Miami Heat star Jimmy Butler has been granted a leave of absence from the team due to the death of a family member, the Heat and Butler’s agent, Bernie Lee, announced on Sunday. It is not clear at this time how long Butler will be away from the Heat. According to the Heat, updates will be given as appropriate. Butler will miss Sunday’s game between the Heat and the Boston Celtics.
The Heat are currently embroiled in a tight battle for seeding in the Eastern Conference. At present, they are 28-24 and in eighth place in the Eastern Conference. The No. 5 seeded Philadelphia 76ers, dealing with the absence of Joel Embiid, are only three games ahead of the Heat in the standings, though, and the Indiana Pacers and Orlando Magic sit between the two of them.
Those four teams are likely the ones battling for the last two guaranteed playoff spots, while the other two will be in the Play-In Tournament round. That isn’t necessarily a problem for the Heat, who started their run to the Finals last season in the Play-In Tournament round, but obviously doing so isn’t preferable.
Butler, now 34, has performed largely up to his typical standard this season. He wasn’t named an All-Star, but he’s averaging an efficient 21.4 points per game with 5.5 rebounds and 4.6 assists. However, the Heat have struggled to integrate new addition Terry Rozier since acquiring him from the Charlotte Hornets. The Heat are just 4-5 with him in the fold, and losing Butler while they adjust is going to make things harder for Miami moving forward.
CBS Sports will update this story as more information becomes available