Clarity offered on Jimmy Butler’s Heat absence, ‘This shouldn’t be a long-term or lingering issue’

MIAMI — Jimmy Butler stepping away from the team prior to the end of the Miami Heat’s five-game western swing Friday night in Phoenix is neither a sign of heightened injury concern nor a concession to age.

Amid speculation about a serious ailment or extended absence, Butler’s agent communicated with the South Florida Sun Sentinel that his client is anticipating an expedient return from his toe ailment.

Butler was sidelined during the third quarter of last Saturday’s loss to the Utah Jazz and has missed the past three games with what the Heat are now listing as a sprained right 1st MP joint.

“Since the Utah game,” agent Bernie Lee texted, “we’ve been able to gather all the info we needed to feel comfortable to move forward, and thankfully everything that’s come back has indicated that this shouldn’t be a long-term or lingering issue.”

The Heat next play Monday at Kaseya Center against the Houston Rockets, at the start of a four-game homestand.

“Not to state the obvious,” Lee continued, “but clearly injuries suck. But taking into consideration that three of the last four years Jimmy has led his team into playing in the conference finals or Finals means Jimmy has played a lot of games that have bled into his offseason prep time for the following season.

“We are working to figure out the balance to that, but clearly it’s a good problem to have.”

Butler turned 34 in September.

“Big picture,” Lee continued, “someone sent me a quote today about Jimmy being on the other side of 30 with the implication, I’m assuming, being that he’s aging, and I had to laugh to myself because the reality is, he’s been on the other side of 30 the entire time he’s been in Miami, and truthfully I see the way he prepares every day and goes about his craft, and I expect that he’ll be doing this to the other side of 40.”

The Heat’s next injury report will be issued Sunday.

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“But the battle of today,” Lee continued, “is this in front of us and I expect him to power through as fast as possible like he always does.”

Butler declined comment about the injury before returning to Miami after Wednesday night’s Heat victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at Arena.

Rookie Jaime Jaquez Jr., who has been mentored by Butler, has been starting in place of Butler.

Record night

Sent to the G League for additional seasoning, Heat second-year center Orlando Robinson closed with 41 points and 13 rebounds in a Friday night road victory for the Sioux Falls Skyforce in Birmingham, Ala., over the affiliate of the New Orleans Hornets.

Robinson closed 14 of 22 from the field, including 3 of 5 on 3-pointers, also going 7 of 7 from the foul line, with two blocked shots.

It was Robinson’s seventh consecutive double-double, tying the Skyforce franchise record.

“The last time I had heard his stat line, at halftime (in Phoenix), whenever that was, it was 29-13. So I did not know he had 41 points,” Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That is great. But I think the more important thing is every time Orlando goes down there, it feels like we win. I think, right now, in two years his record is roughly 22 and three or four. That’s what what matters to us, he impacts winning.

“People say, ‘Oh, it’s the G League.’ That’s the whole point, impact winning. When you go on assignment, you can affect that. And he takes it very seriously. And that’s why we really like him as a prospect, because he prioritizes that. And then everything else he’s getting better at.”

Robinson, whose Heat contract becomes guaranteed for the season on Sunday, will be joined by Heat two-way player Cole Swider in Sioux Falls for a Sunday game in South Dakota.