Heat’s Jimmy Butler dishes on eve of season on James Harden, KZ Okpala, his readiness

Ira Winderman, South Florida Sun Sentinel

Jimmy Butler makes it clear with his body language when it sits for interviews after Miami Heat practices: ask cogent questions and you’ll get clear, concise, candid responses.

Monday was one of those days, ahead of the Wednesday night’s season opener against the Orlando Magic at the Amway Center.

On whether the trade speculation linking James Harden to the Heat has impacted the team: “Zero. We’re in here working. We don’t listen to the outside noise. You can’t help but to hear about it; somebody else is asking you about it. You can’t control any of that. We’re locked in on us. We control what we can control, and we leave all of that other stuff up to everybody else.”

On being ready for the opener after being held out of the Heat’s two exhibitions: “I’m good to go. I think it was a mutual decision. Coaches, the organization know what they’re doing. I’m ready to hoop. When I’m out there at practice, I’m doing what I’m supposed to be doing, working on my game every single day and I’m ready to go. Now the thing starts to get real.”

On how good the Heat can be, after advancing to last season’s NBA Finals: “That’s an easy question. I think we’re championship-caliber, I think the group that coach Pat [Riley] and Spo [Erik Spoelstra] and Andy [Elisburg] have put together is to get over the hump that we couldn’t reach last year. I think everybody’s locked in. We’re going to continually grow, we’re going to continually get better each and every day, and continually learn each other’s strengths, but I think our goal is to win it all.”

On emerging 2019 second-round pick KZ Okpala: “He’s constantly learning, trying to get better on both ends of the floor. That’s my favorite part about him. He cares probably more about getting the stop than he does about getting the bucket. For me, that’s how I started off in the league. So a lot of what I see in him is kind of like what I was whenever I was a young guy in the league.”

On the acclimation of Heat newcomers Avery Bradley, Moe Harless and first-round pick Precious Achiuwa: “I’ve seen their will to win. I think that’s the only thing that matters. We know what they bring to the table talent-wise, what they’ve done in the league for a certain amount of years — all besides Precious, obviously — and they’re coming in here, they’re working, doing whatever you ask them to do.”

On Bam Adebayo becoming more assertive within the team: “I love his competitive edge, the way he’s going at myself, the way he’s going at anybody in practice just to try to get the best out of them every single day, every single rep, every single possession. It’s huge.”

------

Spoelstra said Monday was Achiuwa’s best day of practice with the team.

“He just has a very mature mindset and approach to work every single day,” Spoelstra said. “I believe today was his best practice so far. And that just shows you that he’s committed to the process every day, of trying to get better.

“Some days are better than others. And sometimes you don’t notice the improvement from one day to the next, but if you keep on stacking up good days, eventually after a few weeks, months, you’re a much better and different player.”

------

Despite an uneven road since the peak of his play last season as a rookie, guard Kendrick Nunn said Monday he believes he is in a good place in his career.

“My confidence level right now is probably higher than it’s ever been,” he said, having finished last season as runner-up for Rookie of the Year. “I know the year I had last year, but I know there’s work to do and I know that I can go to another level. And that’s what I’m striving for.”