Jimmy Butler admits he doesn’t start ‘playing for real’ until after the All-Star break

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Miami Heat superstar Jimmy Butler admitted that he doesn’t start “playing for real” until after the NBA’s All-Star break.

“They been asking, ‘When am I gonna start playing for real?’” Butler said. “This when I start, after All-Star break, man.”

While Butler may say he’s now “playing for real,” it’s more that he’s finding another gear than just starting to try. Heat fans know that Butler gives a supreme effort night in and night out for his squad, and he’s one of the best two-way players in the NBA.

However, since this season’s All-Star break, Butler has kicked things into another gear, and it’s pulled the Heat closer in the playoff race in the Eastern Conference.

Miami, who entered Thursday’s NBA action as the No. 7 seed, could move into the No. 6 spot if the Cleveland Cavaliers beat the Brooklyn Nets on Thursday night.

Since the break, Butler has appeared in all 15 of Miami’s games, averaging 26.3 points, 6.3 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game while shooting an insanely impressive 60.5 percent from the field and 52.6 percent from beyond the arc.

Those numbers are all above Butler’s season averages of 22.9 points, 6.1 rebounds and 5.1 assists per game.

The six-time All-Star has shown that he can carry the Heat in the playoffs, leading the team to the NBA Finals in the 2019-20 season in the NBA’s Orlando, Fla. bubble. He also was the driving force in Miami’s run to the Eastern Conference Finals last season.

Butler’s aggression on offense seems to be going to another level right now, and it could be a part of this second gear he is reaching. The Heat star is taking just 13.3 shots per game since the All-Star break, but he’s getting to the free-throw line 11.2 times per game.

On the season, Butler is averaging 8.8 free-throw attempts per game, so he’s certainly increasing his output from the charity stripe down the stretch of this season.

The Heat need everything they can get from Butler, as the team is hoping to avoid the play-in tournament in the East. As long as Butler keeps playing like this, Miami will be a tough matchup for anyone in the postseason.

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Peter is a graduate of Quinnipiac University where he covered the MAAC and college basketball for three years. He has worked for NBC Sports, the Connecticut Sun and the Meriden Record-Journal covering basketball and other major sports. Follow him on Twitter @peterdewey2.