Heat's Jimmy Butler aims to return to East finals as 7-seed

MIAMI -- Jimmy Butler said he knows that many inside the NBA world don't believe the seventh-seeded Miami Heat can again make it all the way through the Eastern Conference playoffs this season, but he doesn't care.

As he prepares to take the organization into its first play-in game against the No. 8-seeded Atlanta Hawks on Tuesday night, Butler does so with the same defiant attitude he has carried with him throughout most of his career.

"Nope," Butler said after Monday's practice when asked if he's embracing the underdog role after going into last year's playoffs as the No. 1 seed. "It's all the same. Didn't nobody pick us to win last year, either. So who cares. Y'all not going to pick us this year, still don't give a damn.

"In 10 years, y'all still not going to pick us. Still don't give a damn."

Butler, who carried the Heat to the cusp of another Finals appearance last season before losing a heartbreaker to the Boston Celtics in Game 7 of the Eastern Conference finals, was asked if he feels he has to bring the same mindset into this postseason run. He averaged 27.4 points, 7.4 rebounds and 4.9 assists for the Heat during 17 postseason games a year ago.

"I'm going to do whatever it takes for my team to win, night in and night out," Butler said. "And honestly, I could care less what anybody writes, if I was a good basketball player or a bad basketball player. Coach Pat [Riley] and coach [Erik Spoelstra] didn't bring me here because of what y'all write, in the most respectful way possible. As I take on [Tuesday's] matchup and we get that dub, we'll worry about what goes on down the line, but I think I'm going to be a decent basketball player at the end of the day."

Just as he did Sunday, Spoelstra reiterated after Monday's practice that he wants his team to embrace the experience.

"First, I think this is going to be fun," Spoelstra said after Sunday's win over the Orlando Magic. "I think you have to embrace this new experience. To the old heads in our locker room, each of us have experienced long NBA careers and none have had this opportunity. I think it's been great for the league. How harrowing this has been the last six, eight weeks for 16 teams in the West and the East, has just been great for competition."