Pat Riley challenged Jimmy Butler. Now, Butler must respond

Pat Riley
Pat Riley’s end-of-season presser sparked some interesting fireworks Monday! (Photo Courtesy of WPLG Local 10 Sports // @Local10Sports on Twitter)

Even though it arrived over two months sooner in the calendar year than the organization would’ve liked, everyone’s favorite annual press conference was Monday: Pat Riley’s end-of-season presser.

It’s a spectacle on the Miami Heat’s calendar where the team president outlines all his thoughts on everything from the team’s current condition to its potential process to get better.

Riley’s presser always hammers one common theme: Sending a message–publicly, not privately.

Some messages are subtle, whereas others are more direct and pointed. Let’s say that Monday’s sentiment fits the latter.

Nearly a decade removed from the infamous 2014 presser, where he indirectly challenged LeBron James to have the “guts” and not walk out the first door he sees, Riley not only challenged the team’s lack of availability, but specifically Jimmy Butler’s.

Miami’s players missed the 10th-most days due to injury and had a franchise-record 35 starting lineups–or, on average, one new one for every two games, roughly. Three teams that Riley singled out–Oklahoma City, Minnesota and Orlando–had their stars, for the most part, reach the 70-game threshold.

Both Riley and Heat head coach Erik Spoelstra noted that the lack of availability has become a leaguewide issue–though not for everyone. LeBron James, who turned 39-years-old in December, had his healthiest season since joining Los Angeles, appearing in 71 games; Anthony Davis played a career-high 76 games; Kawhi Leonard, who’s repeatedly dealt with an ailing knee, played 68 games; Kevin Durant, who missed roughly 42 percent of his team’s available games from 2020-23 with multiple lower-body injuries, played 75 games; Paul George played 74 games; Zion Williamson played in 70 games–only the second time of his five-year career playing in at least 35 percent of his team’s contests.

Maybe it was a happy coincidence that, in the first year, players who have missed time in the past were available in the inaugural campaign for the 65-game initiative (for postseason awards).

Miami could not say the same.

The team’s continuity–or lack thereof–was arguably the team’s biggest reason for their inconsistent nature. The same could be said for Miami’s franchise superstar, who missed a quarter of its regular season games for the third time and, unfortunately, the first round of the postseason due to a freak sprained MCL injury.

Butler is eligible for a two-year, $113 million extension beginning on July 7. It would add roughly $2 million onto Jimmy’s 2025-26 salary figure–currently $52.4 million–while essentially tacking on nearly $60 million the ensuing season, Butler’s age-37 season. Riley was, understandably, non-commital to rewarding Butler a max extension. Though he issued an ultimatum: Play–and not halfheartedly–in order for this team to get over the hump.

“If he requests [an extension], we can either accept or we can say, ‘We’re gonna think about it,’” Riley said. “That’s a big decision on our part, to commit those kinds of resources, unless you’re somebody who’s going to be there every night.

“We have not discussed that internally right now. We have to look at making that kind of commitment and when do we do it. We don’t have to do it until 2025, actually. But we’ll see. We haven’t made a decision on it, and we haven’t really in earnest discussed it.”

“Just like anyone else, he may need to make some changes in his overload routine.”

Miami’s president also didn’t take kindly to a recent video of Butler saying that the Boston Celtics and New York Knicks “would be at home” if he was playing.

“For him to say that, I thought, ‘Is that Jimmy trolling or is that Jimmy serious?’” Riley said. “If you’re not on the court playing against Boston, if you’re not on the court playing against the New York Knicks, you should keep your mouth shut in your criticism of those teams.”

 

Riley wasn’t even content with the aforementioned 65-game rule–noting that it incentivized some to miss 17 games, a threshold he believes is too high. Butler hasn’t reached that threshold since 2018-19, his last season before joining Miami.

All things considered, it’s not a surprise that it was a play-in team for the second consecutive season. The team’s roster construction didn’t help, nor did the health, nor did the team’s bottom-third offense in the halfcourt or transition, among other things.

Riley did not only point to Butler’s lack of availability. He called Tyler Herro “fragile” with the need to make “adjustments.”

But the centered focus around Butler is … well, this is largely his team. It’s the Jimmy Butler build; Riley even called him the team’s biggest “needle mover.”

“Who moves the needle the most on our team is Jimmy,” Riley said. “Jimmy moves the needle the most. He’s an incredible player. What I said at the beginning about change is he’s got to give it some thought himself for this team to be what he wants it to be, and what I want it to be, and [team owner] Micky [Arison] and everybody else. This five-year window, we’ve been pretty successful. We haven’t won the chip and I think that bothers everybody.”

