With their respective clubs set to tip off a first-round playoff series against one another on Tuesday, it seemed as though Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler and TJ Warren of the Indiana Pacers were set to rekindle what has been a contentious rivalry recently. However, Butler told ESPN on Sunday that whatever bad blood existed between the two players was “dead,” and stated that he was only focused on winning the best-of-seven bout.
“Look, I just play basketball,” he said during a video conference with reporters. “I’m not worried about nobody’s matchup, man. We can kill that. That’s dead, that’s something that’ll pass. Everybody wants to make a story out of it, but my job isn’t against TJ Warren, it’s against the Indiana Pacers, and my job is to help the Miami Heat beat the Indiana Pacers.”
Although Butler appears to be taking an all-business approach to the upcoming series, there’s no denying the fact that he has a noteworthy past with Warren.
Following Miami’s January 8 win over Warren’s squad, the two players came face to face and exchanged bitter words before they were separated by officials. Butler later told reporters that the Pacers wing was “trash” and further stated that he was unable to defend him.
Although the five-time All-Star scored just 14 points in the contest, he made five of his six shot attempts and had only played 28 minutes. Meanwhile, Warren finished with just three points in the game and was ejected following the aforementioned altercation. As he was escorted from the court by event staff, Butler was seen blowing kisses at him.
He wasn’t content with simply taunting him or offering up harsh words for Warren during an interview either, electing to take the fight to social media as well. Later that night, Butler posted a picture of his team’s schedule on Instagram with the next game against the Pacers circled. In the accompanying caption, he tagged Warren and further insinuated that the 26-year-old could not defend him.
Warren’s Pacers own the No. 4 seed in the Eastern Conference playoff bracket after compiling a 45-28 record during the 2019-20 campaign. Butler’s fifth-seeded squad, meanwhile, finished one game behind them at 44-29. Still, Butler is confident that his club is ready for the “dogfight.”
“It’s going to be a dogfight,” he said. “But I think we got some dogs.”
While the Heat may be a long-shot bet to win the NBA title this year, Bleacher Report‘s Preston Ellis believes the team could be a contender for free agent-to-be Fred VanVleet, who could significantly bolster its title hopes next season.