It was a rough time in Dadeland. Fresh off winning six of seven games, the Heat lost three-straight to the Suns, Nuggets, and Timberwolves by an average of 15 points per game. Each contest saw Miami jump out to big first quarter leads only to get manhandled in the second period of play.
Then, to cap it all off, Miami fans had to watch from afar as the embodiment of Heat Culture, Dwyane Wade, traded in bunuelos for wheat bread and took an ownership stake with the Utah Jazz. Seeing D-Wade getting a standing ovation in Salt Lake City is like seeing Ronald McDonald eating a Frosty; it just did not feel right. Nothing felt right. Not until Jimmy Butler stepped in with a quote that will one day be recited when Heat scholars tell their pupils, “please turn your pages to the Book of Butler, chapters 28-28.”
“It’s not frustrating because we do it so often,” Butler said, via ESPN. “It’s almost like it’s expected, in a bad way to put it. We just think we’re such a good team, and then reality hits us, we’re humbled. And I’m glad, because that’s what this game does for you. Home, away, no matter what opponent you’re playing against, you just stroll into the game thinking you’re nice, you’re good. This is what happens. I’m glad it happened to us. And if we don’t fix it, I hope it continues to happen to us.”
“We’re just being soft. That’s it,” Butler said. “Not getting into bodies, scared of some contact. Soft overall.”
Heat players being soft? What’s next? Kardashians looking physically natural? Tok Tok stars acting well-adjusted to society? Samuel L. Jackson cast in a PG movie? It just does not compute. Miami responded well to the call-out from their teammate, however, as the Heat reeled off a pair of wins. On Sunday afternoon, Bam Adebayo hit a buzzer beater to take down the James Harden-less Nets 109-107 before completing the back-to-back with a 113-91 demolition of the Houston Rockets, both games without Butler.
Miami will have to take that same attitude and apply it to the stretch run. There are 14 games remaining, with only two of the next nine coming against teams currently with winning records: the Hawks and Mavericks. Then, they close out the year with a pair of potentially vital-seeding games in Boston before coming home for a tilt with Philadelphia, then road games at Milwaukee and Detroit.
While some of pointed to Butler’s quote as further proof to the narrative he is a difficult teammate, I choose to view it as the opposite. Nothing has emanated from the Heat locker room about Butler being a bad teammate, and if anyone thinks blowing big lead after big lead culminating in a loss to the hapless T’Wolves is anything but soft, then well, they’re soft. Instead, I view it as more along the lines of Tim Tebow’s “Promise” which he delivered following a home loss in 2008 to Ole Miss. Afterwards, the Gators won their final eight regular season games, all by at least four touchdowns, before defeating No. 1 Alabama and No. 2 Oklahoma to win the national title.
Some say in life one has to hit rock bottom before realizing they need to change their actions. If losing to the Minnesota Timberwolves isn’t basketball’s equivalent to waking up freezing and destitute in a gutter, then what is? Miami (30-28) gets back to action Wednesday night with a road game in San Antonio.