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Jimmy Butler takes his new Heat culture to Chicago

The media were waiting for Jimmy Butler in Chicago.

Butler, after all, make his name here — rising from 30th overall pick to Most Improved Player, All-Star, and maximum salary candidate player, even though he would have to go elsewhere to get that last reward.

Now Butler is back, as a member of the Miami Heat and of team Giannis in the 2020 All-Star Game.

He was a few minutes late getting to the podium Saturday for his scheduled availability but, once he did, he did not disappoint.

Here are a few of Butler’s more illuminating and/or amusing thoughts on his transition to the Heat and more.

First, the arrival….

Next, the deep thoughts on the changes to the All-Star Game.

He’s been, um, racking his brain about this one…

Then, on the Heat’s plan after the break…

His assimilation to the Miami culture…

What he has learned about Miami Heat president Pat Riley…

More on the Heat as they chase a home court seed…

How he feels about being a villain….

More praise for his All-Star and Heat teammate, Bam Adebayo…

And of course, the continued taunting of Philadelphia 76er fans..

Miami Heat: Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo selected to All-Star Game

The Miami Heat will be sending two representatives to the All Star Game in Chicago. Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo will both be there, as the reserves were announced Thursday night.

For Butler, this will be his fifth All-Star appearance. Adebayo will be appearing in the game for the first time.

Butler is having a great year for Miami. Many thought he was snubbed for not being a starter, with the selections taking place last week. On the season, Butler is  averaging 20.2 points per contest to go along with 6.9 rebounds per game and 6.4 assists per game.

Both are thriving for Miami Heat

Butler’s impact goes beyond the statistics sheet however. He is a veteran on a youthful basketball team. While the team itself may have flaws, Butler has helped carry this group and masked those deficiencies. By all accounts, it seems like he is embracing the role of being a leader. His guidance is allowing Miami to stay in the hunt for a top spot in the Eastern Conference standings. In what has been an overachieving year for the team, he has led the way.

Adebayo is having a tremendous year himself. He is averaging 16 points per game on the season to go along with 10.4 rebounds and 4.7 assists per contest. The rebounds, assists, and points are all career-highs for him. He has established himself as a dependable player for Miami. Miami has been waiting for him to have this type of year ever since he came into the league in 2017.

Now, it appears he is delivering. Not only that, Adebayo looks extremely comfortable within the offense.

With two Miami representatives in the game, there will certainly be something for Heat fans to watch. In what should be a fun weekend overall, these selections give the game a little extra meaning for players and fans alike.

Miami Heat: Jimmy Butler Snubbed as All-Star Game starter

The Miami Heat star will not be a starter for the All-Star Game.

Jimmy Butler will almost certainly represent the Miami Heat in the 69th edition of the All-Star Game. Held at the United Center in Chicago Illinois, this will be a homecoming of sorts for him.

However, he will not be a starter. Instead, unless Joel Embiid’s injury keeps him out of the contest — opening a spot in the frontcourt — he will be a reserve.

He played at the United Center frequently as a member of the Chicago Bulls from 2011-2017. Drafted by the Bulls with the 30th overall pick in 2011, he had great success while there.

Butler has been having a career year, and it has shown with how well the Miami Heat have played. In 38 games, he has averaged 20.3 points per game. Averaging seven rebounds and 6.5 assists per contest, he is bringing a multifaceted game to the table.

He is also bringing veteran leadership to a roster full of youth. The Miami Heat have several young players that that could turn out to be cornerstones for the franchise. Right now, it is all about development. Butler has been instrumental in helping the team succeed on the court. The fact that he is not a starter for the All-Star Game is surprising. Charles Barkley was surprised with how voting went.

More Barkley here.

It’s strange to hear him stand up for anyone on the Heat, considering the constant jabs he always took at Dwyane Wade.

For Butler, once he’s selected, it will be his fifth All-Star game. He was selected to be a part of the 2018 All-Star Game while with Philadelphia. However, he elected to rest instead as he was battling with injuries.

