Jimmy Butler explained his intentional charge on Chris Paul in the Miami Heat's loss to the Oklahoma City Thunder by saying "You gotta deal with me" if you go for one of his team-mates.

After knocking the ball away from Duncan Robinson and out of bounds in the closing stages of the second quarter on Wednesday, Paul exchanged words with the Heat guard having seemingly hurt his hand in the process.

The 10-time All-Star intercepted the subsequent inbound pass from Butler to Robinson, ripping possession away and throwing it back at him, with the rebound going out for a Thunder ball.

When the Heat came back up the floor on their next possession, Butler got Paul on a switch and intentionally barrelled him over as he drove to the rim.

Explaining the incident after the game, Butler said: "You're not gonna throw the ball at my team-mate like that. So yeah, I'll get a turnover. I'll get an offensive foul.

"We don't do that here. You mess with one of my guys, especially one of my shooters, then you gotta deal with me and everybody else."

Robinson said: "I shot-faked in the corner and I told him [Paul] I should've shot it. We went back and forth a little bit, nothing out of the ordinary for an NBA game.

"He's a really talented player, I have a lot of respect for him, but he also competes and I'm not one to back down from a challenge in that regard.

"I have a ton of respect for him but it was just a heat-of-the-moment thing."

Mike Muscala made a three-pointer with 5.2 seconds remaining to earn the Thunder a 116-115 victory against the Heat, who will face the Indiana Pacers in the first round of the playoffs.

"We gonna go about everything the same we always do. Get better come tomorrow, make sure our bodies are right," said Butler about the tie with the Pacers.

"We've still got them one more time before the playoffs start, so we gotta start by sending a message then."

The Thunder will go up against the Houston Rockets in the first round, pitting Paul against his former team and James Harden, who he reportedly fell out with prior to being traded last year.

National Basketball Players Association president Chris Paul said players were eager to return when it is safe to do so.

The NBA season was suspended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which has killed more than 308,000 people worldwide.

The United States has been hardest hit by COVID-19, recording more than 1.4 million cases with a death toll exceeding 88,000.

Oklahoma City Thunder guard Paul said players were eager to return to action, telling ESPN on Friday: "Obviously we want to play.

"Oh man, we want to play. We want to play bad. I think that's the consensus among the guys around the league.

"We want it to be obviously as safe as possible, but the biggest thing is, we miss the game."

Paul said it was up to players and officials to work out a plan if they are to get back underway amid the risk.

"What is normal now? So I think that's what we're trying to figure out, what it looks like, so until we find those answers and we can come up with an actual plan, right now it's basically sit and wait," he said.

"The virus is in control."

Oklahoma City Thunder star Chris Paul said players need more than two weeks to prepare to play NBA games amid the coronavirus pandemic.

The NBA has been suspended since March 11 due to the COVID-19 crisis, which has killed at least 184,100 people worldwide.

It remains to be seen when, and if, the 2019-20 season will resume as the United States struggles to contain the outbreak following more than 848,700 confirmed cases and over 47,600 deaths in the country.

While the NBA remains committed to resuming the campaign, commissioner Adam Silver said there is still no timetable for a possible restart.

On the situation, 10-time All-Star Paul told reporters via a conference call on Wednesday: "I'm just letting you know – and I don't think the league would do it anyway – but if they were like, 'Hey, you got two weeks, and then we're going,' that's not going to happen.

"That's not going to happen. Whatever the amount of time is, just know that players will have the input, the say-so, because we're the ones playing. That comes first. We don't ever want to put guys in a situation where their injury risk is higher than ever before."

Paul, 34, added: "I get what we're dealing with right now, a lot of hypotheticals, but I don't know.

"This is the thing with having 450 players in the league and being in a situation like this, where some guys have access to weight rooms, some guys don't.

"Some guys have access to facilities where they can train or do this or can run. That's why, whatever happens – and I say this, and I mean this – we always go back to the players."

