NBA regular season

Heat’s Spoelstra: Butler not a flopper, doesn’t trick refs

Naveen Ganglani
Heat’s Spoelstra: Butler not a flopper, doesn’t trick refs

FOCUSED. Heat's Jimmy Butler gets a screen from Bam Adebayo during their game against the Bucks.

Sam Navarro/USA TODAY Sports/Reuters

‘He’s rugged, he’s physical, but he has a great knack for going through contact,’ Fil-Am coach Erik Spoelstra says of Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler

If there is anyone concerned about whether or not the NBA’s new rule changes on offensive players’ attempts to draw fouls would alter the on-court production of Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler, Erik Spoelstra isn’t one of them. 

Following the Heat’s impressive 42-point, season-opening win against the defending champion Milwaukee Bucks, Spoelstra explained why he believes Butler’s long tradition of being a league leader in fouls drawn leading to free throws won’t stop.

“I never was concerned about that. Jimmy has never been a flopper,” Spoelstra said. “He’s never been a guy who’s trying to trick the officials.”

One of the NBA’s prominent announcements preceding its landmark 75th season was to announce that game officials would be less likely to award foul shots to players who perform unnatural basketball acts. 

The difference has been prominent through the first three days of the regular season, as multiple players who would purposely lean into their defenders and attempt to trick their way to the free throw line have been left hanging.

Over the years, standout ballers like Trae Young, Steph Curry, and James Harden have taken advantage of these calls.

Another positive consequence of the new rules is that games go faster with less interruptions due to stoppage in play for foul shots.

This is what the NBA announced last month through their social media platforms:

“For the 2021-22 NBA season, there will be an interpretive change in the officiating of overt, abrupt or abnormal non-basketball moves by offensive players with the ball in an effort to draw fouls.”

To be specific, that includes: launching or leaning into a defender at an abnormal angle, an offensive player veering off his path into the defender in an abrupt manner, overtly extending a portion of one’s body into a defender, and an offensive player using his off-arm to initiate contact with a defender.

Spoelstra distinguished the difference of how Butler draws fouls:

“He’s rugged, he’s physical, but he has a great knack for going through contact. It’s not as if those are not earned. Those are mini car-wrecks when he’s drawing fouls and getting to the line.”

Butler is also the recipient of foul calls due to his hard-nosed play. A good chunk of his free throws come from getting fouled hustling for the ball against aggressive defenders. The All-Star is also a reliable scorer in the post, partly because of his ability to draw fouls by using head fakes, brute strength, and hoops IQ. 

Butler needed only 10 field goal attempts to score 21 points in the Heat’s win, as he also trooped to the foul line 11 times. 

“I think I get to focus on putting the ball in the basket a lot more,” Butler said. “I like that, I work on it consistently, I think these guys in the locker room feel comfortable with me shooting any shot.”

If Spoelstra is right, then Butler should average as many free throw attempts this year as he has in past seasons. 

Miami hopes to build on a strong season following their disappointing first-round playoff exit last year against the same squad they beat to go 1-0. –