When it comes to shouldering the load with Jimmy Butler’s latest injury, the Miami Heat All-Star forward will be in familiar hands.
Just as LeBron James was afforded the Heat the luxury of a personal concierge when it came to his training regimen, Butler arrived last offseason with his long-time personal trainer.
It is an added benefit for the 30-year-old veteran at the moment, as he deals with the strained left shoulder that limited him to 23 minutes in Monday night’s series-clinching 99-87 victory over the Indiana Pacers.
« I’ll be OK, figure this thing out, do more and more treatment on it every day, » Butler said, with the Heat now with an extended break before the second round of the NBA playoffs that, for them, likely won’t start until the weekend. « Armando Rivas is my guy. He always takes great care of me. »
Rivas, one of 37 members of the team brought into the NBA’s quarantine bubble at Disney Word, amid the coronavirus pandemic, has been with Butler during each of his NBA stops, serving as an assistant athletic trainer with the Chicago Bulls, then an athletic trainer/player preparation and recovery liaison with the Minnesota Timberwolves, followed by a stint with the same title with the Philadelphia 76ers, and now as an assistant athletic trainer with the Heat.
That career track has mirrored Butler’s travels through the NBA, just as James was allowed to bring personal trainer Mike Mancias with him from the Cleveland Cavaliers to the Heat in 2010, with Mancias then moving back to the Cavaliers with James and now on to the Los Angeles Lakers with James.
Butler said he began experiencing the discomfort after Saturday’s 124-115 victory over the Pacers, when he bulled his way to 20 free-throw attempts. He then wrapped and taped the shoulder before Monday’s game, but was forced out for the balance of the first half with 6:06 left in the opening period, returning at the start of the second half.
« My shoulder was hurting a little bit after last game, » Butler said, having missed two games in February with a strained right shoulder, an injury that kept him out four days. « It was hurting before the game. But as I was warming up, I was like, ‘Maybe it’ll loosen up,’ and maybe I’ll be able to play at 100 percent or whatever it was.
« It wasn’t the case. I went to the back, did a little bit of work. And then we decided, ‘You know what? We’re going to go out there and just lock in on defense.’ I think I did that. »
Butler closed Monday’s game with six points on 2-of-5 shooting, three rebounds, two assists, a block, a steal and a turnover.
« I mean, obviously, he’s built up a resume over the course of his career being able to play through various injuries, » said coach Erik Spoelstra, who gave his team Tuesday off. « His toughness will never be questioned. But we had to take a look at it in the second quarter. It wasn’t feeling great coming in, and then he got jarred again. »
“What he needs, more than anything, is just rest and then he’ll start to work his way back into it,” he said. “I have seen some other injuries that looked more significant, that looked like tough injuries, and he goes back the next day and he’s ready to go.”
The Heat’s injury report in recent days has been filled with several nagging ailments, including ankle issues for Jae Crowder and Derrick Jones Jr. and hip soreness for Andre Iguodala, as well as fatigue for Goran Dragic.
« It’s critical for us to take care of our bodies right now, » Crowder said. « My ankle is flaring up so big. My ankle is the size of a golf ball right now. So I’m going to try to take time and try to get my body where it needs to be for another series. I’m sure Jimmy will do the same thing. It’s key for us.
“I felt like this game was good for us to get a day or two rest before the next series. I honestly feel like guys are feeling it with their bodies and stuff. It’s a gauntlet right now. We’re in the thick of the fight. I feel like this time of the year, you see the finish line and you just try to do whatever it takes to get to the finish line and hold the trophy up. We’re going to take care of our bodies and do what we have to do.”
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