Heat’s Butler, Jovic, Bryant suspended by NBA for Friday altercation in New Orleans; knee MRI for Herro

SACRAMENTO – The Miami Heat got their answers Sunday regarding the question of player availability following the melee in Friday night’s victory over the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center.

“I had no idea what to expect,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of the NBA’s rulings, following Sunday’s practice at the Sacramento Kings’ practice facility. “You know, at this point, it doesn’t really matter. They’ve made their decision on that.”

The NBA’s decision was one-game suspensions for Jimmy Butler and Nikola Jovic, and a three-game suspension for Thomas Bryant.

The three will miss Monday night’s game against the Kings at Golden 1 Center, with Bryant also to miss the additional two games remaining on this four-game trip, on Tuesday night against the Portland Trail Blazers and on Thursday night against the Denver Nuggets.

Butler and Bryant were hit with technical fouls and ejected in the fourth quarter of the victory in New Orleans.

“It felt like Jimmy shouldn’t have gotten a game on that,” Spoelstra said. “It’s really just kind of tangling and a little bit of pushing. I don’t think that deserves another game, because he ended up having to miss the fourth quarter. But it is what it is. Nobody wants to see it escalate to that point.”

The rulings resulted from what initially began as a benign foul from Heat forward Kevin Love against Pelicans forward Zion Williamson early in the fourth quarter of the Heat’s 106-95 victory.

In the immediate wake of that incident that escalated into several skirmishes, Butler and Bryant and the Pelicans’ Naji Marshall and Jose Alvarado all were assessed technical fouls and ejected.

The NBA’s security staff then conducted interviews and reviewed the video before Sunday’s sanctions were handed down.

In the case of Butler, who wound up putting Pelicans forward Naji Marshall in a chokehold, the sanction announced by Joe Dumars, the NBA’s Executive Vice President, Head of Basketball Operations, was “for instigating and engaging in an on-court altercation.” Marshall received the same sanction of a one-game suspension without pay.

“It doesn’t surprise me, man,” Butler said Sunday. “It doesn’t. I’m basically still on All-Star break.”

Bryant and Alvarado, per the NBA, were suspended “for leaving the bench area during an on-court altercation and fighting.”

Bryant said he was attempting to temper the emotions.

“From my point of view,” he said Sunday, “I was coming in to be a peacemaker. I didn’t want any of my teammates to get hurt.”

Jovic received his one-game suspension “for leaving the bench area and entering an on-court altercation.”

A key component of the NBA ruling was the video regarding those who left the bench, whether directly involved in the fracas or otherwise.

Per the NBA rule book: “During an altercation, all players not participating in the game must remain in the immediate vicinity of their bench. Violators will be subject to suspension, without pay, for a minimum of one game and fined up to $50,000.”

Heat staff and security immediately attempted to control the bench as the fracas spilled over to an area near the middle of the scorers’ table at center court.

While other Heat players became entangled, the league’s ruling indicated that they had not significantly strayed from the bench.

“I didn’t want to step on the court,” Jovic said. “Me and TB were just trying to make sure that nothing crazy happened. Then something crazy happened on the sideline, and I was the nearest one to be around TB and he was surrounded by the other team and I just couldn’t let him down. I was there just trying to separate guys and that’s it.”

According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the former Nets executive, the sanctions will cost Butler $259,968, Bryant $52,308 and Jovic $12,655.

The lost wages from the suspensions can be appealed, but not the suspensions themselves.

Friday’s game in New Orleans had marked the return of Butler, who had missed the previous three games due to a death in the family. He had led the Heat in scoring at the time of his ejection. Monday’s absence will be Butler’s 19th of the season. Players who miss more than 17 are ineligible for postseason awards. Butler was second-team All-NBA last season.

By rule, he will not be allowed in the arena Monday night.

“I want to go out there and I want to compete with my guys, as does Niko and as does TB,” Butler said. “I think we do have enough to get it done.”

Jovic has started the past four games, after having been held out of six of the previous seven. It is the second time Jovic has received such NBA sanction, also suspended one game last season for leaving the bench during a skirmish between Heat forward Caleb Martin and Toronto Raptors center Christian Koloko on Oct. 22, 2022.

“I’m not happy it happened. It shouldn’t happen at all,” Jovic said of his repeat violation. “Me and TB were not supposed to be there at all.”

Bryant was ejected without seeing action Friday, having been held out the past eight games. His last action remains Jan. 31 against the Washington Wizards.

Tyler Herro MRI

Having hyperextended his left knee and exited the game in New Orleans late in that fourth quarter, Heat guard Tyler Herro said he would get a precautionary MRI on Monday.

“It’s feeling good,” he said after sitting out Sunday’s practice. “I’m going to just get an MRI for just peace of mind today, to make sure everything is good. But I’m feeling encouraged with everything that happened after the incident.

“It really didn’t swell up that much at all. Just get an MRI, like I said, peace of mind, and make sure nothing is structurally damaged, which I don’t think is. But we just want to make sure. Hopefully I’ll be ready to go either (Monday) or (Tuesday in) Portland.”

Again working in practice was guard Terry Rozier, who has missed the past three games with a strained right knee.

“He’s definitely making progress,” Spoelstra said. “His body will let us know. He’s putting in a lot of work behind the scenes to be able to be out here. So he’s doing a lot of stuff in the training room. Hopefully at some point on this trip, he’ll be available.”