After a sometimes rocky path through the NBA, Jimmy Butler found a home in Miami, and the Heat’s loss to the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals doesn’t change that.
“Just the bond that this group built,” Butler said of what he’ll treasure from the season with the Heat — including some three months in the NBA’s quarantine bubble in Orlando, Florida.
“I wouldn’t give that back for the world. We really, really, really love being around one another and competing with one another. I wouldn’t trade that for the world.”
Butler arrived in Miami after stints in Chicago, Minnesota and Philadelphia ended on sour notes.
With the Heat, the undeniably talented All-Star appears to have found the perfect landing spot, his grit helping propel the Eastern Conference fifth seeds to an unlikely shot at the Western Conference champion Lakers in the NBA Finals.
It was Butler’s determined triple-double that propelled the Heat to a Game Five victory over the Lakers that temporarily put their championship celebrations on hold.
He couldn’t fashion another miracle on Sunday, but he said he departs the quarantine bubble looking forward to what the Heat can still accomplish.
“I think that I grew in every aspect of the game,” Butler said of his first season with the Heat. “More than anything, I’ve learned that here, me works.
“Here, I’m always, always, always, always going to believe in my guys.
“We’re trending in the right direction,” Butler added. “We’re going to learn from this. We’re going to get better. We’re going to come back. That’s what we’re all saying in that locker room.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said that what Butler found in Miami was not just a team, but a family.
“I think that’s what we’re all looking for, right, is to be part of a family,” Spoelstra said. “To be a part of something where you felt all along that you were searching for something. Where you can just be yourself, you don’t have to make any apologies for who you are.
“We have been searching for him for a long time and I think he’s been searching for something like us for a while.”
That kind of relationship has been even more important this year, Spoelstra said, as players grappled with the coronavirus pandemic that shut down play in March, and saw the season resume in the league’s quarantine bubble that isolated players from friends and family back home.
“This locker room, regardless of whatever happens in the future, we’re going to remember this year, this season, this experience and that locker room brotherhood for the rest of our lives,” Spoelstra said.