The Miami Heat wanted Giannis Antetokounmpo. It was one of the NBA's great open secrets. They signed a number of free agents to deals with team-options for next season in order to facilitate a possible sign-and-trade, and aside from Bam Adebayo's extension, made no long-term commitments to any players this offseason.
But now, Antetokounmpo is off the board. He re-signed with the Bucks on a five-year, $228.2 million supermax deal, and the cap flexibility the Heat have spent the past two offseasons building will now need to be directed somewhere else. On some level, this must disappoint the team, but its superstar is just fine with the move. Jimmy Butler congratulated Giannis on his new deal and expressed excitement at the idea of battling him in the playoffs again.
"I like it," Butler said. "I don't think you can go around him. I don't think you can go around LeBron either. You have to go right through them. You have to beat them. You also have to beat the Sixers, Boston, Toronto. There's a lot of squads in the East with some really good players. Doesn't intimidate me none. I actually get excited for it. I want to go up against the best, my guys want to go up against the best. That's our way to show we belong. That's how we get our respect."
The Heat beat the Bucks in the 2020 postseason, but that means little to Butler now. "I still haven't won anything," Butler told reporters Tuesday, referring to his eventual Finals loss to the Lakers and his lack of a championship ring.
If he plans to get one in the near future, he will have to go through Giannis and the Bucks. Miami has done so before, but the Bucks will no doubt spend the season preparing for a rematch. Antetokounmpo hasn't won a championship either, and now, the race to the top of the East holds the new wrinkle that he spurned one of the teams that offered him a clear path to that elusive ring. It only makes the 2020-21 season more exciting.