Ira Winderman: Butler, Haslem, Heat even in their absence had a unique influence on the NBA Finals | Basketball

It turns out that even after losing Game 7 to the Boston Celtics in the Eastern Conference Finals, the Miami Heat had an impact in the NBA Finals.

At least that was the case with Draymond Green, Andre Iguodala and even Nemanja Belica.

While Golden State Warriors guard Stephen Curry was the Finals MVP, the biggest opening of the series may have been Golden State forward Andrew Wiggins.

Enter Butler.

It was Butler’s endorsement that convinced Warriors forward Draymond Green that Golden State got something special from the Minnesota Timberwolves at the 2020 NBA trade deadline, even after Wiggins’ uneven performance under Tom Thibodeau when he played together. with Butler in Minnesota.

“That trust has been building for two and a half years since he got here,” Green said on his Wiggins podcast. “A lot of people were looking at this deal like, ‘Oh, that’s another chip they can move.’ We looked at the trade from the very beginning, as if this is a guy who can fit perfectly into a healthy group.

“When he first came here, and I’ll never forget, it was when Tiebs wasn’t with the Knicks and Tiebs said, ‘You’re going to love him. He competes. He protects. And he told us that Jimmy loved him. And we all know what Jimmy Butler is. If there’s any softness in you, Jimmy doesn’t like you. That’s how Jimmy is circumcised.”

Then there was Iguodala, also on Green’s podcast, mentioning how his season and a half with the Heat saw him return to the Warriors in a role similar to the one Udonis Haslem cut with the Heat.

“Everything happens for a reason,” Iguodala said immediately after the Warriors championship, his fourth with Golden State. “And going to Miami and being exposed to the Miami Heat culture really helped me come back and then accept the role that I had.

“It’s like I had really good days this year but my body just couldn’t take it. But I knew I could still be influential, and I still knew we couldn’t let this year pass.”

Iguodala, 38, has only appeared in seven Warriors playoff games, but the Haslem-like effect was clear.

“I didn’t think it would be possible as the NBA Finals MVP. [which Iguodala won in 2015] that we probably felt your influence this year more than any other year when you competed, played, dominated, pinned and calmed our offense and put us in position, ”Green said. “I didn’t think it was possible. I am 100 percent sure that we will not make it through without you and your leadership to show us the way.”

Much of this was a rebuke to those who doubt Haslem’s role, as Haslem, 42, is mulling a return for season 20 and Iguodala has yet to announce plans for season 19.

A year ago, Iguodala’s Heat teammates included journeyman Nemanja Bezhelica, who jumped at the chance to join the Warriors on the veterans’ minimum at the start of a free agent signing period last summer.

Amid injuries to the Warriors that sidelined 2020 No. 2 pick James Wiseman for the entire season, Bielica has become a staple in the Golden State rotation, playing in 71 games in the regular season and 15 in the playoffs. -off.

“Beli was huge for us,” Iguodala said when the Heat left Belitsa last summer in favor of PJ Tucker and Markieff Morris, among others. “If you know what I mean? Beli went there and helped us win the championship.”

In addition to the Heat’s impact on the Warriors, Celtics coach Ime Udoka reflected late in the Finals on how his own Heat moment put the experience into context since he was an assistant coach for the San Antonio Spurs in 2013. when Ray Allen’s miracle. The three-pointer cost the Spurs the title before the Spurs returned to defeat Allen and the Heat in the 2014 Finals.

“Obviously losing to Ray Allen when I was with San Antonio will fuel you throughout the season,” Udoka said. “But it was a little different. We have improved in many areas, but have not reached our ultimate goal. Some of the guys did not perform well. This will motivate the guys throughout the season.

“Like I said, the idea is that everyone comes back better. Let’s not be satisfied. It is not certain that you will be here. The East is getting tougher every year. They will come back better. We will also work as staff.”

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