Butler, Heat ready to go to the next level

Butler steps up for Heat

Last season, the Miami Heat seemingly came out of nowhere to make a run to the NBA Finals.

In 2020-21, they have targets on their backs as the reigning Eastern Conference champs. And the player likely to get the most attention from opposing teams is their small forward Jimmy Butler.

Indeed, the man known as “Jimmy Buckets” was a monster during this past fall’s postseason, averaging 22.2 points per game and 48.8 percent shooting, to go along with 6.5 rebounds, six assists and two steals. In the NBA Finals he was even better. Without much production from stars Goran Dragic and Bam Adebayo, Butler put the Heat on his back against an overpowering Lakers team, averaging 26.2 points, 9.8 assists, 8.3 rebounds and 2.2 steals per game. Included in that was a 40 point/13 assist/11 board effort in a Game 3 victory, one of two the Heat were able to muster against the eventual champs.

The 31-year-old five-time All-Star sat out the preseason after closing out the Finals just two months earlier but he’s ready to go and looking forward to playing with a cast that includes Dragic, Adebayo and KZ Okpala, the Heat’s No. 1 draft pick in 2019 whom Butler believes is destined for greatness. Of course, an 82-game regular season and three tiers of playoffs will tell if that mix adds up to an NBA title.

Butler and the Heart can be seen in action Thursday, Jan. 14, when they pay a visit to the Philadelphia 76ers in the opening game of a TNT doubleheader.

Full name: Jimmy Butler III

Birth date: Sept. 14, 1989

Birthplace: Houston

Height/weight: 6 feet, 7 inches/230 pounds

Draft: Selected in the first round (30th overall) by the Chicago Bulls in 2011

Teams: Chicago Bulls (2011-17); Minnesota Timberwolves (2017-18); Philadelphia 76ers (2018-19); Miami Heat (2019-present)

Position: Forward

No.: 22

College: Marquette (majoring in communications)

Honors and achievements: Eastern Conference champion (2020); five-time NBA All-Star; four-time NBA All-Defensive Second Team; NBA Most Improved Player (2015)

George Dickie

George Dickie has been a features writer for Gracenote/Tribune Media Services since 1989, when “Hee-Haw” was still on the air and George “Goober” Lindsay was his first interview. His early interviews ranged from Jim Henson and Dick Van Dyke to Phil Collins and the Dixie Chicks.

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