Max Strus Continuing To Make The Most Of His Opportunity
Photo Credit: David Alvarez
When Jimmy Butler tells you to do something, you do it.
Shortly after Max Strus got loose for a career-high 21 points in the HEAT’s 101-94 victory over the Rockets on Thursday, he credited his performance to Butler giving him confidence and imploring him to shoot the ball.
And boy did he ever in a 14-point fourth quarter at Toyota Center.
“[I have confidence in him] because I see him shoot the ball when nobody’s looking. Like, the amount of reps that he puts in, I want you to do what you are comfortable doing,” Butler said. “Obviously, he turned the corner and yammed it on John Wall, but…what he does is shoot the ball. I’ve seen him do it every single day. I don’t care if somebody’s in front of you, if I pass you that bad baby, if Bam passes it, if you can get you a shot off, get you a shot off because that’s what you do, that’s your role on this team. And he’s really f’n good at it.”
(Speaking of that dunk on Wall, here it is for your viewing pleasure:)
Getting back to Butler’s point about Strus being good at his role, that’s likely a byproduct of the 24-year-old’s work ethic. Erik Spoelstra vividly remembers a recent game day where Strus had five different intense workouts: before shootaround, at shootaround, after shootaround, before the game and then after the game.
Sounds wild, but Strus didn’t think much of it.
“The five workouts thing is just me trying to stay ready,” he said. “I just do whatever it takes to keep putting in work and be the hardest worker and just always be ready for any opportunity to arise.”
Strus’ first real lasting opportunity in the league came on a two-way deal with the Bulls last year in his rookie season. Across 13 games for their G League affiliate, Windy City, the 6-foot-5 wing averaged 18.2 points, 5.9 rebounds and 3.2 assists and appeared in two NBA games for the Bulls before suffering a torn ACL and bone bruise in his left knee.
“That was a blessing in disguise, to be honest with you. [The injury] really knocked me down, but it kind of helped me visualize where I can be and where I fit it in the NBA,” Strus said. “Before, I thought I was going to be an all-around player, but I realized that in order to get my chance, I got to be a knockdown shooter. And coming back from ACL surgery…I put in the work, and as you can see, it’s starting to show off, and I’m only going to keep continuing to get better.”
When Chicago didn’t re-sign Strus during the offseason, that opened the door for Miami to ink the former DePaul Blue Demon to a camp deal on the last day of November. Strus then showed what he could do in the HEAT’s preseason finale against the Raptors on Dec. 18 and earned a two-way contract the following day as a result.
And with the HEAT’s G League affiliate, the Sioux Falls Skyforce, not participating in the Orlando bubble this season, Strus has exclusively been with the main squad ever since.
“It’s the perfect opportunity and perfect timing,” Strus said. “I believe in myself to the fullest and knew that I’m going to be an NBA player eventually, and I’m just getting that opportunity to show it now.”