"We just want to play," Paul continued. "We're trying to figure out what that looks like. Right now, I'm just focused on playing, playing in some form or fashion.

"This is a situation where no one knows. The virus is actually in complete control. I seriously tried to answer things the best I could, but there are things where it's not like I've got the answers and I'm just not telling you."

The NBA may be on hold and the start of the WNBA delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, but basketball fans will have a new game to watch in April.

An announcement by the NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA) on Thursday confirmed a game of HORSE involving eight players and legends from the two leagues will begin on April 12 and be televised.

The challenge, which will be headlined by 10-time NBA All-Star Chris Paul, Atlanta Hawks guard Trae Young and 2020 Hall of Fame inductee Tamika Catchings.

Chicago Bulls guard Zach LaVine, WNBA All-Star Allie Quigley, Utah Jazz guard Mike Conley and NBA Finals MVPs Chauncey Billups and Paul Pierce complete the line-up.

Each of the contestants will take part in isolation from their home courts.

Young and Billups will battle for the right to face the victor of a meeting between Catchings and Conley for a place in the semi-finals. LaVine must take on Pierce, with Paul up against Quigley on the other side of the draw.

The semi-finals and the championship game will take place on April 16.

State Farm is sponsoring the competition and will donate over $200,000 on behalf of the competitors.

Team LeBron defeated Team Giannis 157-155 in the revamped NBA All-Star Game in Chicago on Sunday.

Unlike previous years, every quarter counted in the name of charity at the United Center, where the new format was unveiled for the showpiece event.

Each of the first three quarters started with the score at 0-0 and lasted the standard 12 minutes, with the game clock turned off for the final period and a final target score set.

The cumulative score of the first three quarters was 133-124 in favour of Team Giannis. The final target score was set by taking the leading team's cumulative score and adding 24 – the 24 representing Kobe Bryant's jersey number.

LeBron James and his team earned bragging rights in the 69th edition of the All-Star Game – hometown hero and Los Angeles Lakers star Anthony Davis (20 points) making one of two free throws to beat Giannis Antetokounmpo's side.

While Davis scored the winning point, Kawhi Leonard (30 points) received the All-Star Game Kobe Bryant MVP Award, renamed in honour of the five-time NBA champion.

Bryant, who tragically died in a helicopter crash along with his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others last month, was honoured prior to tip-off.

Magic Johnson led an eight-second moment of silence for Lakers legend Bryant and former commissioner David Stern as both All-Star teams came together to hold hands, before delivering a heartfelt speech.

Team LeBron made a fast start, outscoring Team Giannis 53-41 in the first period before the latter won the second period 51-30.

Neither team could be split in the third, though Team Giannis went into the fourth quarter leading Team LeBron – who rallied to win for the third successive year.

James and Chris Paul finished with 23 points each, while Ben Simmons (17) and James Harden (11) were also in double-digits for Team LeBron.

Team Giannis were led by Antetokounmpo (25 points, 11 rebounds), Joel Embiid (22 points, 10 rebounds), Kemba Walker (23 points) and Rudy Gobert (21 points, 11 rebounds).

Devin Booker was the most notable omission as six first-timers won NBA All-Star selection among the 14 reserves named on Thursday.

Jimmy Butler, Chris Paul and Russell Westbrook headlined the list of players selected by NBA coaches to round out the roster options for Team LeBron and Team Giannis.

Phoenix Suns guard Booker was denied a place despite averaging 27.1 points, 4.1 rebounds and 6.4 assists through 44 games this season.

Oklahoma City Thunder veteran Paul, Houston Rockets star Westbrook, Damian Lillard of the Portland Trail Blazers and Utah Jazz youngster Donovan Mitchell snatched Western Conference guard spots, the latter handed his maiden selection alongside team-mate and fellow first-timer Rudy Gobert.

Brandon Ingram, Bam Adebayo, Jayson Tatum and Domantas Sabonis will also be among the newcomers at United Center in Chicago on February 16.

