Finding a way without Jimmy Butler at the start of a season is nothing new for the Miami Heat. Now the question is whether that will be a direction they again go this time around.
With Butler limited by a sore right ankle in the second-half of Wednesday’s season-opening road loss to the Orlando Magic, and then held out of the second half of Friday’s home-opening victory over the New Orleans Pelicans, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra on Sunday put off a decision on what might come next with the 31-year-old veteran.
“I don’t have an update today,” Spoelstra said after Sunday’s practice at AmericanAirlines Arena. “We’ll just continue to get him treatment, and then we’ll put together a plan.”
Butler missed the first three games of last season for the birth of his daughter, with the Heat 2-1 in those three, including a victory in Milwaukee. Next up for the Heat are back-to-back home games against the Bucks, on Tuesday and Wednesday.
“Each situation is different,” Spoelstra said. “Each player and each injury, you want to treat it with most intelligent response. I thought that was a no-brainer the other night. And then we’ll just see how his body responds with these days of treatment.”
Andre Iguodala started Friday’s second half in place of Butler.
Spoelstra has gone with different lineups in each of the first two games, with Meyers Leonard inserted in the opening power rotation Friday in place of Moe Harkless, to go against the bulk of the Pelicans’ Steven Adams. Next up is the Bucks’ sizeable front line that includes Brook Lopez.
Spoelstra said the uniqueness of this pandemic-compacted season could factor into his lineup approach.
“I think you do have to have that open approach every year, and not just be so disciplined to the way you’ve done things in the past,” he said. “And then secondly, you can’t deny it: This is such a unique season. It’s different than anything we have experienced before.
“Our depth is a strength of ours. And when you’re dealing with a quick turnaround and games that are happening right on top of a training camp, I think it just makes sense to take advantage of that depth as much as possible.”
Leonard said he is prepared to roll with the decisions.
“Do I want to be out there every single night? Yes,” he said. “Will I continue to do my best to show that no matter what lineup the other team is putting out there that I feel as though I can be impactful every night? Absolutely.”
First-round pick Precious Achiuwa said Sunday that his rookie transition has been significantly eased by playing on the second unit with 30-somethings Goran Dragic, Avery Bradley and Iguodala.
“They see the game from a different, different perspective,” he said. “It’s almost like they make the game a lot slower for me. Just whatever happens right there, they’re correcting me on the fly, they’re talking to me on the fly, they’re telling me what to do in the game right there.
“Being out there with those guys who have pretty much seen everything, every play, every action, nothing is new to them. I think it’s really, really important for me and helping make my job a lot easier.”