NBA

Heat star Jimmy Butler rejects underdog tag ahead of first play-in tournament

By Sports Desk April 10, 2023

Star Miami Heat wing Jimmy Butler has no interest in embracing the role of underdogs this year as he prepares for a third deep playoff run from his past four seasons.

Butler, 33, led the Heat to a shock NBA Finals appearance back in the 2020 'bubble' playoffs, and after a first-round exit in 2021, the Heat showed they still have plenty in the tank with another Eastern Conference Finals run this past year.

Although few picked them to win multiple rounds last season, the Heat still finished as the top seed in the East with a 53-29 record, which is in stark contrast to their 44-38 campaign this time around that has them seventh.

By finishing seventh, it means the Heat will participate in their first play-in tournament, hosting the Atlanta Hawks for a chance to claim the seventh seed, and if they lose they will play the winner of the nine-ten matchup between the Toronto Raptors and Chicago Bulls for the eighth seed.

When asked on Monday if their position in the play-in meant Butler would embrace the underdog tag heading into this postseason, he was clear that is not the case.

"Nope," he said. "It's all the same. Didn't nobody pick us to win last year, either. So who cares. Y'all not going to pick us this year, still don't give a damn. In 10 years, y'all still not going to pick us – still don't give a damn."

Butler carried the Heat all the way to Game 7 against the Boston Celtics last season, narrowly missing out on another trip to the NBA Finals, but he said he does not feel external pressure to perform at the same level.

"I'm going to do whatever it takes for my team to win, night in and night out, and honestly, I could care less what anybody writes, if I was a good basketball player or a bad basketball player," he said. 

"Coach Pat [Riley] and coach [Erik Spoelstra] didn't bring me here because of what y'all write, in the most respectful way possible. 

"As I take on [Tuesday's] matchup and we get that dub, we'll worry about what goes on down the line, but I think I'm going to be a decent basketball player at the end of the day."

Head coach Erik Spoelstra was far less agitated, speaking about how excited he is for the new experience.

"First, I think this is going to be fun," he said. "I think you have to embrace this new experience. 

"To the old heads in our locker room, each of us have experienced long NBA careers and none have had this opportunity. I think it's been great for the league. 

"How harrowing this has been the last six, eight weeks for 16 teams in the West and the East, has just been great for competition."

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    Griffin's best season came in 2013-14, when he finished third in MVP voting with averages of 24.1 points per game, 9.5 rebounds and 3.9 assists to help the Clippers capture the Pacific Division title.

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