With time running down on the shot clock in the first quarter of Monday night’s 118-100 victory over the Chicago Bulls at United Center, Butler went old school, with a sweeping running five-foot hook shot in the lane that conjured shades of Hall of Fame Los Angeles Lakers center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar.
The Captain, of course, was one of the quietest NBA superstars. Butler? Something completely different.
So in the midst of converting the shot, Butler, vocally enough to be picked up on the broadcast, bellowed the words, “Sky hook!” before grinning at his bench.
“I just had to let everybody know that’s the shot I was going to, and there was nothing anybody could do about it, because I made my mind up,” Butler said after the victory that got the Heat back on track after the Bulls had snapped the Heat’s seven-game winning streak Saturday night.
His unexpected early-season 3-point shooting sizzle having cooled, Butler said it was time to turn to something else.
“Yeah. man,” he said with a smile, “I got to pick and choose my spots wisely, because I’m in a 3-point shooting slump right now. So I got to go to what I know, which is the skyhook.”
Not that he necessarily knows the last time he offered such a sweeping attempt.
“Probably at practice,” he said. “I just be out there doing stuff.”
The showmanship, teammate Kevin Love said, left a mixed reaction in having to feed into Butler’s ego.
“I don’t think he wanted to get to that move. I don’t think he meant to get to that move,” Love said with a smile. “It just kind of happened organically and naturally. And I hate that it went in.
“But for us as a group, I’m happy that it went in. That’s great for Jimmy.”
While he did not catch Butler’s narration in real time, coach Erik Spoelstra found the move a fitting homage to Heat President Pat Riley, who coached Adbul-Jabbar through the center’s skyhooking prime.
“I’ll tell you who’s happy about that is Pat,” Spoelstra said, before turning his attention to Wednesday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage Fieldhouse, the third stop on this five-game trip. “Pat always wants our guys to work on the sky hook, and he’s not wrong. If anybody could ever really develop that, the way the original Captain did it, it’s an incredible weapon.
“But it just shows you how gifted Jimmy is. I don’t think I’ve ever seen him even practice that, it was so fluid, smooth.”
Following Monday night’s game, Butler explained why he made a short side trip to fly from Chicago to Oshkosh, Wis., on Sunday’s day off to watch teammate Nikola Jovic make his G League season debut with the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
“Niko, got to go see my boy, man. I’m a huge Niko fan,” Butler said of the 2022 Heat first-round pick out of Serbia. “I think he’s going to help this organization well after I’m done here.
“That’s my dog, that’s my bro, I love him to death. So anytime I get a chance I go to watch him hoop, I will watch him hoop.”
Jovic, in the midst of what will be at least a three-game stint with the Heat’s G League affiliate, closed that loss to the Milwaukee Bucks’ affiliate with 26 points on 8-of-15 shooting, including 4 of 8 on 3-pointers, with Butler sitting near the Skyforce bench.
Butler, though, did have some advice for Sioux Falls coach Kasib Powell, the former Heat forward, when it comes to the deployment of the 6-foot-10 big man.
“You all stop playing Niko at the five, man,” Butler said. “Niko’s not a five.”