former Bulls teammate Dwyane Wade.

“He would always say, ‘It would be a place for you,” Butler recalled. “The type of guy you are, the mentality you have, the Heat culture, it just fits.’ We laugh about it now, but looking back it’s like: Damn, he kind of called how it could happen and how this would be a place that just fits me to a T.”

Here’s more from South Florida:

  • Bam Adebayo tells Ira Winderman of The Sun-Sentinel that he expects a different atmosphere this season with Wade and Josh Richardson both gone and Butler now serving as the team leader. “Instead of J-Rich and the goofiness, it’s kind of Jimmy Butler,” the 22-year-old Adebayo said. “So it’s kind of more serious. He’s older than us.”
  • Kendrick Nunn‘s outstanding Summer League performance may not translate into more playing time once the season starts, Winderman observes in a separate piece. Nunn averaged 21.0 PPG in four games and ranked third in assists in Las Vegas at 6.3 per night. However, Winderman notes that his breakthrough wasn’t as dramatic as Derrick Jones Jr.‘s last summer, and Jones didn’t have a significant role during the regular season while the roster was at full strength. Winderman forecasts more playing time for first-round pick Tyler Herro.
  • Bradley Beal‘s situation in Washington could affect the Heat’s willingness to trade for Chris Paul, Winderman suggests in another story. Beal will become a free agent in 2021 if he turns down a three-year, $111MM extension offer that the Wizards can make starting Friday. Miami wouldn’t have enough cap space to pursue Beal if it takes on Paul’s sizable contract. A source tells Winderman that the Heat would demand multiple first-round picks to accept Paul.