‘I’m not for everybody’: Jimmy Butler on evolving with the Miami Heat
By Jonathan Abrams
The NBA’s Eastern Conference is up for grabs, and a well-caffeinated Jimmy Butler has the Miami Heat primed to secure a premier seeding down the season’s stretch run. Miami reconstructed its roster in the offseason, most notably through the addition of point guard Kyle Lowry, and has pushed through a rash of injuries, to players including Butler and Bam Adebayo, to sit atop the conference standings.
Butler seems to have found a long-term home with the Heat after memorable stints and high-profile exits in Chicago, Minnesota and Philadelphia. In Miami, his characteristic blend of brashness and playfulness has been met with appreciation by a young roster sprinkled with a few battle-tested veterans.
Butler leads Miami in scoring, at 22 points per game, but describes himself as a nonscorer who does a lot of everything. He will probably be selected for his sixth All-Star team, but he lists nearly every other teammate as more deserving of a slot.
Butler recently spoke to The New York Times about the Heat’s season, how his game and leadership have evolved, and his deep coffee appreciation.
This interview has been condensed and edited for clarity.
Q: Miami currently sits atop the Eastern Conference. What is it about this team that people didn’t see heading into the season?
A: I don’t think anybody could predict the amount of injuries we’ve had or the amount of readiness/preparedness that everybody would have if those injuries were to come to light like they did, but I just feel like everybody’s comfortable. Everybody believes in their talent and what they can do while they’re out there on the floor.
And then on top of everything else, everybody’s always looking to put each other in the best position, whether you’re a slasher, shooter, passer. I think we just got a nice group of guys that complement each other well.
Q: How have you seen your own leadership approach evolve this season?
A: Just knowing how my role may change from game to game — for sure if Kyle’s not out there, because he is the primary ballhandler. But even knowing when you really got to get Duncan [Robinson] going or if Tyler [Herro]’s got it going, you continually feed him, and you just watch these young guys grow. I feel like I’ve made my name, quote unquote, in this league, and now it is my job to help others become comfortable enough to make theirs.
Q: You recently secured your 10th triple-double in Miami, breaking LeBron James’ franchise record. How has your overall game evolved in Miami these last couple seasons?
A: I think it speaks more to the individuals that I get to pass the ball to, because those are the guys that give me my assists — the guys that pitch the ball ahead for me or give me open looks or set a great screen for me to attack downhill. That’s where a lot of my points come from, and then crashing the glass, getting on the offensive boards, my bigs boxing out. Whenever they’re down there battling, I get to come over to the top and get the rebound.
So, all of these triple-doubles, they definitely come from my teammates, them allowing me to do it. But more than anything, as long as they’re geared toward winning, I can care less if I pass [James’ record] or not. There’s one thing that I haven’t passed him in yet, and that’s the amount of championships he brought to this organization.
Q: You’d rather have a game-winning assist than a game-winning shot, correct?
A: Yeah. I’m not a scorer anymore. I’m more of a facilitating guard, and I like it that way. I love it that way, because we got a lot of guys that can put the ball in the basket, so I let them shine, and I just rack up assists.
Q: At what moment does a teammate earn that trust, that in your head you know that you can give him the ball when it matters most?
A: I think it is built over time, but you see how many extra passes we make, not just from me to somebody else, but from somebody else to somebody else, to somebody else that they know, if you’re open, you’re going to get the ball. So it’s trust all the way around the board, all the way around the locker room, all the way around the floor — knowing if you’re open, somehow, some way, the ball will find its way to you.
Q: You, Kyle Lowry, Bam Adebayo and P.J. Tucker make a strong defensive lineup. Have you thought about what that unit could do in a playoff series?
A: Honestly, I haven’t, just because I stay trying to be locked in on the time right now and because a lot of things have to fall into place for that to even happen. Knock on wood. Everybody has to be healthy, and I hope that that is the case, that nobody’s injured, but ain’t no telling if we make the playoffs if we look too far ahead. You need to focus in on each day at a time, each practice, and then when the games get here, each game home and away. But we never want to look too far ahead. Not in this league.
Q: Your devotion to coffee became a storyline during the NBA bubble in 2020. Why did you decide to recently start Bigface, your own coffee brand?
A: Because I get to do things my way, obviously with the input and help of the individuals that are helping me run this thing, but this brand is a reflection of myself and the people I’m around. If you don’t like it, that’s fine. We’re not harming anybody.
I’m not for everybody on the floor, sometimes off the floor, and maybe this isn’t for everybody either. I hope that it is.
Q: How many cups of coffee do you drink on a game day?
A: Game day or not, it’s easily seven to 10 cups of coffee per day, just because it gives me time to sit down and think. I really do enjoy making all different types of coffee, and I get a lot done whenever I’m drinking coffee — whether I’m reading a book, whether I’m competing at a domino table or over some cards, just reminiscing about life as a whole or just talking about things that we would like to have accomplished in the future — that being with basketball, that being with Bigface Coffee or that being with any other thing that comes to my mind.
Q: How do you sleep at night?
A: I sleep just fine. I get my nine hours per night. I’ve trained my body to be able to do that. If I don’t sleep nine hours, I’m definitely not worth a damn, so with all that coffee being said, I think I’m pretty used to lots of coffee and lots of sleep at the same time.