The Miami Heat essentially go as Butler does. That’s been the theme–especially in the postseason–during his tenure. But in 2023-24 specifically, you could point to numerous instances–including in losses–where Butler’s disposition on the court wasn’t up to par, which contributed to the team’s inconsistency and inability to win big games.

And for an extension, there has to be a two-way commitment to be more available–physically and mentally.

His agent Bernard Lee disputed that speculation in response to Riley’s presser Monday:

“Taking issue in games in which he plays is just not reality,” Lee said, according to Ira Winderman of the South Florida Sun-Sentinel. “This past season, we had a conversation at the start of the year, just with some of the changes, rules changes in the NBA, the priority that was in place to be able to participate in every game he was physically able to participate for, and I can tell you that he lived up that commitment.

“But unfortunately he isn’t a robot and injuries and circumstances happen. Prior to the year, we had a meeting to discuss the changing NBA rules and the need to reject load management, And we all understood the assignment. Jimmy’s 22 games missed were all for valid issues and concerns.”

“Jimmy missed 22 games this past year, a mix of personal reasons and injury … If there was a game that was on the schedule that Jimmy was healthy enough to participate in, he did that. He played in a number of back-to-backs and it was the utmost priority to him to do everything he can to be available.

“When you dive into even more, Jimmy played his highest minutes per game (34.0) since Minnesota (36.1 in 2018-19). He played over 2,000, the third year in a row that he’s done that (it was actually 1,931 in 2021-22). He was third on the team in total minutes played (this past season).

“If you look at Jimmy’s entire career, I’m not really sure where this narrative is coming from, in terms of constantly dissecting his availability. But if you look at his five years in Miami, the Miami Heat have participated in 61 playoff games, not including these past playoffs that he was injured for. Of those 61, Jimmy has only missed three because of injury. In every single playoff series since he’s been in Miami, he’s led the team in both minutes per game and total minutes.”

Whether it was decline, injury, an effect due to personal reasons (he did miss time due to a family death) or he was discouraged by Joe Cronin acting in bad faith due to the Damian Lillard saga–he had arguably his worst season donning scarlet red.

And Riley is now challenging him. James wasn’t appreciative and went back home in 2014.

But there are two differences: James was a free agent (Butler wasn’t), and Butler has shown to be less sensitive to constructive criticism–specifically in Miami. Monday was yet another reminder of whose voice still reigns loudest, whether it was brash, blunt or even constructive.

And Miami’s superstar now must respond, because if he doesn’t, this organization could steer back toward the territory that Butler saved it from five years ago: Mediocrity.

***

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Iknowtoomuch

Jimmy is delusional. Having his agent rationalize his availability thru Ira now is totally transparent and predictable . Partnerships have mutual benefits with many both tangible & intangible…not always monetized. Watch Pat extend Bam first ! Jimmy’s played this tune before…being greedy is not pretty for an aging player.

HHHFAN4Life
Reality Czech

Very interesting

Bout30man

It sounds good for everyone but Cleveland. They will want more. Herro is going to be hard to trade without more.

2qbn

Smooth sailing doesn’t make good sailors. Not as bad as an outcome as the post bubble season where they got spanked by the Bucks, but this team will respond like they did after that season. Sometimes you need a disappoinment. And make no mistake, this was a disappointment for the reasons Riley laid out, which was health.

Regarding how Riley went directly at Jimmy, it’s either going to motivate him or he can get pissed off and ask for a trade. To me, Riley thinks he’s in a win-win situation. Let’s see how this plays out. Now all eyes on Jimmy’s eventual interview.

ManilaHeat

Yeah tell em Pat. The godfather spoke you gotta listen. This may create rift but imo it had to be addressed. Lets see if Jimmy and Tyler in particular would take heed. Or be cry babies. Go Pat!

SunManFromDogBone

I just finished listening to Riley’s exit interview. I jotted down several notes that summarize where he and Heat owners are regarding the team, it’s players and coach. I’ll try to highlight my observations regarding his most significant comments.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=A396ZFT4kXE

JIMMY BUTLER
He is the player who moves the needle the most for the Heat. There is no rush to extend Jimmy’s contract. The team has a year to decide on that. There has been no decision or discussion internally on that matter. There will be many factors in making that determination, including Jimmy’s availability. He’s not open to discussing a trade for JImmy at present. There’s a possibility of a lot of things will be on the table. If Miami goes out and gets another star, the bench will get weaker. There are only 2-3 stars in the league Miami would consider bringing in, if they became available. There were 8 teams in the penalty tax category this season. 6 failed to make it to beyond the first round. Only Boston and Denver remain. If healthy, Jimmy is still a 1A player. He didn’t like Butler “trolling”/talking about how his availability would have sent Celtics home after the first round. His advice to Jimmy is: “Keep your mouth shut if you aren’t playing.” He watched Game 5 film in his hotel room after the game and acknowledged that Boston was the best team in the league and that GM had done a great job bringing in Holiday and Porzingas.

