Butler dismisses underdog label: Heat are 'really good team; that's it'
Nathaniel S. Butler / National Basketball Association / Getty

As his Miami Heat prepare to face the top-seeded Los Angeles Lakers, Jimmy Butler doesn't want the fifth-seeded Eastern Conference champs to be thought of as underdogs in the 2020 Finals.

What identity would Butler prefer observers to associate with his team?

"A really good team; that's it," he told reporters Tuesday. "A really good team. I'm not going to say that we're any better than anybody else. But I just don't think that we're underdogs. I don't.

"So what that nobody picked us to be here? That's OK. Pretty sure nobody's picking us to win either. That's OK. But we understand that. We embrace that because, at the end of the day, we truly don't care.

"We're just going to go out here and compete, play together as we always have, and see where we end up. But at the end of the day, we're going to do this our way - the Miami Heat way. That way's worked for us all year long."

The 2020 Finals will be the first in NBA history to feature two teams that failed to make the playoffs the previous season; the Heat and Lakers each finished 10th in their respective conferences in 2018-19. Their ascents to the championship series have been starkly different, however.

Last summer, the Lakers, who already boasted a generational star in LeBron James, acquired star big man Anthony Davis in a blockbuster trade with the New Orleans Pelicans. They then filled out the depth chart with veteran role players.

The Heat, meanwhile, acquired Butler in a sign-and-trade with the Philadelphia 76ers and placed their trust in unproven youngsters to support him. Third-year big man Bam Adebayo, the final lottery pick in the 2017 draft, blossomed into an All-Star and All-Defensive second-team selection. Rookies like Tyler Herro and Kendrick Nunn, as well as former two-way player Duncan Robinson, became household names.

Los Angeles defeated the Portland Trail Blazers, Houston Rockets, and Denver Nuggets to reach the Finals, losing just a single game in each of those three series. After sweeping the Indiana Pacers in the first round, Miami stunned the top-seeded Milwaukee Bucks in Round 2 before ousting the favored Boston Celtics to secure a championship berth.

Within the next two weeks, the basketball world will see whether the Heat can shrug off the underdog label for good.

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Butler dismisses underdog label: Heat are 'really good team; that's it'
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