The Miami Heat will hit the road once again without All-Star forward Jimmy Butler. Head coach Erik Spoelstra announced Butler and veteran guard Avery Bradley wouldn’t travel with the team for at least the first two games of a four-game trip.
This marks the fifth straight game that Butler and Bradley will miss due to the NBA’s health and safety protocols. The Heat have two contests versus the Toronto Raptors in Tampa before traveling to New York for a two-game set against the Brooklyn Nets. Center Meyers Leonard will also miss the game due to a shoulder strain.
Spoelstra has been in a precarious situation all year as the COVID-19 pandemic alters schedules and forces lineup changes on the fly — and arguably no team has been more greatly impacted than the Heat. They have been subject to a strict “contact-tracing policy” since a Jan. 9 visit to Washington, D.C.
“I just know it’s unlike any other season that we’ve all been a part of,” Spoelstra said after Tuesday’s practice, via South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “So I don’t know how it is going to play out. I think you do have to acknowledge that it is different. I think it also is important to not to make an excuse for it. You have to be able to find a way, collectively, to manage through the unknown, the uncertainty, the unpredictability.”
Follow the Heavy on Heat Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors and content!
Monday Night Felt Like ‘Two Wins’
No one is making any excuses for the Heat’s struggles through 12 games. They certainly didn’t expect to be sitting in 12th place in the Eastern Conference with a 5-7 record. However, the volatile situation created by the novel coronavirus — remember, Spoelstra had to ensure two games with only eight players — has made it extremely difficult to find a consistent rotation.
But the unique challenge has also allowed bench players to see increased burn in critical moments. Guys like Kendrick Nunn, Gabe Vincent, Precious Achiuwa, KZ Okpala have been rising to the occasion. It could help Miami in the long run and Spoelstra crowed about Monday night’s 113-107 win feeling like “two wins.”
“Probably in some ways it feels like two wins because we are persevering through a lot of different things without feeling sorry for ourselves or making excuses,” Spoelstra said. “And I really commend the way the guys have handled all of this, this entire week. Coming together and not making those excuses that would be easy to make, and this game it wasn’t pretty all the way through.”
Raptors Using Tampa Bay for Home Games
Why are the Heat and Raptors playing in Tampa in the first place? Well, the Canadian government has limited travel in and out of the country so the NBA put the Raptors in Florida as a workaround for at least the first half of the season. And Toronto has gone 4-2 in their temporary home.
“They did a great job with the facility,” Raptors guard Fred VanVleet said, via NBA.com. “For us, it’s a mixture of what we have in Toronto and what we experienced in the bubble. We kind of got brainwashed into practicing in ballrooms in the bubble and it became normal for us. This doesn’t feel all that different but it’s nice to see all of our Raptors stuff in here. They did a great job.”
Tip-off is slated for 7:30 p.m. between the Heat and Raptors in Tampa on Jan. 20.