The Miami Heat were without star forward Jimmy Butler at Sunday’s practice.
According to South Florida Sun Sentinel reporter Ira Winderman, Butler had an excused absence from practice and remains inside the Orlando bubble.
Yet, Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra declined to comment on Butler's missed practice, while forward Jae Crowder fueled further speculation by mentioning that Butler was in quarantine when asked a question about him during a Zoom call with reporters following practice.
“We want to talk to him as soon as he gets out of quarantine and whatever he’s in,” Crowder said. “It’s just a next man up mentality from staying locked in and engaged because we know he’s locked in an engaged once he’s able to get back with us. It’s definitely a curveball to us to hear stuff like what’s going on with him. And you never know what to expect.”
The vagueness of Crowder referencing quarantine suggests a possible COVID-19 reason as to why Butler missed practice, although Winderham followed up after Crowder’s remarks that it remained “just a day off.”
The NBA has not produced any positive COVID-19 tests of players since the initial round of bubble testing upon arrival in Orlando.
Despite no positive tests, there have been instances in which players have had to quarantine. Dallas Mavericks star Kristaps Porzingis had to quarantine for one day after missing a COVID test, while an unnamed Kings players also had to quarantine after an inconclusive test.
It is possible Butler may have fallen into one of these categories, which would explain his absence.
Butler played in the Heat’s game first seeding game on Saturday against the Denver Nuggets and was whistled before tip-off for wearing a jersey without a name on the back.
The 30-year-old All-Star had lobbied to go nameless as his way to protest social injustice against people of color instead of wearing one of the NBA-approved social messages.
Butler suggested as recently as last week it was still under consideration by the league, but he was forced to change his jersey before the game began.
Butler finished with 22 points, seven rebounds and four assists.
The Heat currently sit in fourth place in the Eastern Conference and are just 2.5 games behind the Celtics for the No. 3 seed.
Miami tips off against the defending NBA champion Toronto Raptors on Monday at 1:30 p.m.