So here is what I was left thinking after listening to Jimmy Butler talk Friday about why he came to the Miami Heat and Pat Riley talk about what Butler will get here:
They're back to being the Heat again.
"When I kept hearing about this culture, I said, 'I need that in my life,' " Butler said.
"I think Jimmy was hungry for this kind of place, but it's hard," Riley said. "We'll find out."
Yep, this sounds like the Heat again.
In the past few years, they've faked it. The Heat Way slid sideways. They invested in a talented goof like Hassan Whiteside. They overbought on Dion Waiters and James Johnson, career journeyman who got fat once they got money and got hurt.
Whiteside is in Portland now. Waiters and Johnson are back in shape again for the start of training camp. But that's just it. The Heat culture, the one Riley defined nearly 25 years ago, isn't a sometime thing. It's who you are.
Butler said former Chicago teammate and fellow Marquette alum Dwyane Wade sold him on coming to the Heat.
"He said I'd fit right in with this culture," Butler said. "That's why I'm here."
There's no reason to question him. He left a contender in Philadelphia for a Heat team that missed the playoffs.
He took less money, too. Sure, it's lottery money, a four-year, $142 million deal with the Heat. He still left $46 million on the table by leaving Philadelphia.
Butler also got into loud squabbles with teammates in Chicago and Minnesota for -- and here's why this is a good marriage -- teammates not working hard enough.
"You're soft," he told teammates Andrew Wiggins and Karl Anthony Towns in Minnesota in berating their passion and work habits. Sounds like a perfect fit with the Heat.
"I'm a little extra at times," Butler said. "I don't think there's much wrong with that. If you do what I do every day and other people don't go about it that way, you might have issues, too. I love my job, love the game, and I'm at work at it at all hours. Why don't others do it like I do?"
Riley sounds all of 74 when he talks of today's players. Of course, his model Heat player was Alonzo Mourning.
"Give him a basketball and a dumbbell and he'd work all day," Riley said. It was easier to coach those players in the '90s than today. They aren't all looking for that. They're looking for the easier way out.
"It's not draconian," he said of the Heat culture. "It's not medieval. It's a place where we expect a professional basketball player to become a world-class athlete."
He repeated the Heat mantra of the "hardest-working, best-conditioned, most-professional, unselfish, toughest, meanest, nastiest team in the NBA."
There are three things Riley hates inside his culture: "Complaining, gossiping, not working hard. I can't stand that. Players start to complain, start to gossip, start to become cynical about things -- 'it's too hard, too whatever' -- I have a problem that that."
Somewhere in the past decade "culture" became the buzzword in sports. The Dolphins are annually trying to set one. The Marlins have re-set theirs. But year after year there's Riley, Coach Erik Spoelstra and so much of the same front office and support staff defining who the Heat are.
"Players like to be around something with stability," Riley said.
We'll see if Butler is a top-10 player, as Riley branded him. We'll see if he can be the centerpiece of a team, as he'll be asked to be for the first time in his career.
What you know is that after a few years of drifting away from their culture, the Heat are back to their brand. This is a marriage, Butler and the Heat, of similar ways.
Just listen to him.
"I want people to hate us," Butler said. " I want people to hate the Miami Heat."
Sports on 09/28/2019
Print Headline: Butler, Heat should be perfect marriage