But­ler was easy get for Heat

Star chose Mi­ami be­fore team made free agency pitch

Daily Camera (Boulder) - - Sports -

LAKE BUENA VISTA, Fla. — It was June 30, 2019. The Mi­ami Heat had an evening all planned out for their re­cruit­ment of free agent Jimmy But­ler, down to ev­ery de­tail.

They greeted him with mu­sic from Ir­ish singer Der­mot Kennedy, one of his fa­vorites. A buf­fet din­ner was set up, ta­bles over­look­ing the water of Bis­cayne Bay. They had play­ers-turned-ex­ec­u­tives Shane Bat­tier and Alonzo Mourn­ing there to talk about what it’s like to be part of the Heat.

And then it was time to go in­side, break into a smaller group, get down to busi­ness and give him the sales pitch. But­ler never let Heat Pres­i­dent Pat Riley and coach Erik Spoel­stra even get started. There was no need. He’d al­ready picked Mi­ami. He just hadn’t told them yet.

“I was like, ‘I’m home,’” But­ler said.

The machi­na­tions of a sign-and­trade fol­lowed be­fore things

could be of­fi­cial, but just like that, the Heat had a new star and new­found hope. Sea­son 1 of the But­ler era in Mi­ami will end on a stage that he’s never been be­fore — the NBA Fi­nals. The Heat are Eastern Con­fer­ence cham­pi­ons and play the West champ Los An­ge­les Lak­ers in a ti­tle series that starts Wednes­day night.

“To be able to get some­body like Jimmy But­ler was one of the most amaz­ing re­cruit­ing vis­its we’ve ever had,” Spoel­stra said. “Last June, it was so con­ver­sa­tional, and you just felt like after 20 min­utes that we were so aligned in how we viewed com­pe­ti­tion and work and cul­ture, ev­ery­thing. We never even got into a pitch with him. We really just had din­ner.”

But­ler was Mi­ami’s lead­ing scorer in the reg­u­lar sea­son, made the ALL-NBA team and is av­er­ag­ing 20.7 points through the first 15 games of this post­sea­son — 0.2 be­hind Go­ran Dragic for the team lead, which couldn’t be of less con­se­quence to But­ler. He doesn’t just tell team­mates that he doesn’t care about get­ting credit for things. He de­mands they claim the credit, want the credit, step up and take big shots.

“He came in and bought into the sys­tem,” said Heat cen­ter Bam Ade­bayo, who led the way in the East-clinch­ing Game 6 win over Bos­ton on Sunday night with 32 points and 14 re­bounds. “He didn’t care if he scored. You know, you’ve got to think about that. A lot of max play­ers, they don’t have the ball, they get up­set. I ap­pre­ci­ate Jimmy be­cause at the end of the day, we feed off each other.”

This is what But­ler wanted. The NBA Fi­nals are his re­ward.

“I al­ways just wanted to win, do what­ever it took to win,” But­ler said. “No­body is tak­ing it per­son­ally be­cause we all have the same agenda. It’s not for stats. It’s not for fame. It’s not for none of that. It’s to win a cham­pi­onship. My lead­er­ship style, it works here.”

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