May 25, 2024

Pat Riley rebukes Jimmy Butler for ‘trolling’ comments, but says Heat won’t trade star

Miami Heat president Pat Riley said the organization will not trade Jimmy Butler this offseason amid rumblings of possible discontent between the franchise and its star player over a possible contract extension this summer.

Still, Riley did hint at points of friction between the two parties.

Butler did not play in the Heat’s first-round series loss to the Celtics because of an MCL injury suffered during the Play-In tournament. But he recorded a video saying the Heat would have beaten the Celtics if he had been healthy and would have taken down the Knicks had they matched up.

That did not sit well with Riley.

“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.”

Butler has two years left on his current contract, though he has a player option for roughly $52 million for the 2025-26 season. The Heat can offer Butler, 34, a new contract this summer to keep him in Miami beyond that, but Riley told reporters in Miami that the front office has not discussed that prospect internally yet, nor that any decision has been made to this point.

Still, Riley was adamant that Butler will not be dealt away.

“No,” Riley said when asked directly about trading him.

In Butler’s five seasons in Miami, the Heat have made two NBA Finals appearances while reaching the Eastern Conference finals a third time. Riley remains appreciative of his star.

But Butler has also had trouble staying healthy and engaged during the regular season. Butler has yet to play more than 64 games in a regular season during his five seasons with the Heat. He played in 60 this season. His “Playoff Jimmy” nickname has been a double-edged sword, indicating how seriously he takes the playoffs — and not the regular season.

Butler’s durability, Riley said, will weigh into the Heat’s decision on an extension.

“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 (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 significance of Riley’s words

Pat Riley’s comments about Jimmy Butler on Monday provided a surprising amount of transparency on two fronts. First, the Heat have no desire to trade Butler, despite the possibility of a tricky contract negotiation in the near future.

Yet while Riley did express a commitment to keeping Butler around, he made it clear he wanted to see some changes from Butler on and off the court. In particular, Riley saying Butler should “keep his mouth shut” is the kind of public pushback Miami has rarely given to their star during his time in Miami. Butler is known for having a boisterous personality at times, and his past teams have largely accepted it when he has been a successful face of their franchise. But historically, as team success starts to wear off, so does teams’ patience for some of Butler’s idiosyncrasies.

One big issue is the amount of games Butler and his teammates have missed the past two seasons. It’s a point Riley repeated on multiple occasions during his news conference on Monday.

“We got a really good group of guys, and our No. 1 issue is player availability and having your guys playing every night,” he said.

At this point, Butler has one big decision ahead of him: How will he react if contract extension talks don’t go the way he wants them to this summer? That may be the biggest domino that determines the Heat’s direction these next few seasons. — Will Guillory, Heat and Pelicans reporter

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(Top photo: Jose A. Iglesias / El Nuevo Herald / Tribune News Service via Getty Images)