BAM
Is also up for extension. He still has room to expand his game. He’s is an All-NBA player. (I presume there is no question about Bam’s future with the team).

TYLER HERRO
He missed 40 games this year. When he was out, other players came in and did commendable jobs. When he returned, they lost minutes and lost their consistency. Herro works hard but is still “fragile.” He had hand injury in playoffs last year and out with injuries this year. He may need to go to a new nutritional program this year and make adjustments in his training program. He’s a shot taker and a shot maker. He needs to do more to overcome defenders. He needs to be healthy enough to play 72 games. Boston made it hard on him, especially after his Game 2 performance. With Jimmy and Rozier out, it was easy for Boston to focus on him. He is not a 6th man. He is a starter.

TERRY ROZIER
Terry’s injury (neck), like Duncan’s (spine), take time to heal properly. They’ll heal. Miami got in Terry exactly who they had hoped to get (“Scary Terry”). It took him a while to adjust to team, but his presence was felt. He brought the fire power they were looking for. He was a great addition.

JAQUEZ AND JOVIC
Pat feels both are great pieces for the Heat in the future. He saw something in Jovic. He’s going to have talent. He’s only 20. He’s got length and is a great athlete. With conditioning he will continue to improve. Pat feels if Jaquez hadn’t been hurt, he would played every day. He played 75 games (even when hurt), the most on the team (4 more than Bam). He’s a “proud young warrior” who will play for you every day.

ERIC SPOESTRA
He was signed to a long term contract before he became a free agent and some other team signed him. Riley and owners are very happy with him. He represents organizational stability. He has the respect of NBA players and is great at developing players.

MAJOR CHANGES?
None are planned right now. He just wants to control the things he can control. If someone has an offer his ears are alwasy open. If something like that happened, he would convey the offer up the chain and go from there. The main issue right now is player availability. The owners want to win. They want to see how well the team can perform with everyone healthy.

UD COMMENTS REGARDING JIMMY’S AGE AND CONTRACT EXTENSION AND NEED FOR ANOTHER BIG MAN AND SCORER
Riley said UD works for the Heat and is really good on his podcast. However, he should have kept his thoughts to himself.The Heat normally speaks with one voice and that is Spo’s. He is the spokesperson, not UD.

2024 DRAFT & FREE AGENCY
Everyone will get together in a couple of weeks and start planning for the draft and discussing upcoming free agency. Several players are free agents or in in option years. Pat feels the team has a really good group of guys.

vagibugi

“Big mouth coffee”

oregoner

Love the end-of-year Riley presser.

It will get buried under the sexier headlines, but one thing Riley mentioned was that everyone needs to get better. He needs to add depth. Spo needs to re-imagine the offense and defense. Bam needs to develop his shooting. And if Jimmy wants to win a championship, he needs to commit to his conditioning as he gets older.

Another thing Riley pointed out with the Jimmy “extension” is that Jimmy has two more years on his deal (second year is a player option). So Riley feels no pressure to extend him and has no plans to trade him. Things might change in the offseason, but Riley has been reliably truthful in these over the year. However Jimmy feels about it, I believe that is Riley’s attitude on the subject.

Most importantly, Riley obviously sees all the things we see. He’s not going to extend a 35 year old that can’t stay on the court. He’s going to work with his training staff to reduce injuries. He likes the young guys. He’s definitely not going to lose games on purpose to “rebuild”. He likes this team, and he also knows changes are necessary. What are those changes? That’s the one detail that he didn’t share with us today

vagibugi

Riley didn’t mentioned, that Butler wasn’t particularly good even when he was available this season, which is probably more problematic then just not being available.

heat for life

he wasnt good at the end of games for the first 47 minutes thought he was good doesnt have the ups he use to have.still an all star just not a ss.if he dedicates himself to getting in lebron condition and plays 70 plus games gotta pay the man.not sure telling him to shut up a good move.u got athletes like bron jim u kiss their ass keep them down here.what if riley would have done anything bron demanded why the f not suck it up pat .players win games btw pat pat he was 100% correct if he played theres only 2 teams we def couldnt beat denv minn.possibly denver okc.but boston ny def beatable.

