The Miami Heat holds a 2-1 lead in the Eastern Conference finals against Boston. What has been taking place with Jimmy Butler and the Heat inside the Orlando bubble since the playoffs started has been several things for the NBA’s lost legion of followers in Minnesota.
Fascinating. Hysterical. Enlightening.
Fascinating as Butler is smothered in praise for hard-nosed leadership of the underdog Heat — making game-winning plays whether he’s scoring 30-plus, or 14, as when Miami came back from 13 down at halftime to win 106-101 on Thursday.
Eric Spoelstra, Miami’s tremendous coach, said before the Eastern finals started: “It’s an intensity level that he brings which is uncommon. The really unique quality about Jimmy is his reliability. …’’
Hysterical, in the sense that Spoelstra also said, “He’s totally cool with the young guys growing; he’s not territorial at all,’’ and here in Minnesota, he was labeled as an egotist who should be kowtowing to the growth of young star Karl-Anthony Towns.
Enlightening, since reports from the Heat’s underdog run inside the bubble are describing everything that president/coach Tom Thibodeau envisioned he could put together when he made the trade with the Bulls for Butler on June 22, 2017.
Thibodeau’s mistake wasn’t that trade. The mistake was giving a five-year, $148 million max deal to Andrew Wiggins in October 2017, meaning that — with KAT certain to get a second one — the Wolves weren’t able to pay Butler at the level he wanted.
No extension, all Hades broke loose a year later, and Butler was traded on Nov. 12, 2018. He didn’t work out with those young underachievers in Philly, either.
Now, he’s surrounded by players, young and old, who appreciate the fire, reinforcing the opinion that Butler never was the star we should have been mad at in Minnesota.
As Butler told ESPN’s Rachel Nichols after the rowdy practice of Oct. 10, 2018:
“Am I being tough on [KAT]? Yeah … I’m not the most talented player on the team. Who is? KAT. Who is the most God-gifted player on our team? Wiggy. Who plays the hardest? Me!’’
• We might want to recall the Woofies made the playoffs at 47-35 in the Season of Jimmy (2017-18). Also, they were 27-10 vs. West when he was in lineup.
• Jarrett Culver might be advised to check Butler’s modest rookie stats in Chicago, study tapes of Jimmy’s fierce, two-way approach and say, “That’s the player I want to become.’’
• Wolves draft Anthony Edwards and move Josh Okogie, right? I’ll bet Thibs would take him for the Knicks.
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