The Miami Heat traveling party continued to shrink as the team worked its way to the final game of its five-game trip on Friday night against the Phoenix Suns at Footprint Center.
Forward Jimmy Butler returned to Miami on Friday, after sitting out Wednesday night’s victory over the Los Angeles Lakers, the third consecutive game he missed with what now is listed as 1st MP joint sprain of his right foot.
“The diagnosis is still the same,” coach Erik Spoelstra said Friday of Butler continuing to be listed as day-to-day. “We felt it would be better for him to train in our facility and do more things around the clock.”
With his absence in Phoenix, Butler has now missed seven of the past eight games. He returned during the second game of the trip in last Saturday’s loss to the Utah Jazz after missing four games with a strained left calf. He then was sidelined against the Jazz in the third quarter. Spoelstra downplayed speculation of an extended absence for Butler with the latest injury.
“We’ll treat it day to day,” he said after the Heat’s morning shootaround at Arizona State University, “and we’ll see how he’s doing when we get back to Miami.”
Forward Haywood Highsmith returned to Miami after sustaining what proved to be a concussion in the waning seconds of the loss in Utah, having now missed the past three games, as well as nine of the last 15, when also including absences due to an illness and lower-back briuse. Center Orlando Robinson left the team after Wednesday’s victory for additional seasoning with the Heat’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce.
Robinson also was away from the Heat for the first two games of the western swing while with the Skyforce. “We just want him to get as many minutes as possible,” Spoelstra said, with Robinson limited to four total minutes of mop-up duty during the Heat trip. “Any time we can send him, if we have our health here, we want to do it. It’s been pretty fluid all the way through. But all of our guys, all of our young guys, we want them getting game action whether it’s with us or it’s Sioux Falls.”
Achievement noted Spoelstra said Heat wing Jaime Jaquez Jr. on Thursday being named NBA Eastern Conference Rookie of the Month for the second time this season in as many selection periods should be noted as a testament to contributing to team success. “That’s definitely impressive,” Spoelstra said, “And the most important thing is his play has impacted winning. He’s earned his minutes because it’s impacted winning. It’s a good nod.
“It’s not something that we’re going to celebrate. But it’s nice to have a young player ready to help us win.” While his hometown whirlwind ended after games this week in Los Angeles against the Clippers and Lakers, Jaquez said the reunion tour continued, with much of his mother’s family based in Arizona.
“Thursday night I actually got to see my mom’s sister, my uncle, as well, along with my two cousins,” Jaquez said, then going from shootaround for lunch with another pair of cousins. But unlike at Crypto.com Arena, the UCLA and Camarillo High School product said there was no family suite booked at the arena against the Suns.
“We’re way smaller here,” he said, noting that his grandmother attended in both Los Angeles and Phoenix. “This time just tickets.” Familiar face Among those on Frank Vogel’s Suns coaching staff is former Heat assistant coach David Fizdale, who last season served as associate general manager for Utah under former Heat guard and Jazz part-owner Dwyane Wade. “I think it’s great,” Spoelstra said, with Fizdale reunited with former Heat forward James Jones, who is the Suns’ general manager. “He can do either.
He can be this role, where he has championship-level experience, dealing with a lot of different dynamics and personalities and helping getting guys on the same page. And I do think at this point of his career he’s a great mentor to players, but also helping a coaching staff connect and maximize each others’ talents. He also is skilled enough that he can be in the front office.”