Jimmy Butler said there was no lingering bad blood between the Miami Heat and Denver Nuggets on Wednesday as the two teams prepared to face off in the NBA Finals.
Miami and Denver met in a fiery regular season clash in the 2021-2022 season, when Nuggets star Nikola Jokic poleaxed then Miami player Markieff Morris from behind.
That sparked a melee involving players from both sides. A furious Butler challenged Denver’s players to settle their differences in the tunnel after the game.
Jokic and Morris were both ejected while Jokic was later suspended for one game following the incident at Denver’s Ball Arena.
Butler moved to draw a line under the controversy on Wednesday when talking to reporters on the eve of Miami’s clash with Denver in game one of the finals.
“There’s a lot of stuff about the whole situation that people don’t understand, and I’ll let that stay back there,” Butler said.
“I don’t think it has too much to do with anything, this thing in the past. It’s high-level competition.”
Butler was at pains to clarify however that his angry on-court tirade during that 2021 game was not directed at Jokic.
“I will say I wasn’t talking to Jokic,” said Butler. “That wasn’t my beef. Make sure you write that. The individual who I was talking to definitely knew who I was talking to.”
Butler meanwhile said Miami would need to take an all-hands-on-deck approach to containing Jokic, Denver’s two-time NBA MVP who is averaging 29.9 points, 13.3 rebounds and 10.3 assists during this postseason.
Asked what would be the key to slowing down Jokic, Butler replied: “Guarding him as a team with all five guys.
“He does everything so well, and we’re going to have to be in the gaps, we’re going to have to gang rebound.
“We can’t have defensive lapses. We’re just going to have to get after it. I think at the end of the day, he’s a major key … and we’re going to have to lock in.”
Butler has been the talismanic driving force of Miami’s remarkable playoff run this year, which saw them reach the finals despite being the lowly-ranked eighth seeds.
The 33-year-old forward said Miami’s players had always believed in their ability to mount a deep postseason run based on the quality of the roster displayed in practice.
“We do it every single day, and we know what we’re capable of,” Butler said.
“The outside individuals don’t get the opportunity to see that, and I wish that y’all did because then you would see that the guys that we have on this team, on this roster, can really play some high-level basketball.
“We’re going to stay confident because, we’re in the grind every single day.
“Guys have been out of the lineup all year long, guys step up, fill in, and do their job. We’re never going to be surprised.”