Just like that, two players who had just completed their buyouts and were repeatedly linked to the Miami HEAT have instead joined two elite teams out West.
In a surprising move, Yahoo Sports! is reporting that free agent forward Caron Butler has decided to join the Oklahoma City Thunder. Even before completing a buyout with the last-place Milwaukee Bucks, the former Heat lottery draft pick appeared to be a lock to join forces with the defending champs and assist with their quest for the Three-Peat.
Former teammates Dwyane Wade and Udonis Haslem were thought to likely help the seal the deal but instead Butler will sign with their opponent in the 2012 NBA Finals. Perhaps the "brotherhood" sentiment may have been a bit overstated in the end if regular playing time was assured in Oklahoma City.
This is the biggest benefit of a Butler signing: Wade considers him a brother, trusts him. Would take rest he needs in last 2 months.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) February 27, 2014
Dwyane Wade reiterates that Caron Butler is one of his best friends. But says he doesn't want to discuss further until it happens.— Ethan J. Skolnick (@EthanJSkolnick) February 28, 2014
Earlier, news broke that free agent forward Danny Granger would be heading to the Los Angeles Clippers, who were in dire need of help in the frontcourt. Though there was some logic in imagining Granger would want to exact revenge on the Indiana Pacers for trading him to the Philadelphia 76ers by heading down to Miami and giving his all in the Eastern Conference Finals, the same issue of playing time might have swayed Granger, who is in the final year of his contract, to the Clippers.
Granger didn't exactly endear himself to Heat fans with his fighting words to LeBron James and the rest of the team during their 2012 playoff battle but Butler would have brought the house down at the AA Arena the first time he would have checked into a game wearing a Heat uniform. Instead, the only way he'll play there this season is in a potential NBA Finals rematch.
Should the Heat stick with their current roster or continue to look for another veteran to help out in the postseason? Free agent options are dwindling quickly and while the Heat had success on the court in the month of February with nine victories and just one loss, they have struck out in adding more depth to their bench.