MIAMI (AP) — Jimmy Butler wants this made clear: He is not in Miami to be the next Dwyane Wade.
He wanted to be in Miami to honor his retired friend’s legacy — and pick up where Wade left off.
Wade’s “one last dance” is over, his retirement has come after 16 seasons and now Butler has arrived to become the Heat’s go-to guy in winning time. Adding Butler on a four-year contract was the centerpiece of the Heat’s offseason, and even in a year of transition — learning to play without Wade, again — Miami believes a return to the playoffs is well within reach.
“Seeing what he helped build here — and I never want to compare myself to him, but I think that what they have going on here and the way they go about everything here is the right way,” said Butler, who went to Marquette (as did Wade) and was Wade’s teammate in Chicago in 2016-17 after the three-time champion left Miami the first time. “That’s what I’m banking on, that we continue to do that.”
Wade’s last home game as a Heat player was against Philadelphia, with Butler one of the opponents that night. The scene, the way the Miami crowd feted Wade, it all made an impact on Butler’s thinking as far as where he wanted to play this season and beyond.
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra compared Miami’s move to bring Butler in to one of the other seismic moves in franchise history – the one, early in Pat Riley’s tenure with the team, that landed Alonzo Mourning.
“We bring in a super, like-minded player to our culture,” Spoelstra said. “In my mind, Jimmy is having the same impact Zo had when he joined the team.”
Butler thought one of the adjustments he’d have to make with the move to Miami was the process of getting to know what makes his new teammates tick. Turns out, that’s almost been seamless — a good sign for a team going into a season with Miami’s traditional high expectations.
“I’m just happy to be able to hoop,” Butler said. “We’ve got a great group of guys. We like being around each other. Everyone’s laughing and smiling. It’s going to be a long year and a long great year. Everyone around here is looking forward to it.”
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