Spoelstra: Butler's snub as ASG starter 'a joke'

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MIAMI — Heat coach Erik Spoelstra responded swiftly to swingman Jimmy Butler not being selected as a starter for next month’s NBA All-Star Game in Chicago, calling his omission “a joke” and adding that he’s hopeful it will help change the voting process.

“I just think it’s ridiculous that we’re still in these antiquated positions,” Spoelstra said before Friday night’s game against the LA Clippers. “So who’s to say what position Jimmy is? Does it matter? I put him No. 2 on my [lineup] card. So I go Kendrick Nunn, Jimmy Butler, Duncan Robinson, I go Bam [Adebayo] and then Meyers [Leonard]. But you could flip any one of those guys around. And in many ways he’s our point guard. So should he be in the All-Star Game as a point guard? I don’t know.

“These are such antiquated labels that I feel like we’ve moved on from that years ago when we started talking about positionless [players]. But either way, regardless of how you want to label it or discuss it, Jimmy Butler should be a starter in this All-Star Game. It’s a joke that he’s not. Hopefully this will change things in the future.”

Butler, who signed with the Heat last summer as a free agent, is averaging 20.3 points, 7 rebounds and 6.5 assists a game this season and has led the team to a surprising 31-13 record heading into Friday’s game. Listed as a frontcourt player, Butler finished fourth in the Eastern Conference voting behind Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo, Philadelphia’s Joel Embiid and Toronto’s Pascal Siakam.

The All-Star voting process consists of 50% of the vote coming from fans, 25% coming from a media panel and 25% from players. Butler finished fourth in the fan balloting, third in the media vote and sixth in the player vote.

“I didn’t even know it until I got here this morning,” Clippers coach Doc Rivers said of Butler’s snub. “Yeah, I’m surprised by that, especially when you look at their record.”

Rivers echoed Spoelstra’s sentiments regarding the need for reform in the voting process.

“I swear I said that so long ago, and it’s so true,” he said of the league still using position designations for players. “I guess I called [Ivica Zubac] a center, but other than that there is no positions, and that’s the way the game should be played anyway, in my opinion. Fours, 3s, 2s, 1s, and just call them players. I don’t call them guards or forwards anymore. We just put them in spots. And the more guys that you can get to do multiple things, the better your team is. I think that’s where the skill has gone in this league, and I think that’s a good sign for the league.”

When given clarification about how the voting process is structured, Rivers drew chuckles from the assembled media when reminded that players got 25% of the vote.

“Well that should stop,” Rivers said. “I’m just going to say that upfront. The media, I’ll give you more credit — but some of the [players], oh boy. … Guys vote for their friends, they vote personal, too, would be my guess. I’m glad I didn’t vote. Michael [Jordan], none of them would have made the All-Star team.”

Despite his anguish about Butler’s results, Spoelstra was pleased that players voted Heat forward Adebayo fourth in their portion of the voting.

“Bam has a great sign of respect, it may be the ultimate respect,” Spoelstra said. “That the players had him as a starter. I think that is cool. That matters. And he better be in by the coaches’ vote, with the year that he’s having. And I think coaches — I think the fact that coaches can respect and acknowledge a style of play, I really think that they’ll respect and acknowledge the type of impact and year that Bam Adebayo is having. That’s an All-Star year by any measure; and Jimmy should be a starter in this thing.”

As a longtime admirer of Butler’s game, Rivers said he isn’t surprised how quickly Butler has transitioned into becoming the Heat’s best player.

“It just seems like Marquette players adapt well down here,” Rivers said. “That would be my answer. You’ve had the second-best player at Marquette [in Dwyane Wade] and the third-best player at Marquette down here [in Butler]. I’m No. 1.”

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