SunManFromDogBone

“not sure telling him to shut up a good move.u got athletes like bron jim u kiss their ass keep them down here.”

Maybe you kiss their asses, but that isn’t part of Miami Heat culture. It sounds like Jimmy is getting a little “big for his britches” like LeBron did before him…and Jimmy is nowhere nearly as good as James. I hope he gets pissed and straightens out his act or demands to be traded. The day Miami starts letting the inmates run the asylum is the day I find another team to follow.

GO HEAT!!!

P.S. Your move Jimmy.

Reality Czech

100% correct! He’s in the twilight of his career and seeking a massive contract. Heat must stick to a pay for performance approach.

vagibugi

Well, yes, but this will kick the can only till the start of 2025.
If Jimmy will play every game till then well and Heat would be at no.1 position, is this a reason good enough for max. extension?

Reality Czech

Correct. I would rather go with youth, but I think the odds are 50-50 that Butler stays or goes. First, we need to see if Butler is upset enough about not getting the extension immediately, that he demands a trade. If he does, it will be a very interesting offseason.

SunManFromDogBone

Maybe that’s the test Riley is putting him through. Which will win out, Jimmy’s inflated ego or his strategic brain? Miami doesn’t have enough room for one of those. If he gets pissed and impulsively demands a trade, then Pat can go to plan B. I wonder what Miami can get for a 35 year old aging star with an inflated ego these days? Hmm?

heat for life

if pat wanted to keep jim hes not telling him to shut up.hed phrase it a little differently.he sees jim taking 1/4 season off.not giving 100% effort when playing.but when he plays he impacts the game.he will be a major loss but it might be time to move on and rebuild .hopefully can acquire a player similar ability if not mediocrity for at least next year

heat for life

lebron what will it take for to stay here king james please let me know

Big_guy305

Maybe we can get a trade package somewhere in-between the harden and Murray packages, maybe a lil more for a 2 way player, shooting a career high percentage from beyond the arc, with finals experience. He would also infuse a tough mentality to a soft team.

heat for life

true coffee u can let hit the road rather he stay .lebron no fkn way,major major mistake

SunManFromDogBone

That is not the Heat way. Players don’t call the shots. LeBron can take his ego and shove it where the sun don’t shine too. I’m old school. Let your game do the talking…not your inflated ego. FTS!

heat for life

how bout jim for pg 13

Big_guy305

Might as well keep Jimmy, if you gonna do that .

SunManFromDogBone

No thank you. He’s another cripple, especially around playoff time. Dude has averaged 52.8 games per season since 2019-2020.

How about Jimmy for a young two-way stud (Murray, ?) and a pick or two? Then trade Herro for a frontcourt player (Collins, Kuzma, Miles Bridges, ?) to help Bam on the boards and with the scoring load. Also, draft a center and develop him to be in rotation and possibly start next to Bam down the road.

HHHFAN4Life

The best “if” trade scenario I’ve seen imo. Also leaves Miami with some wiggle room to sign one maybe two good role players as well

https://bleacherreport.com/articles/10120082-a-4-team-trade-to-convince-pat-riley-to-trade-jimmy-butler

Last edited 1 month ago by HHHFAN4Life
SunManFromDogBone

Great trade.
Starters: Rozier, Mitchell, Jaquez, Kuzma, Bam.

Reality Czech

I think Big Guy posted this as well and I also think it’d be a very good trade for the Heat!

Reality Czech

Oh, I see that was you earlier on that trade link. Thanks.

Big_guy305

Here are more trade options, if we decide to keep Jimmy and build around him. https://allucanheat.com/posts/5-tyler-herro-trade-ideas-improve-miami-heat

HHHFAN4Life

Saw that one before, don’t really want kd or bron all due respect to them tho

Big_guy305

I Don’t blame you for saying that, I don’t want those 2 either.

Reality Czech

I saw those. Really like the Murray and Mitchell deals if those teams were willing. KD too expensive. I know I’m in the tiny minority, but I still think LeBron is playing at a surprisingly high level and I’d do it if Riley is intent on running it back.

Big_guy305

Yes, I don’t want kd he had his chance, and I agree that LeBron is still playing at a high level, better then everyone all the clippers. Very impressive at his age. Well ball is in Riley court..

SunManFromDogBone

Yup.

Reality Czech

Yeah, I see no sense whatsoever in trading Butler for George. Imo Butler is a better player right now and obviously a better playoffs player.

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