The Miami Heat are sitting pretty in the Eastern Conference. They are second in the conference, only to the Milwaukee Bucks. With a 27-12 record they have been one of the biggest surprises in the NBA this season. The fact that he was sixth in player voting was surprising as well. However, Barkley offered a reason for why that occurred.

Butler should have been a starter for this game, in light of the Heat’s success and his role in it. Nevertheless, the fact that that he will be a reserve is at least some sort of silver lining. It’s certainly unfortunate, but Butler could use this as more motivation.

And what about Bam Adebayo joining Butler as a reserve, as he should?

We’ll find out next week.

Miami Heat Need the Three Against Knicks on Sunday

The Miami Heat need to shoot better from deep on Sunday.

The Miami Heat are set to take on the New York Knicks in what is going to be a bounce back game for Miami. One thing is for certain: If the Miami Heat want to beat the Knicks on Sunday, they need to be more efficient from three-point range.

In Friday’s loss against the Brooklyn Nets, Miami struggled from deep. They went seven-of-29 from beyond the arc. By comparison, the Nets went 15-of-44 from deep. That equaled out to a 34.1 three-point percentage.

The starting lineup was not efficient shooting the three ball. Duncan Robinson was the most productive for Miami. He went two-of-six from beyond the arc, finishing with eight points on the evening.

Interestingly enough, the bench did a bit better with their opportunities. James Johnson went two-of-two from beyond the arc and finished with six points in 12 minutes of play. Goran Dragic had a rough evening, going two-of-seven from deep.

The numbers bode well for Miami Heat

The three-point shot is undoubtedly the bread and butter of Miami’s offense. They are second in the league in three-point conversion percentage. Shooting at a 37.6 % rate, that puts them only second to Utah.  Over their last three games, they have been pretty consistent with the shot, shooting at a 36.9% clip.

New York is last in the entire NBA in opponent three-point field goal percentage. Their opponents have been converting at a 38.8% rate.  Things haven’t been much better for them over the past three games. They have been susceptible from long range, allowing opponents to convert on 43.6% of their tries. This is great news for Miami, and should allow for plenty of good looks for the shooters.

If Miami wants to beat New York on Sunday, getting more production from the starting lineup is crucial for a victory. This team plays much better when everyone contributes.  Miami needs to make sure they convert from beyond the arc, and put behind the poor performance in Brooklyn. If they can do that, a win is certainly in their future.

Jimmy Butler, Miami Heat blow kisses to TJ Warren on social media

The Miami Heat and Indiana Pacers aren’t exactly the best of friends.

This has been the case for years. Remember Udonis Haslem and Lance Stephenson? And LeBron James and Lance Stephenson? And Ray Allen and Lance Stephenson? And Juwan Howard and Lance Stephenson?

OK, you get it. There was some stuff with David West and Danny Granger too.

Things got a little chippy between the two teams again on Wednesday night, with Jimmy Butler and T.J. Warren had an exchanging of pleasantries during the Miami Heat’s 122-108 win over the Indiana Pacers. Butler had a great night, scoring 14 points on five-of-six shooting from the field. He also made all four free throws he attempted, and recorded six rebounds.

Warren had a rough night to say the least. He went one-of-five from the field and made one of two attempts from the free throw line. He had three points in 23 minutes of play. Warren was also a -25 while he was on the floor. When these two teams meet again on March 20, things should be interesting.

Miami leads the season series by a 2-0 margin. Prior to this game, they met on December 27 at American Airlines Arena. The Heat won narrowly, 113-112. The series is certainly trending in the right direction, particularly since the Pacers won the last three meetings prior to Miami winning the pair.

Friday, March 20 should be a whole lot of fun. That is the next time the Heat and Pacers will face off. Bankers Life FieldHouse will be the venue, and  it will set the stage for a Butler-Warren rematch.

If Warren shows up.

Maybe not if someone shows him social media from tonight.

