Report: NBA believes Jimmy Butler ‘instigated’ and ‘initiated’ fight between Miami Heat and New Orleans Pelicans

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Sam Navarro-USA TODAY Sports

Jimmy Butler getting suspended may have been a surprise to some, but the league evidently found that the Miami Heat star partly instigated the fight that occurred with the New Orleans Pelicans.

Butler and four other players received suspensions for their roles in the altercation that took place in the fourth quarter of the game on Friday. Butler and Pelicans forward Naji Marshall were issued one-game suspensions.

Miami’s Thomas Bryant and New Orleans’ Jose Alvarado were issued three-game suspensions after leaving their respective benches and fighting. Nikola Jovic of the Heat was handed a one-game suspension for leaving the bench area.

The scuffle followed a play where Pelicans star Zion Williamson stole the ball from Butler, and Miami’s Kevin Love grabbed Williamson on the way to the basket. Williamson did hit the ground but later defended Love’s actions on the play.

However, Marshall took exception and ultimately got into a confrontation with Butler before grabbing his neck and appearing to choke him. Butler, Bryant, Marshall and Alvarado were all ejected and missed the conclusion of Miami’s 106-95 victory.

Spoelstra said the ejection should have been punishment enough for Butler.

“It felt like Jimmy shouldn’t have gotten a game on that,” the coach said. “It was really just kind of tangling and a little bit of pushing. I don’t think that deserves another game because he ended up having to miss the fourth quarter (Friday). But it is what it is. Nobody wants to see it escalate to that point.”

Not everyone believed the fight was legit, with former NBA player Brandon Jennings calling it “fake” on social media.

Butler and Jovic will serve their suspensions on Monday when the Heat play at the Sacramento Kings. Bryant will miss that contest as well as upcoming road games against the Portland Trail Blazers on Tuesday and the Denver Nuggets on Thursday.

The suspension will cost Butler almost $260,000. Bryant will lose more than $52,000, and Jovic will lose more than $12,500.

Miami has won seven of its last nine games to raise its record to 31-25. The Heat are in seventh place in the Eastern Conference.

The altercation was one of a series of such events around the NBA lately. The Golden State Warriors and Charlotte Hornets engaged in a scuffle late in their recent game, as did the Brooklyn Nets and Minnesota Timberwolves. The Nets-Timberwolves clash caused Hall of Famer Isiah Thomas to question the “unwritten rule” of shooting the ball when the game is already decided.

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Mike is a veteran journalist who has covered the NBA for almost three decades. His introduction to the business included the legendary Heat-Knicks rivalry from the 1990s.