We’ve all been down this road before, except so few want to call it what it is. It’s probably because Jimmy Butler is so eager to give the media what it wants, and that is juicy quotes and stories and also to make them feel like one of the guys. He’s happy to have them along, if not outright bring them along. Which, let’s face it, is what a lot of sports media is after, which is back to that whole “access” debate we’ve had to wade through far too many times. Anyway, here was supposed ULTIMATE LEADER Butler last night in a 118-104 loss to the Warriors:
By the time you read this, there will probably be a rash of NBA pundits and writers racing to defend Butler, because that’s how this always goes. Using this as evidence of “just how bad he wants it.” It’s the narrative Butler has been pushing for years.
But ask yourself who’s in the wrong when a beloved team leader like Udonis Haslem, who’s been a part of the Heat organization a hell of a lot longer than Butler (and the Heat are a team that covers itself in its own culture more than any other in the NBA), is threatening to beat Butler’s ass. And when he’s done doing so, Eric Spoelstra — one of the more made men in the NBA and yet another ingrained in the heavy Heat culture ways that’s derived from Pat Riley to the point it borders on a cult — is getting in Butler’s face and not Haslem’s. Especially when Haslem barely plays. Who is Spoelstra prioritizing here? That should tell you everything you need to know.
We don’t know what triggered all of this, other than a Warriors run to start the third that obviously came without Steph Curry in the lineup. Something went wrong on the bench, but then something has been amiss with the Heat for a little while now. They’ve lost four of the last seven and that death grip they had on the East is loosening with the Bucks closing hard on the outside.
It’s funny how things always go a little weird when Butler is around. It’s really important to Butler that he’s seen as the ultimate team leader and player, but he’s not actually interested in being those things. He just wants everyone to think he is. It’s always been that way. If he was such a leader, if he was such a paragon of basketball virtue, he wouldn’t have been punted out of both Chicago and Minnesota mere minutes before his teammates knifed him in the kidney. If he was such a leader, he wouldn’t have made such a show out of his exit either, with the clear trade demands or the spectacle of airing his teammates out in practice. That practice lives in infamy in Minnesota, so strange it came on the day that Butler knew there would be a ton of media there. Must be a coincidence thing.
The only former teammate that seems to have missed him is Joel Embiid, who just so happens to be one of the few up his own ass as much as Butler that perhaps he can understand that language. Former Wolves and Bulls couldn’t wait until Butler was out of town.
Because Butler isn’t really about leading a team. He just wants to have that aura, without earning it. That’s what led him to call out teammates in Chicago in the press, along with just-in-Chicago-for-a-check Dwyane Wade, before ever actually talking to his teammates. Or the stories about his arrival at the facility at 3 a.m. or 4 a.m. No one needs to be at the gym at 4 a.m. And in fact, how would anyone in the media even know about such an arrival if it wasn’t Butler himself telling them? Somehow, I don’t think beat writers are regularly scoping out a team’s facility before the sun rises. Call it a hunch. And yet they eat it up.
But it gets Jimmy Buckets the headlines. Look at how hard this guy works! He’s arriving while I’m still drinking! Look at him hanging out with Marky Mark! He must be important!
Maybe last night was just a little spat. Or maybe Haslem and Spoelstra have been around long enough to see what actually matters and know that Butler’s bullshit is about all the stuff that doesn’t. In any non-bubble season, no Butler-led team has seen past the second round. That’s no coincidence. He’s the definition of wanting the baby without the labor pains. Starting to feel like the Heat think Butler is a labor pain himself.