Miami Heat

Will Jimmy Butler finally find happiness, success in Miami?

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USA TODAY

Will Jimmy Butler finally find happiness, success in Miami?

Bulls fans have watched with considerable interest over the last two-plus seasons as Jimmy Butler’s basketball odyssey has taken him to Minneapolis, Philadelphia and now Miami. After all, it was the draft night trade in June 2017 that sent Butler to the Timberwolves in exchange for Zach LaVine, Kris Dunn and the draft pick that turned out to be Lauri Markkanen.

The consensus around the league initially was that the Bulls didn’t get enough for their All-Star small forward, but as Butler forced his way out of Minnesota and then bailed on the 76ers in free agency, while LaVine and Markkanen began to look like future All-Stars, most observers around the league graded the Bulls as clear cut winners in the trade.

Butler surprised most people by leaving a potential championship contender in Philadelphia in a sign-and-trade deal with Miami this past summer. It looked like the latest chapter in Jimmy believing the grass would be greener with a new team. At the time of the trade, Butler talked extensively about the culture established by Pat Riley and Erik Spoelstra in Miami, based on hard work and sacrificing of individual goals, but given Butler’s recent history, not many people believed he was capable of a total buy-in.

We’re only 10 days into the new season, but the early returns are encouraging. The Heat were able to win two of the three games Butler missed to be with his newborn daughter, and then Butler returned to score 21 points in a win over Atlanta on Tuesday. He came back with 11 assists, 9 rebounds, 6 steals and 3 blocks in a rematch against the Hawks Thursday night, showing his team-first approach with only 5 points.

With the Eastern Conference looking to be wide open after Philadelphia and Milwaukee, the Heat could be in position to contend for a top 4 seed in the playoffs. And this time around, Butler is determined to steer clear of any controversy.

Butler told reporters in Miami following the win over the Hawks on Tuesday, “All good things. We won. Obviously I’m a father, but I’m blessed beyond measure. I get to play basketball with some incredible guys, for an incredible organization. Life is good right now.”

Butler’s daughter is even named Rylee, but he insisted the name had nothing to do with the Heat president and former head coach.

There is another Chicago connection to Miami’s fast start. Former University of Illinois and Simeon star Kendrick Nunn turned a strong Summer League performance into a roster spot with the Heat, and wound up in the starting lineup last week with Butler away from the team and Dion Waiters serving a team suspension for detrimental conduct.

Nunn took full advantage of the opportunity, scoring more points in his first five NBA games (112) than any undrafted player in league history. He also set a franchise record for total points through five games in a debut season, besting the likes of past Heat stars Tim Hardaway, Alonzo Mourning, Glen Rice and Dwyane Wade.

Nunn was a teammate of Jabari Parker’s on Simeon’s four state championship teams, but he made it to the league the hard way, getting little attention from pro scouts after transferring from Illinois to Oakland University. He had to endure being cut by NBA teams and spent a couple years in the G League before finally catching on with the Heat.

Miami is also thrilled with the play of Tyler Herro, their lottery pick from the 2019 draft. Herro was the best pure shooter available, and quickly established himself as a potential steal with his outstanding play in Summer League. He’s been a great fit in Miami’s offense and came off the bench to score a career-high 29 points on Tuesday.

With the emergence of Herro and Nunn, and Butler taking over the lead role, Miami’s somewhat redundant roster suddenly looks a lot more formidable. Third year center Bam Adebayo has improved considerably and is averaging a double-double early in the season.

Veteran guard Goran Dragic, a former All-Star, has accepted a reduced role off the bench to let Justice Winslow try to establish himself as the Heat’s starting point guard, while another new acquisition, former Illini big man Meyers Leonard, is starting alongside Adebayo, allowing Kelly Olynyk to feast on backup big men. Waiters and another former Bull, James Johnson, are also available to provide some depth.

No, Miami won’t be a championship contender this season, but once Riley gets a couple of the bad contracts he handed out in 2016 off the books, you can bet he’ll go big game hunting again in free agency, trying to land another major star to go along with Butler. You’ll also be hearing rumors throughout the season about a possible trade for Oklahoma City point guard Chris Paul, especially if the Heat continue to build off their hot start.