It’s safe to say that Jimmy Butler is looking forward to this matchup. His post on Instagram said it all. Derrick Jones Jr., who played with Warren in Phoenix in 2017-18 also added his two cents on Twitter in regards to Wednesday night. Meyers Leonard did the same.  One thing is for certain: There is certainly no love lost between these two teams.

There is no doubt that his words with Warren ignited a competitive fire. That’s the type of Jimmy Butler we love to see. There is little doubt that he will be booed when Miami travels to Indiana. However, that will undoubtedly fuel the fire for him to play even harder. I can’t wait to see how it all plays out, and if the tensions increase in subsequent matchups.

Because all the Heat players appear to be firmly on Butler’s side, including the rookies:

And the veterans:

Handicapping the Miami Heat’s 3-Game Trip

The Miami Heat are playing great basketball. It feels almost like a return to the days of old,  back when the Big 3 were in town, even if they don’t have the front line starpower.

 

Now, the Heat are healthier than they have been — with Jimmy Butler and possibly Justise Winslow returning — and are firmly entrenched in the top three, we a two-game lead on the No. 4 Toronto Raptors and a full three games on the Philadelphia 76ers, who had fallen into a terrible slump prior to beating Oklahoma City.

 

After a five-win stretch, which included sweeping their 4-game home stretch against the Knicks, Jazz, Indiana, and Sixers, the Heat have gone lose-win-lose-win over their last four. They have the Indiana Pacers coming up again on Wednesday in Indiana, and then a trip to New York brings aways games against the Nets on Friday and the Knicks on Sunday.

 

It’s funny because the Heat has beaten Utah, Indiana, Philadelphia, and Toronto since December 23rd, and still the power rating algorithms are a bunch of haters. Miami is No. 3 in the NBA standings and beat these teams, but still, the predictive power ratings have them rated back at No.11. Toronto is rated at No. 7, Philly is rated at No. 9, and Utah is rated at No. 10. Ok. So what gives?

 

I guess the Heat will just have to go and beat these teams – and other top teams – again and we’ll see if they get any love in the power rankings.

 

Heat vs. Pacers | Wednesday 7 PM ET @ Bankers Life Fieldhouse

 

The Indiana Pacers just lost to the Heat in Miami, but now the boys have to go and prove themselves up in Indiana. Both teams are good on defense. The Heat allows just 107.28 and the Pacers let 106.16 points by per game. On offense, Miami puts up 111.11 against Indiana’s 109.46. So, on any given night, these two teams are very evenly matched.

But the Heat’s road offense is scoring around five points fewer per game than their overall average. Out on the highway, they score 106.17, which is the No. 21 road offense. The Pacers put up 111.21 per game at home which is the No. 18 home offense. Home vs. Away defense shows the Pacers improving to 104.7 points per game allowed, and the Heat falling to 110.11.

 

So, we could see the Pacers coming in as significant home favorites on the NBA odds offered at sportsbookreview.com. If the point differential is any indicator, we could technically see a spread of around 10 points. However, I would expect the handicappers to go with straight-up averages and cap this game out to be around 105 for the Heat and 111 for the Pacers.

 

If this is the case, and the point spread is set with the Heat +6, hop on it because they very well could win this one outright.

 

Heat vs. Nets | Friday 7:30 PM @ Barclay’s Center

 

Since we have already gone over Miami’s road stats, we’ll just stick with Brooklyn here. The Nets put up 109.63 per game at home, which falls right in line with Miami’s defensive numbers. So, that is the score we should expect from the Nets; roughly 107 to 109. However, they are not as good on the defensive front as the Pacers and allow 109 and change to go up on the visiting team’s scoreboard in Brooklyn. This one should come down to a pretty close game, but the personnel matchup favors Miami. Remember, we beat the Nets in Brooklyn last time around, 109-106. I predict a similar outcome in for this meeting.

