Heading into their toughest stretch of games at the NBA’s “bubble” setting, in Lake Buena Vista, FL, it was uncertain if the Miami Heat would have their All-Star forward.
Butler, who missed Sunday’s team practice due with an “excused absence,” was not listed in the Heat’s 5:30 p.m. injury report and should be available to play Monday against the Toronto Raptors.
Rather, center Bam Adebayo (quad contusion) and guard Goran Dragic (back spasms) were the only two players on Sunday’s injury report, as both are “probable” to play versus Toronto.
While it’s now revealed to have been a day off, what teammate Jae Crowder told reporters following Sunday’s practice implied that he may have been in isolation.
“We want to talk to him as soon as he gets out of quarantine or whatever he’s in,” Crowder said.
Crowder’s “quarantine” comment seemed to connect Butler to COVID-19. That does come in surprise, as the NBA announced last week that all 344 players involved in the league’s 22 team restart tested negative for the coronavirus.
League officials were aware of potential “false positive” tests heading into its stay at Disney World, calling for those people to be put into quarantine immediately after. That may have been the case for Butler.
“It’s just a next-man-up mentality, from a standpoint of staying locked in and engaged,” Crowder added, as Miami prepares for their first game of a back-to-back. “We know he’s locked in and engaged once he’s able to get back with us.
“It’s definitely a curveball for all of us to hear stuff like what’s going on with him. You never know what to expect.”
Butler was electric in the Heat’s first of eight “seeding” games at Disney’s Wide World of Sports Complex, finishing with 22 points, 7 assists, 4 rebounds and 3 steals in Saturday’s 125-105 victory over the Denver Nuggets.
“He’s a key to our team and we’re better with him,” Kelly Olynyk said Sunday. “But it’s definitely great to get some other guys reps and some different looks. Whether he [Butler] gets in foul trouble or something happens. we’re going to need other guys to step up in his place and in anybody’s place who goes down.”
The use of Miami’s depth will be key in the upcoming week, as they prepare for Monday’s 1:30 p.m against Toronto, followed by Tuesday’s 6:30 p.m. contest versus the Boston Celtics.
“Our depth is really one of our biggest strengths,” coach Erik Spoelstra said in a zoom conference prior to the resumption of the 2019-20 season. “We can go three deep, really in any position. In a circumstance like this, I really think it’s gonna be more of a sprint than a marathon. We will be in uncertain circumstances where we may be required to use that depth because of any number of circumstances that are unpredictable.”