Butler was easy get for Heat
Star chose Miami before team made free agency pitch
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.”