MIAMI — Former Miami Heat great Dwyane Wade isn’t surprised that new Heat swingman and his good friend Jimmy Butler is having so much success with his old team. Wade, who spent 15 seasons playing in Miami, believes that Butler has the right kind of “crazy” to fit in with the Heat’s culture.
“I think Jimmy’s been very clear, and I think I’ve spoken a few times, it’s conversations that we had about Miami early on, and it’s certain people that you just know are Miami Heat guys when you know the culture,” Wade said during a conference call Wednesday to announce his new role with Turner Sports. “And for me, I always thought that Jimmy was that — not knowing that this would actually happen — but I always thought that Jimmy’s personality and his crazy is perfect for [Heat president] Pat Riley and [coach] Erik Spoelstra’s crazy.”
After hearing about Wade’s comments, Butler agreed. When asked why he thinks he has the right brand of “crazy” for this Heat team, Butler praised the tough-minded Heat culture that has defined Riley’s tenure in South Beach.
“I think it’s all based off of honesty, truthfulness, hard work and intention,” Butler told ESPN after scoring 24 points, dishing out 10 assists and grabbing 7 rebounds in a 134-129 overtime win over the Washington Wizards. “And I feel like when you talk about myself, you talk about Spo, you talk about Coach Pat, that’s what all of this thing is based off of: how hard you work, how you can keep it real with one another and not take anything personal. It fits for me here. I’m loving it, man. They’re constantly in my ear, and we’re constantly going back and forth, figuring out ways that I can be better. How I can make everybody else better. But this culture — I’m super happy to be here. I’m fortunate to be here, man. This is a great group of guys. It’s a great organization. But like [Wade] said, this is the right type of crazy for me.”
Wade, who spent the 2016-17 season playing alongside Butler as a member of the Chicago Bulls, said he made it clear to Butler when he signed with the Heat last summer that this was his team now.
“One thing I told Jimmy when he got there was, ‘Hey, this is Jimmy Butler era,'” Wade said. “‘Don’t worry about people saying anything about Dwyane Wade. I am old and retired and gone. So you don’t have to worry about me anymore. Focus on what you’re trying to build with Miami in your time there. Don’t ever feel like you have to be me or anybody else that’s come before you. You just have to be Jimmy Butler.’ And I think he’s great at being Jimmy Butler, and that’s who he needs to be.”
After some tumultuous moments during previous stops in Chicago, Minnesota and Philadelphia, Butler, 30, has fit quickly into the Heat culture and has helped the team to a 31-13 start.
“I think we all are pleasantly surprised by the emergence of the Heat so soon,” Wade said. “Knowing that Jimmy was coming in, obviously he was an All-Star player, but not knowing what the younger guys was going to bring to the team and not knowing that Bam [Adebayo] was going to continue to emerge to an All-Star level as he has, it’s definitely been a pleasant surprise for all of us old heads that love the Miami Heat. Just overly joyed and excited about where the team is and just the future of the possibilities, where we go.”
Spoelstra was effusive in his praise when discussing the impact Butler has had on both the team and the younger players in the group.
“We’ve always admired him as a player,” Spoelstra said. “And like Dwyane said, we felt that his values match up ours, and we never think anything of that. If you want to use the adjective, quote unquote, his crazy matches our crazy. People have said that more about us than him. So we think it’s a marriage made in heaven. It’s our language. He speaks our language. We speak his language. We think it’s normal behavior. We think if you lose or don’t play well, we expect everybody in the building to be probably irrationally upset, even during the regular season or in a regular-season game during January. That’s how we’re wired. That’s why he’s perfect for us to be the face of the franchise moving forward.”
Spoelstra and his players point to the fact that Butler has served as a role model on and off the floor for a group that has surprised the entire league in the first half of the season.
“And then stylistically, the way he plays the game of basketball and the way he competes fits on so many different levels to be able to help our young guys grow and gain confidence,” Spoelstra said. “And play off of his talent and his competitiveness and his will because he’s a very giving and sharing player. That was probably one of the most pleasant things that I’ve learned about him in our setting is he wants other guys to flourish, and he understands the big picture. Guys need to be better and different in April and May than they are right now. For that to happen, he has to facilitate that, and we think it’s a fantastic fit.”
Aside from cheering the Heat on from a distance, Wade is enjoying retired life as he begins his career as a commentator for Turner. When asked about a possible ownership stake in the Heat and a role within the organization moving forward, Wade said those conversations are “ongoing.”
“When it comes to talking to the Arisons and ownership, we’ve definitely sat down and talked about what I wanted to do since the game is over with,” he said. “And that’s a conversation that will continue to be ongoing. I think right now, as you guys know, my family and I moved to Los Angeles, and I’m really involved in so many other areas of my life, and I want to get that, and I want to get that going, and the basketball will be there. My ties to Miami will never go anywhere. When that opportunity makes sense and is right, then we’ll definitely sit down and have an even more in-depth conversation.”