Suns general manager and three-time NBA champion James Jones questioned Booker's absence.

"I've played with and against multiple All-Stars in this league and Devin Booker is undoubtedly an NBA All-Star," Jones said in a statement.

Frenchman Gobert's inclusion alongside Sabonis (Lithuania), Ben Simmons (Australia) and Nikola Jokic (Serbia) plus starters Luka Doncic (Slovenia), Joel Embiid (Cameroon), Pascal Siakam (Cameroon) and Giannis Antetokounmpo (Greece) lifts the number of international players to eight, a record for an All-Star Game.

The 2020 edition will feature several format changes to honour Kobe Bryant after the Los Angeles Lakers legend, his 13-year-old daughter Gianna and seven others died in a helicopter crash on Sunday.

Among them will be a 'target score' to chase in a timeless fourth quarter, the figure being the leading team's tally after three periods plus 24 points - representing the number Bryant wore during the second half of his glittering NBA career.

LeBron James and Milwaukee Bucks forward Antetokounmpo, the designated captains, will select their teams from the available player pool on February 6.

 

Eastern Conference reserves:

Jayson Tatum (Boston Celtics), Ben Simmons (Philadelphia 76ers), Domantas Sabonis (Indiana Pacers), Jimmy Butler (Miami Heat), Khris Middleton (Milwaukee Bucks), Kyle Lowry (Toronto Raptors), Bam Adebayo (Miami Heat)

Western Conference reserves:

Chris Paul (Oklahoma City Thunder), Damian Lillard (Portland Trail Blazers), Brandon Ingram (New Orleans Pelicans), Donovan Mitchell (Utah Jazz), Rudy Gobert (Utah Jazz), Russell Westbrook (Houston Rockets), Nikola Jokic (Denver Nuggets)

Chris Paul is adamant he will not waive the final year of his contract to be traded to a contender for the NBA championship.

The Houston Rockets sent Paul, first-round picks for 2024 and 2026 and pick swaps in 2021 and 2025 to the Oklahoma City Thunder to acquire Russell Westbrook in the offseason.

It was expected the Thunder, who gained more draft capital and the promising Shai Gilgeous-Alexander by letting Paul George team up with Kawhi Leonard at the Los Angeles Clippers, would quickly look to move the nine-time All-Star on.

However, Paul has remained in Oklahoma City and led them to a 25-19 record – their latest match a 112-107 triumph over the Rockets at Toyota Center – making them surprise playoff contenders in the Western Conference.

Paul's $44.2million player option for the 2021-22 season is seen as a major obstacle in potential trade talks, but the 15-year point guard has no plan to give it up in pursuit of a ring.

"No chance. That's not happening. Nope," Paul told Sports Illustrated.

He continued: "People always try to tell your story. I'm just in the moment. If something happens and I get moved, I'll make adjustments. For now, I get to hoop. I get to play. My body feels good. I'm excited.

"I am without my wife and my kids, and when I get to practice, I'm excited to be there. I know we're going to compete. We have a fun team. That's all you want. A chance and an opportunity to compete.

"I guess I'm just different. Analytics may say this, the odds may say this. When the ball goes up that night, I think we have a chance to win."

Paul was surprised by the speed of his trade from the Rockets and the Thunder intend to do all they can to ensure he is happy with his next location if it comes to him being moved on.

"Outside of the immediate aftermath of when we initially traded for Chris, we haven't talked at all about the future or felt we needed to," said OKC general manager Sam Presti.

"Given that the trade happened so quickly for him and took him off guard, we thought it was important to build some trust, some rapport, and approach things collaboratively with his representation to see where his head was with respect to the situation with us. He never flinched, and that gave us confidence.

"His professionalism, his outlook, and his maturity have been on another level. We are going through a transition ourselves, so it's somewhat poetic, how he has returned at this point in the organisational timeline, and how he's elevated our team.

"All I can say is that Chris has been all we could have hoped for and more."

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