Jimmy Butler never lacked for confidence.
Butler’s Heat are an ugly 2-5 to start the season, with the 24th-ranked offense in the NBA, while the defense that always carried this team (fifth in the NBA last season) is middle of the pack now (18th this season). Kyle Lowry looks better to the eye test but is playing worse than last season, Tyler Herro is still adapting to his starting role (and the bench is adjusting to life without him), and at the top of the food chain Bam Adebayo is elite but inconsistent to start the season.
The Heat were seen as fringe title contenders entering the season, with questions about how they would replace P.J. Tucker. Now there are a lot of other questions, too. But Butler is still very confident, as he told Sam Amick of The Athletic.
“We’re still going to win the championship, and I don’t care what nobody says,” Butler says about his Heat while shaking his head. “Count us out. We’re going to win the f****** championship. I’m telling you. I don’t give a damn that we started 2-5…
“Yeah, we’re 2-5, but we straight,” Butler says. “We’ve got time, man. We’ve just got to play with a little bit more urgency and realize how fragile this thing is, trust in one another and play basketball the right way on both sides of the ball. There’s a lot of good things, so I don’t get discouraged. I know we have these (good) stretches (in games), and it’s like, ‘Damn, they really can do it.’ We can do it. We’ve just gotta do it consistently.”
Coach Erik Spoelstra echoed the sentiment, albeit with less bravado, speaking to Ira Winderman of the Sun-Sentinel.
“We’ve seen the vision of what it can look like,” he said. “We just have to get to that more consistently. And it takes intentional thought and collective commitment to do that, which we’re fully capable of.
“At least we know what it can look like. There’s teams in the league that don’t have that vision and haven’t been able to put together a lot of quality minutes. We have. We’re closer than we are further away from it. But when you add losses to it, sometimes it can feel like you’re far away. But we’re not that far away.”
The problem is in a deep East, what the Heat see as a little stumble out of the gate can become difficult to overcome because teams are not coming back to the pack. Cleveland is a legit 5-1, and teams like the Hawks and Raptors are over .500 and likely to stay there. It feels strange to put it this way, but the Heat need a 76ers-like three-game winning streak to get their confidence back. And sooner rather than later. It’s possible, starting with a Warriors team tonight (Tuesday) that also has stumbled a little out of the gates, and after that the schedule softens up for a couple of weeks.
Miami has too many solid players and too strong a culture to struggle for long, they will figure it out (what the ceiling is for this group is another discussion, not many are sold on the top end Butler sees). The challenge is to get the offense going and the defense back into top-10 form quickly before the hole they find themselves in to start the season is too deep.
Jimmy Butler on Heat’s 2-5 start: ‘We’re going to win the f****** championship’ originally appeared on NBCSports.com