NBA

What Happened to Miami Heat Forward Jimmy Butler and Why Isn’t He Playing Against the Bucks?

During the 2020 NBA playoffs, Jimmy Butler stepped up and made a major statement. The forward had always been regarded as a talented, if temperamental player; with the Miami Heat, however, he proved that he was capable of stepping up on the sport’s biggest stage.

On the back of that success, NBA fans around the country will probably be watching Jimmy Butler with some newfound appreciation this season. The Miami Heat forward, however, won’t be taking the court for the nationally televised matchup with the Milwaukee Bucks.

Jimmy Butler took a tough road to the NBA

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In the world of sports, there are plenty of Cinderella stories featuring someone rising from unlikely circumstances to become an NBA star. Jimmy Butler’s road to the pros, however, sounds like something that even a screenwriter would consider unbelievable.

As detailed by ESPN’s Chad Ford, Butler’s mother kicked him out of the house when he was 13-years old, saying, “I don’t like the look of you. You gotta go.” The teenager then started bouncing around, sleeping on friends’ couches until their parents grew tired of his presence; one family, however, allowed Jimmy to stay.

Things didn’t come easily on the basketball court, either. While Butler showed plenty of talent, no major colleges came calling; he ended up heading to Tyler Junior College, where he caught the eye of D-1 scouts. Even after transferring to Marquette, though, the forward wasn’t automatically a star.

As a junior college transfer, Jimmy Butler didn’t seem much action during his first season with the Golden Eagles. During his junior season, however, the forward seized his opportunity with both hands; by the time he was a senior, Butler averaged 15.7 points and 6.1 rebounds per game. That was enough to make him a first-round draft pick.

Becoming a star with the Miami Heat

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When the 2011 NBA draft rolled around, the Chicago Bulls selected Jimmy Butler with the 30th-overall pick. While the forward had finally made it to the NBA, it would still take some time before he landed in the right spot.

Butler spent the first six seasons of his professional career with the Bulls, growing from bench player into a legitimate star. During the 2017 offseason, though, the club traded him to the Timberwolves. Although the forward helped Minnesota make the playoffs, he requested a trade before his second season with the club; it was rumored that he didn’t get along with Karl-Anthony Towns and Andrew Wiggins, although no one has ever divulged exactly what happened behind closed doors.

The forward then played out the 2018 season in Philadelphia before joining the Miami Heat in a sign and trade deal. While Butler’s counting numbers declined in Florida, he stepped up down the stretch, putting in massive performances en route to the 2020 NBA Finals. After 10 seasons in the association, he had finally earned the respect of the league at large.

Why isn’t Jimmy Butler playing for the Miami Heat against the Bucks?

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After his playoff performances, NBA fans were licking their collective lips at the prospect of watching Jimmy Butler duel with Giannis Antetokounmpo on national TV. It appears, however, that the Miami man won’t be suiting up against the Bucks, at least for the first game of their two-game set.

As reported by Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, Butler sprained his ankle on December 23 against the Orlando Magic; he tried to play through the pain on Christmas Day but left the game early with “ankle stiffness.”

Heading into a back-to-back set with the Milwaukee Bucks, it seems like that ankle is still bothering Butler. The forward hasn’t practiced since Christmas and is officially listed as doubtful for Tuesday’s game; at this point, Miami isn’t ready to risk their star player for a regular-season game.

“Every player and every injury is different,” head coach Erik Spoelstra said, according to Winderman, when asked if Butler could miss additional time. “We’re treating this the way we think is right, currently.”

While NBA fans won’t get to see Jimmy Butler play against the Milwaukee Bucks, at least on Tuesday, there is a silver lining to the current situation. By keeping the forward out of action now, he’ll theoretically be ready to go when the games really count.

Stats courtesy of Sports-Reference and Basketball-Reference