Heat ‘ready for whatever,’ with Butler questionable due to sprained ankle; Randle, Brunson also questionable

·4 min read

NEW YORK — As Miami Heat players spoke after a team meeting Monday in a Manhattan hotel ballroom, there was a pragmatic approach when it came to the sprained right ankle sustained by team leader Jimmy Butler late in Sunday’s Game 1 victory over the New York Knicks in this best-of-seven Eastern Conference semifinal series.

“Because,” forward Caleb Martin said, “you never know. We don’t know yet. But we’ll be ready for whatever.”

The Heat formally listed Butler as questionable on their Monday injury report.

That had coach Erik Spoelstra doubling up during the team’s morning strategy session, one approach if Butler is able to push through the injury that had him hobbled at the finish of Game 1, and one without the player who almost single handedly lifted the Heat to a 4-1 first-round upset of the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks.

“You have to be responsible,” Spoelstra said. “It would be irresponsible to not prepare either way, for all the different scenarios.”

The scenarios also included the ankle sprain that had Knicks All-Star forward Julius Randle out for Game 1.

“We still don’t know who’ll be available for them,” Spoelstra said. “That’s why you just have to focus on doing your prep. We’ll do our prep for both.”

As it is, not only is Randle listed as questionable for Tuesday, but the Knicks said guard Jalen Brunson also is questionable, due to what they listed as a sore right ankle.

The Knicks also only did video Monday, with Randle going through a workout and rehab session.

Knicks coach Tom Thibodeau said Randle was, “responding well overall.”

Butler, who was not available for comment Monday as he received treatment, after bypassing a media session Sunday beyond his nationally televised walk-off interview, has missed only one game due to injury since Jan. 27, when he sat out a March 28 road loss to the Toronto Raptors with neck soreness. Even with his latest injury, he played a game-high 43:27 Sunday.

“He’s doing treatment around the clock,” Spoelstra said. “We probably won’t have any update until before the game.”

After Tuesday’s 7:30 matchup at Madison Square Garden, the series is idle until Saturday’s 3:30 p.m. game at Kaseya Center, the first of two games in Miami in the 2-2-1-1-1 format of all NBA playoff rounds.

Therefore, if Butler sits out Tuesday, it would mean basically six days off from the end of Sunday’s game until the start of Saturday’s.

“Hopefully he can play,” forward Max Strus said. “We’ll see what happens.”

So the Heat face playing without Tyler Herro and Victor Oladipo, who are coming off surgeries, for hand and knee, respectively, and possibly also Butler.

“Obviously, Jimmy is a huge part of both ends of the court,” Strus said. “So we got guys who are capable of helping and doing more. So if the opportunity presents itself, we’ll prepare ourselves for that and figure out ways to be better. But we’re just going to take one day at a time.”

Martin said because Butler prioritizes facilitating for his teammates, there is confidence in place to do more in his potential absence.

“I mean it’s obviously a lot different and he’s been a huge, obviously important core piece to our offense and defensively,” Martin said. “So obviously prep is going to be very important for us. A lot of it’s also just a mentality thing, where guys are just going to have to step up.

“We’ve had games without Jimmy before, and obviously it is a different prep. But he involves everybody so much that we should be able to handle ourselves with or without. So we’ll do our best to see what that looks like.”

The Heat went 9-9 in the games Butler missed this season.

“We’re in a situation where we’ve been in this type of situation the last couple of years, guys being injured, in and out,” point guard Kyle Lowry said, with the Heat having lost himself and Herro during last year’s run within one victory of the NBA Finals. “But that’s why you build a team. You don’t build a one-player roster. You build a 17-man roster, a 15-man roster, for guys to be able to step up.

“If he goes, he goes. If not, shoot, we’ve got to find a way to just go out there and do our way, still.”

In addition to Butler being listed as questionable, and Herro and Oladipo as out, the Heat listed forward Haywood Highsmith as probable, with left knee tendinitis. The Heat no longer are listing center Bam Adebayo on their injury report, having been so listed before recent games due to a hamstring issue.