The Miami Heat had been struggling through the first six games without superstar Jimmy Butler in the lineup. His nagging right ankle injury looked like it might hinder him all year, especially after Butler was held to two points on Friday night. Then the five-time All-Star put on the ViceVersa jersey.
Jimmy Buckets put on the Superman cape Monday night against the Oklahoma City Thunder and dropped 18 points in 26 minutes. He also handed out six assists and grabbed three boards in a 118-90 blowout win. Butler, who has missed 10 quarters this season, is averaging 10.8 points per game while shooting just 37.5% from the field. No one in the Heat building questioned their leader’s contagious mojo ever fading. There’s a good reason why Butler earns roughly $35 million per year.
“Jimmy’s a really good basketball player,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra told reporters after Monday’s game. “The level of concern in our building was extremely low.”
Butler hadn’t spoken to the media since re-aggravating his ankle and exiting a Christmas Day matchup against the New Orleans Pelicans. He could have easily hyped himself up after dropping 18 on the Thunder — Butler did throw in that “my confidence is always high” — but instead took the opportunity to praise his teammates. Kelly Olynyk’s move to the starting five was a big catalyst.
“My confidence is always high,” Butler told reporters on Monday. “I think my guys’ confidence is high as well, about the team we can become and will become. But we just got to get better every day, that’s what this thing is all about. We have so much trust, so much confidence in one another. We know what we can do. It’s just about going out there and doing it every single day, putting some wins in the win column, and everything else takes care of itself.”
No News on James Harden Trade Front
The never-ending saga over whether James Harden might don a Heat jersey has cooled quite a bit in recent days.
First, the team leaked a report that they were no longer interested in the one-time NBA MVP, then came the news that the Rockets wanted “significantly more” than a package only featuring Heat sharpshooters Tyler Herro and Duncan Robinson.
Whatever the case, one former Heat star has chimed in on the Harden sweepstakes: Ray Allen. The 10-time All-Star only spent two seasons in South Beach but is beloved for hitting that amazing game-tying shot in Game 6 of the 2013 NBA Finals. Miami, of course, went on to beat the San Antonio Spurs in seven games that year to claim their third championship.
Allen was recently asked about Harden’s goals in a trade scenario and likened them to his own when he joined the Boston Celtics in 2007. His point being that Harden might need to “evolve as a player” to enjoy greater success because transitioning to a new system is hard. It takes determination and unselfishness.
Allen shared the following about Harden, via Sports Illustrated’s Howard Beck:
Would he be willing to come together with a new group of guys and trust that they can carry him as much as he thinks that he can carry them. Everybody gives something up that they don’t want to give up. Would he be willing to come together with a new group of guys and trust that they can carry him as much as he thinks that he can carry them? Everybody gives something up that they don’t want to give up.