 

 

Heat vs. Knicks | Sunday, 3:30 PM @ Madison Square Garden

 

The Heat have beaten the Knicks in seven of the last 10 meetings in the three most recent, the Heat have smoked the Knicks 3-0 by an average score of 111.67 to 101. The last time these two played was on December 20th when Miami smashed New York 129 to 114.

 

The Heat might not get the road sweep. But they very well might. I think they at least go two of three for the remainder of the week. They’ll keep their win ratio rolling and stay at the top of the Eastern Conference.

 

Winslow, Butler Practice for Miami Heat, Will Travel

For all their success this year, the Miami Heat have yet to accomplish one important goal . . . fielding a healthy roster.  The Heat came into the season missing their newly signed superstar, Jimmy Butler, due to the birth of his first child.  And there were the self-inflicted setbacks, most notably from high-paid reserves Dion Waiters and James Johnson.

But most concerning has been the rash of injuries that has plagued the Heat’s back court rotation of Justise Winslow and Goran Dragic.  The injuries to both of Miami’s point guards has led to an increased burden on Butler and a “playoff-style” rotation of 8 or 9 players that has seemingly shown in weary legs at the end of road games and back to back scenarios.  Even with Dragic’s recent return and stellar play, the shortened rotation has still been in place thanks to the uneven play of forwards Kelly Olynyk and Chris Silva.

Reinforcements, however, look to be on the way with a breakout game from Johnson Sunday night against the Blazers.  Johnson’s size, playmaking ability and defense were on display for the first time in months as he finally received the nod from Coach Erik Spoelstra with Butler taking the night off.  “We stay ready around here,” replied Johnson when asked how he was able to shake off the rust of weeks on the bench to impact the game in such a fashion.

And it would seem that the return of Winslow may be on the horizon as he was upgraded to questionable on Sunday night, even though he didn’t play.  Monday Winslow was seen swimming with dolphins and teammate Bam Adebayo and Tuesday Spoelstra told media that he practiced with the team and was travelling to Indiana for Wednesday’s game against the Pacers, a positive sign.

Butler practiced with the team as well, which is a good signal that he will be available as well on Wednesday night.  So a fully healthy Heat squad is finally a real possibility in the coming days which should be a welcome sign to Spoelstra and his staff, as well as present new rotation challenges.  But after weeks of riding an 8-man rotation, those are great challenges to have.

Dwyane Wade to Have Jersey Retired by Miami Heat

Dwayne Wade is coming home.

A Miami Heat legend will get his due in February. According to a report from the Orlando Sun Sentinel, Dwayne Wade will have his jersey retired on February 22 against the Cleveland Cavaliers. This will be exactly two years and two weeks after Cleveland traded Wade back to Miami.

When you look at his resume, it’s truly impressive in regards to what Wade did throughout the course of his career. A three-time NBA champion, the 2006 NBA Finals MVP, and a 13-time NBA All-Star are just some of the things he has accomplished. Wade had success from the get-go,  making the NBA All-Rookie First Team in 2004.

In addition to those accomplishments, he was named the MVP of the All-Star Game in 2010 and was the NBA scoring champion in 2009. That year, he scored 30.2 points per contest. It was the best season of his career, and a performance that is not going to be forgotten.

Although the years with Lebron James were some of the best in Miami Heat history, the 2006 NBA Finals was where Wade was able to make his most significant mark in the postseason.

2006 a major year in Miami Heat history

Wade played in 23 games in the 2006 postseason, starting all of them. He made 219-of-441 field goal attempts, scoring 653 points.  That was Dwayne Wade at his best, and it was fascinating to see him  play at that high a level. The way that Wade and Shaquille O’Neal held down the fort during that run was impressive. That was just one of the many highlights for Wade in what was a storied career.

Do you want tickets? You’re going to have to pay up. According to prices from StubHub, the lowest possible seat cost at the moment is $158.10. If you want to pay that, you’ll be sitting in Balcony Corner, seat 403.

