Heat’s Jimmy Butler, Max Strus explain their unique relationship: ‘Our personalities mix well’

David Santiago/dsantiago@miamiherald.com
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Jimmy Butler and Max Strus have a complicated relationship.

The Miami Heat teammates exchange playful barbs on social media, they jokingly insult each other during interviews and they have a handshake that includes middle fingers directed toward one another.

“I think that’s just the relationship we have and who he is,” Strus said of his connection with Butler ahead of Friday night’s game against the Hawks in Atlanta. “We’re both kind of sarcastic, so I think our personalities mix well together. Obviously, there’s nothing meaningful behind that. But yeah, I don’t know. Maybe he really does mean it sometimes. I don’t know.”

Their handshake began behind closed doors, but it has since become public. Butler and Strus have used their not-so-suitable-for-work sign of affection before and during games in recent weeks.

“I don’t know. He’s just a special individual,” Butler said when asked to explain his handshake with Strus. “I think from Day 1, he just started giving me the middle finger. He doesn’t like me for some reason. Actually, I do know the reason why, Max. I’m just not going to tell everybody, but you can’t fool me. I know why.”

Regarding the story behind the handshake, Strus said: “There really isn’t one. That’s just our relationship. There’s really nothing to it, to be honest with you.”

Butler offered a glimpse into their relationship during a a recent postgame interview when he was asked about Strus.

“Don’t ask me about Max. Don’t do it,” Butler said. “Because I’m going to tell you the truth. He just stinks, so people leave him open. [Erik Spoelstra] is like throw it to Max, he’s wide open. So I got to throw it to him. I literally try to look him off. Then it’s like, ‘OK, we got to throw it to him because he’s wide open.’”

Through it all, Strus believes Butler considers him a friend. But he’s still not completely sure.

“I think so,” Strus said with a smile. “But apparently not to him. I don’t know. You have to ask him. I got no comment on it.”

All jokes aside, Butler and Strus do enjoy each other’s company.

Along with their unique off-court relationship, they have also developed chemistry on the court. The Heat, entering Friday, has outscored opponents by 57 points in the 185 minutes that Butler and Strus have played together this season.

“Me and Jimmy have a special connection that we’ve built since last year,” Strus said, providing a rare serious response to a question involving Butler. “That’s my guy. He looks for me and wants me to be good. So I can’t ask for anything more. He has been a great role model and vet that I look up to, and he’s helping along the way.”

Despite all of the mutual respect and love, the insults and jokes will continue between them.

“It’s fun,” Strus said. “I think that’s a lot of our relationship is just fun and messing around and having fun with each other.”

DUNK CONTEST?

Caleb Martin has been one of the Heat’s revelations this season. As a two-way contract player, he has turned into an important and consistent contributor on both ends of the court.

One quality that has stood out about Martin is his athleticism that has resulted in a few high-flying dunks. Has Martin considered campaigning for a spot in next month’s Slam Dunk Contest during All-Star Weekend?

“I’m more of an in-game dunker,” Martin said. “I haven’t really thought about it like that, honestly.”

Martin, who entered Friday with 24 completed dunks this season, added that he has never actually participated in a dunk contest on any level.

But Martin would be open to the possibility of competing in his first dunk contest next month if he’s invited.

“I would think about it, for sure,” he said. “I have some stuff I can definitely do. Me and my brother [Charlotte Hornets forward Cody Martin] grew up definitely doing some stuff. I feel like I’ve got more in my bag dunking wise than him.”

Three different Heat players have taken part in the NBA’s Slam Dunk Contest in franchise history: Billy Thompson, Harold Miner and Derrick Jones Jr. Miner won the competition in 1993 and 1995, and Jones was the dunk champ in 2020.

ANOTHER 10 DAYS FOR SILVA

The Heat re-signed center Chris Silva to a third consecutive 10-day contract on Friday to bring him back as a COVID-19 replacement with Tyler Herro in the NBA’s health safety protocols.

Silva’s previous 10-day deal expired following Wednesday’s win over the Portland Trail Blazers. He has been with the Heat for the last three weeks after initially signing his first 10-day contract with Miami as a COVID-19 replacement on Dec. 31.

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