Jimmy Butler has always been among the most intense players in the NBA. This is someone who went out of his way to embarrass his teammate and coaching staff by challenging his fellow starters with the Minnesota Timberwolves to a training camp game and beat them alongside the third-stringers. This is not someone to be messed with.
Chris Paul learned that the hard way on Wednesday. It all started at the end of the second quarter of the game between Butler's Miami Heat and Paul's Oklahoma City Thunder. Paul stole an inbound pass from Butler by throwing it off of Heat forward Duncan Robinson.
Butler wasn't happy with the manner in which Paul threw the ball. The very next time down the floor, he did this to Paul, who is six inches shorter and roughly 50 pounds lighter than him.
Butler was called for a charge, but not a flagrant foul. He did not play in the second half of what ultimately became a Heat loss, as Miami has already clinched a first-round date with the Indiana Pacers in the No. 4 vs. No. 5 matchup. Butler then dialed the situation up to 11 after the game by admitting that his foul on Paul was entirely intentional.
"You're not gonna throw the ball at my teammate like that. So yeah, I'll get a turnover. I'll get an offensive foul, but we don't do that here. You mess with one of my guys, especially one of my shooters, then you gotta deal with me and everybody else," Butler told reporters after the game.
The NBA likely won't be thrilled about that explanation, but if they were ever going to punish him for it, now would be the time. Miami has a meaningless matchup against the Indiana Pacers on Friday to close out their seeding games, so a suspension, as unlikely as it seems, would ultimately prove meaningless.
But should Butler be fined, he'd likely pay it happily. He has a reputation for being a somewhat difficult teammate. The endings of his tenures in Minnesota and Philadelphia weren't exactly happy ones. But something like this at least supports the notion that he will stand up for his teammates. The NBA might not be thrilled with the exact ways in which he is doing so, but even if Butler is difficult when things are going badly, moments like this suggest he's someone you want in your corner when things are clicking.