For a night like this, it’s worth it. Wade embodied the Miami Heat from the time he arrived in the organization.  It will certainly be great to see him back home at American Airlines Arena.

Erik Spoelstra defines a max player: Butler (and not Whiteside?)

It was a simple question about missed shots.

But it was natural for some to interpret part of the answer as an subtle shot.

OK, here’s how it started:

I’ve noticed a trend.

Jimmy Butler shoots poorly, as he did Thursday against the Toronto Raptors, making just 2-of-10 from the floor.

The Miami Heat win anyway, as they did, 82-74, to rise to 25-9 on the season.

And, according to the betting data here, they’re listed as significant favorites to win tonight’s game against Orlando so things continue to look good for them, even when Butler isn’t connecting consistently from anywhere but the foul line.

In fact, the Heat are now a ludicrous 11-2 when Butler makes five or fewer field goals in a game. So it’s not an especially small sample size. Butler has done everything well in his debut season with the Heat (defense, rebounding, passing, playmaking and especially leading). Especially except shoot well from beyond 10 feet. His percentages from every spot on the floor, past that distance, are his worst since his rookie season, when he was a benchwarmer for Chicago. He’s already had 12 games this season, including Thursday, when he shot under 37 percent. That happened only 14 times all of the 2018-19 season with Philadelphia and Minnesota combined.

So I merely presented the odd 11-2 number to Heat coach Erik Spoelstra after the win, acknowledging that he likely wouldn’t want Butler to keep shooting below his career marks simply to see if the Heat can win anyway.

Here’s the exchange, in full:

As you see, ESPN Sportscenter picked it up.

Why?

Well, in part because it’s a thoughtful assessment about what is really important to winning, and why Butler has been so critical for the Heat.

Spoelstra said he wasn’t concerned about the shooting. Then he pivoted.

“That’s what young players should learn coming into the league, of what a max player actually is,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not about stats. It’s not about that final number on the boxscore. It’s not about whatever 2k numbers you can get. It’s not. It’s about how your team functions and are you winning because of a player? And there is no debate about this. He’s having an incredible impact on our winning, on our bottom line, and why we chased him so hard as a max player. That should be the definition from here on out. But it’s not. It’s not clouded. It becomes about stats…”

OK, so on its face, that’s simply high praise of Butler.

So why did everyone, in the responses to the videos, start tagging @YoungWhiteside, for now-Blazers center Hassan Whiteside?

A few reasons for the connection.

Many know the checkered history between Spoelstra and Whiteside, though both have mostly praised the other since the Heat shipped Whiteside to Portland for Meyers Leonard and Mo Harkless, who was eventually dealt to the Clippers to clear enough space for Butler. Spoelstra’s frustration with Whiteside was evident the past couple of seasons, and it was mutual. Now it’s clear that Whiteside needed to go for Bam Adebayo and the team to thrive.

This was detailed on Heat media day, in my column.

But it’s the “2K thing” mostly.

That was Whiteside’s thing.

Remember Whiteside exploding on the scene, and actually winning Heat fan hearts by joking (well, not really) that he just wanted to “get my 2K rating up,” for the video game that so many players and fans play?

It stopped being cute when Whiteside began pouting about his role and touches, and it seemed as if he was more concerned with stat compiling than winning, often stranding teammates in search of blocks.

Now that Whiteside’s gone, suddenly the ball moves more on offense, with elite passing big man Bam Adebayo taking his place. Suddenly the pick-and-roll coverage is better, with Adebayo storming the perimeter to disrupt drivers before they even get near the rim. And suddenly the Blazers are struggling to make the playoffs, after making the Western Conference Finals without Whiteside last season.

And suddenly — and this can’t be overstated — Spoelstra has appeared happy again.

(And he keeps talking about “max players” and what they should be; Whiteside, of course, was given a max by Miami.)

Still, maybe Spoelstra didn’t mean anything toward Whiteside, and this was all about Butler. Certainly the Heat and Spoelstra will say so now, with Whiteside and his team making their only appearance at American Airlines Arena this season, this upcoming Sunday. We’re not necessary expecting a tribute video, but the Heat tend to go the classy route, so who knows?

