Heat’s Pat Riley unhappy with Jimmy Butler’s remarks on Celtics and Knicks, implies he needs to play more

“If you’re not on the court playing against Boston… you should keep your mouth shut”

Miami Heat president Pat Riley held his end-of-season news conference Monday, following the team’s elimination from the NBA playoffs last week.

After finishing as the Eastern Conference’s No. 8 seed and losing a first-round series to the Boston Celtics in five games, Riley told reporters that he expects head coach Erik Spolestra “to take a deep dive into the offense and defense.” Payroll is also a significant concern with the Heat currently $10 million over the luxury tax threshold.

However, Riley raised the temperature in the room considerably when he directly and indirectly addressed Jimmy Butler’s role with the team.

Butler caused a stir over the weekend with remarks that the Celtics “would be at home” if he was available to play in the series. (Butler injured his knee during a play-in tournament loss to the Philadelphia 76ers.) And if he was playing on the Sixers instead of the Heat, they wouldn’t have lost to the New York Knicks in the first round:

Riley had no patience for Butler’s remarks when he was asked about them.

“For him to say that, I thought ‘Is that Jimmy trolling or is that Jimmy serious?'” said Riley. “If you’re not on the court playing against Boston or on the court playing against the New York Knicks, you should keep your mouth shut and your criticism of those teams.”

Pat Riley on Jimmy Butler’s comments that the Heat would’ve won over Boston if he were healthy… “you should keep your mouth shut” pic.twitter.com/K1K3RVo0lt — WPLG Local 10 Sports (@Local10Sports) May 6, 2024

Yet that stern rebuke may not have solely been based on Butler’s comments. During the news conference, Riley referenced the “availability” of Heat players.

“There are a lot of elements that go into a culture, the erosion of a culture, problems in the NBA that are league-wide when it comes to health and players missing games, when it comes to availability,” Riley said.

“Here we get eliminated again in the first round. There are things you have to look at,” he added. “Who moves the needle the most on our team [is] Jimmy. He is an incredible player. What I said about change, is he’s going to have to give some thought for what we really want it to be.”

Butler, who turns 35 in September, played in 60 games this season for Miami. During his five seasons with the Heat, he’s averaged 58 games. With rumblings that Butler wants a contract extension, Riley appeared to be sending a message that his star needs to play more. And if he can’t play more, he shouldn’t talk about what might have happened.

Pat Riley when asked (by @flasportsbuzz) if they’d be open to trading Jimmy Butler:

“No. Not right now.” @CBSMiami pic.twitter.com/INGEonfssl — Mike Cugno (@MikeCugnoCBS4) May 6, 2024

The 13-year veteran is signed for the 2024-25 season with a $52 million player option for 2025-26. Butler is reportedly seeking a two-year, $113 million max extension, according to the Miami Herald. The Heat have until June 30, 2025 to decide whether or not to make an offer.

But when Riley was asked if trading Butler was a possibility, he simply said “No.” So this could be building toward a standoff over Butler wanting a contract extension versus the Heat preferring to wait at least a year and see if changes are made.

Butler’s agent, Bernie Lee, disputed Riley raising the issue of availability to South Florida Sun Sentinel reporter Ira Winderman.

“If you look at Jimmy’s entire career, I’m not really sure where this narrative is coming from, in terms of constantly dissecting his availability. But if you look at his five years in Miami, the Miami Heat have participated in 61 playoff games, not including these past playoffs that he was injured for. Of those 61, Jimmy has only missed three because of injury. In every single playoff series since he’s been in Miami, he’s led the team in both minutes per game and total minutes.”

The situation could gain some clarity over the summer or leading up to training camp if Butler pushes for a contract extension before the 2024-25 season begins and becomes discontent if the Heat aren’t receptive to a new deal.

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