Long term, the Bulls made the right decision to trade Butler for three players who could jump-start their rebuilding program, and the jury is still out on the ceilings for LaVine and Markkanen.

But at least for now, it looks like Jimmy Buckets has found the perfect landing spot on South Beach, and fans around the league will be watching closely to see if he can finally find happiness as the No. 1 star on a consistent winner.

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Dwyane Wade mentoring Bulls rookie Coby White at 'The Invitational' camp

Dwyane Wade mentoring Bulls rookie Coby White at 'The Invitational' camp

For the second straight year, future NBA Hall of Famer Dwyane Wade hosted a business and basketball-themed camp at the Stance Basketball facility called "The Invitational", where Wade invites young players from around the NBA to spend a week fine-tuning their on and off the court skills.

This year's camp featured Bulls No. 7 overall 2019 draft pick Coby White, who will be entering his rookie season hoping to become a big part of a Bulls team looking for major improvements across the board.

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Wade's camp—which was originally called "The Blueprint"—takes place over a week filled with everything ranging from serious conversations about finances and the life of a pro athlete with Wade to spirited dodgeball games featuring Stance employees going against NBA players.

The main goal of the camp is for Wade to pass off all of the knowledge he can to the future generation of NBA stars, and White is no doubt all ears considering the similarities in the start of their respective NBA careers.

Like Wade, Coby White is a top-10 draft pick who will be joining a team that is looking to bounce back from a season in which they won less than 30 games. And just like rookie year Wade, White will likely soon be choosing which shoe brand to partner with for the foreseeable future

Obviously, the fact that White is already being considered for a shoe deal shows what a marketable and talented player he is but he needs to work on the finer points of being a distributor at the NBA level to get off to a fast start in Chicago. Wade is a great teacher for this specific task. The former Bull averaged 5.4 assists per game for his career despite often being Miami's first scoring option.

Wade also played next to a high-usage player during Miami's peaks with Shaquille O'Neal and LeBron James, and his experiences with those teams will be a boon to White, who will need to find a way to fit his primarily score-first playing style next to Bulls leading scorer Zach LaVine. 

The Invitational camp will become an even stronger offseason program with Wade in full post-retirement mode and it will continue to build NBA friendships that last long beyond playing days. And for Coby White, he can add Dwyane Wade to the list of NBA greats that have worked with him and cosigned his energetic, fast-paced game. 

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Dwyane Wade says once again that he and LeBron James almost joined the Bulls in 2010

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USA TODAY

Dwyane Wade says once again that he and LeBron James almost joined the Bulls in 2010

Dwyane Wade has said this before. Multiple times.

And yet the recently retired shooting guard is making headlines again for repeating that he and LeBron James both seriously considered joining the Bulls in 2010.

Wade spoke with Darius Miles and Quentin Richardson of The Knuckleheads Podcast on Wednesday and said that the pair's decision came down to Miami and Chicago.

"Chicago was on the top of both our lists," he said. "Miami was on the top. We looked at New York."

Wade, of course, didn't join the Bulls. He, James and Chris Bosh - who Wade admitted the Bulls probably didn't have room for and was one of the deciding factors in free agency - teamed up in Miami and won two championships in 2012 and 2013.

Wade eventually returned home in 2016, though he was a shell of himself in 60 games, averaging 18.3 points on 43 percent shooting and 31 percent from beyond the arc. The rebuilding Bulls, who had just traded Jimmy Butler, opted to buy out Wade prior to the 2017-18 season.

During the preseason of Wade's lone year in Chicago, he spoke in length about this exact same topic, telling reporters "(Chicago) is a place I wanted to play. It was a place LeBron also loved. We loved the city of Chicago. It's a great market as well. Obviously, the sunny sun of Miami is great, too. We had two great choices. It pretty much boiled down to what we felt we could build."

Read Vinnie Goodwill's entire story from the first time Wade brought up this topic here.