Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler continues to fuel the impressive and improbable run that Miami has had that has them in the Eastern Conference Finals following their series win over the Milwaukee Bucks in 5 games.
Butler has been the catalyst as the Heat have rolled to an 8-1 record while landing in the Eastern Conference Finals for the first time since the super-three of LeBron James, Dwayne Wade, and Chris Bosh were playing in South Beach.
Butler promises that the best is yet to come.
“No, I don’t think so,” Butler said, according to ESPN’s Nick Friedell. “I don’t think we’ve played a full 48-minute game yet. And that what’s promising. When we do lock in and decide to play from start to finish, I think the game would be a lot easier. I don’t think it’s happened yet, but we have to next round.”
It’s been quite the journey for the Heat, but head coach Erik Spoekstra has taken time to reflect as his team prepares for the next step in their storybook journey.
“I want our guys to just step back at least for a night, if not two nights, and just reflect,” Spoelstra said. “It’s not easy to get to the conference finals, and our organization knows that. We’ve been trying desperately to get back to the conference finals. It’s not our ultimate goal — we get it — but you can still acknowledge the journey, how hard it is to this point.
“That is why we brought Jimmy Butler here. That is why we put this team together with the veterans — adding Andre [Iguodala] and Jae [Crowder], building around Goran [Dragic] and Bam [Adebayo], having a young core — was to try and do something in the playoffs. It’s not easy to get to the conference finals. Otherwise, every team would be doing it.”
Miami has been led by the performances of Butler, who continues to play on another level in the playoffs.
“It means a lot,” Butler said. “But like you said, that’s not my goal. That’s not my guys’ goal. It’s not the organization’s goal. We want to win it, win a championship, and I think that’s what we’re focused on. These next eight are going to be much harder than the previous eight. We know that, but we’re ready.”
Butler made the decision to leave the Philadelphia 76ers, who were widely considered to be a favorite to make it to the NBA Finals, to head to Miami, who were in the middle tier of the Eastern Conference, but it was all about the culture for Butler as he made his decision.
“It’s better,” Butler said about the culture. “Like I always say, we just work here. We’re so honest with one another. If you watch the game, you constantly see guys going back and forth, but nobody’s taking it personally. Say what you got to say, and you move on from it. But that’s what I love about this group of guys is you can always be honest with one another. Nobody’s taking anything personal, no hard feelings, and everybody works.”
“It’s the intensity level that he brings that’s uncommon,” Spoelstra said of Butler. “And we have quite a few competitive guys, but you don’t see that many star-level players that are that ultra-competitive every single day. That breeds a level of confidence out of your team when your leader is like that. But I think the really unique quality about Jimmy is his relatability that you don’t really see unless you’re around him all the time. He’s such a likable guy. He won’t want anybody to know that, I guess.
“He’s totally cool with the young guys growing and becoming new players, better players, as the season goes on. He’s not territorial about it all. He’s just about winning, and he understands that he needs guys with him. All the big winners get that, and he’s been around long enough to know that we’re going to need everybody and everybody playing at a high level.”