Whatever was meant, or not, by Spoelstra here, this certainly makes an interesting subplot even more intriguing. Contrary to what Whiteside may have believed, the Heat now have shooters everywhere — including one from the podium, who didn’t miss his intended or unintended target Thursday.

 

Ethan J. Skolnick, the CEO of Five Reasons Sports Network, will relaunch his Season Ticket column next week with a column about Butler’s impact in other ways.

Attrition may Have Uncovered Potent Lineup for Heat

A potent lineup for the Heat may have revealed itself.

The Miami Heat have somehow managed to maintain course despite crucial injuries to Justise Winslow and Goran Dragic.

 

Miami has started to show some vulnerability, as evidenced by their first truly bad loss of the year at Memphis.

Jimmy Butler needs a break.

However the team once again found enough gas Wednesday to end Philadelphia’s undefeated run at home.  The common denominators for most Heat lineups lately have been Jimmy Butler, Bam Adebayo, and Kendrick Nunn.  That trio has been in the top three lineups for Miami in terms of minutes per game, with Duncan Robinson and Meyers Leonard rounding things out.

Switching to Airplane Mode

One intriguing combination has been to bring in Derrick Jones Jr. for Meyers Leonard early and late.  Leonard typically opens each half but has not been utilized much, if at all down the stretch.  Jones, Jr. has been seeing a huge increase in minutes recently due to several factors, including the razor thin rotation Erik Spoelstra has to work with.  That faith has been rewarded as Jones continues to carve out a more significant role.  Over the last seven games, DJJ is averaging nearly 30 minutes per game and is starting to feel it from downtown.  He is 6-for-13 in his last four games and has scored in double figures three times in that span, while his defense has also made a huge impact.

 

The lineup featuring Butler/Jones, Jr./Adebayo/Robinson/Nunn has been used in just three games going into Wednesday.  Yet in that limited sample the numbers have been encouraging and perhaps worth a look.  Rebounding is a legitimate concern without a second traditional big however, time will tell how the scales balance in that aspect.

 

Butler has been all that Heat fans could have hoped for but is exerting a ton out there. He struggled in his latest return to Philadelphia and is logging a Thibodeau-ian amount of minutes lately.  Butler is playing almost 39 minutes per contest in December which is nearly six minutes more than his career average. His 26.3 usage rate this season would be the second highest total of his career if maintained.

While DJJ has been a key cog in the wheel, the emergence of Adebayo is what has held things together.  The reigning Eastern Conference Player of the Week has continued to carry the load on both ends.  Adebayo is the anchor, not only on defense but from the high post where his skill set shines.  Bam is averaging 18/11/5  in December and his ability to finish on the pick-and-roll, or run things from the top, has kept defenses off balance.

Kendrick Nunn and Duncan Robinson have been inconsistent but when they are on, they give this group the scoring from the perimeter it needs.  Nunn erupted for 26 points at Philadelphia and has hit half his three-point attempts on this road trip. If he can start making the easy plays and distribute the ball, expect another nice progression from the rookie.  Meanwhile, Robinson has been feast-or-famine, but when he’s eating the whole offense changes.  He has become a comfortable second option on the perimeter when the initial action doesn’t hit, while doing just enough on defense.  Robinson is shooting over 47% from deep this month and is getting almost six minutes more per game.

The lineup is shooting 59.6% overall and 52% from deep, while averaging a 3.6 assist-to-turnover ratio.  On the opposite end they are holding opponents to just 40% shooting, including 26.5% from beyond the arc.  Conversely, they are 6.5 points better overall than the opponent so far.  Perhaps that is why they were the “Five on the Floor” to close the game out in Philadelphia.

When Dragic (and Winslow?) return, it will likely shake up the backcourt rotation once again.

For now, we may be seeing this group again when it counts.