They are a pair of truths that are self-evident:
It’s different here.
And it’s different there.
That, in the end, is the story of the Heat’s and Jimmy Butler’s summers.
Because only now, after his annual journey of discovery, has Jimmy Butler returned stateside, his programming to Heat culture already in progress.
From the moment he agreed to sign with the Heat on June 30 and then put pen to paper on July 6, it has been a world-wide whirlwind for the Heat’s latest leading man.
Not long after the ink dried, Butler was very much lost into the night, leaving South Florida as July 6 turned to July 7, cataloging on Instagram time in The Netherlands, Belgium, France, Germany, England, Italy, Senegal and Brazil, from Brussels to Bordeaux, Venice to Rio, Manchester to Dakar.
But also travels that never left him far from the ongoing indoctrination into Heat culture. Since signing, there has been facetime with Nick Arison and Erik Spoelstra, as well as regular and ongoing conversation with Pat Riley.
Butler’s goal, after such a life-altering agreement, was to fall off the grid; the Heat’s goal, after such a financial outlay, was regular reminders of culture almost as cult.
Butler was back in South Florida this past week, taking care of all the necessities with more than a month before the start of training camp.
Still ample time to bond.
Still enough time to fulfill the celebrated Heat conditioning test.
Still sufficient time to reload that Instagram with South Florida settings.
Because even though change has come … change also is coming.
Already, Butler’s former Chicago Bulls running partner, the very player who helped lure him to South Florida, has moved on, with Dwyane Wade these days casting himself as much of a lifeline to the NBA’s next wave as a Miami mentor.
And while Udonis Haslem is back for a 17th season at 601 Biscayne, he, too, recognized that change that is coming.
“Another guy,” Haslem said upon re-signing, “who can drive these guys, but not just off the court or in practice like I do. Somebody that actually drives these guys in the game, push these guys, play at an intense level in the game and do some of the things I try to do from the bench. But it’s always different when you have a guy in the game that’s driving guys like that.”
That’s what will make these intervening weeks, before the start of camp, so intriguing.
Even with Haslem a franchise face, it is Butler’s that needs to be seen, come to be viewed as a leadership bridge, a contrast to the player traded from the Bulls, seemingly miserable in Minnesota, and then merely passing through Philadelphia.
In many ways, with no disrespect to Haslem, Butler needs to become The Captain.
The past two seasons, Haslem has shared that role with Goran Dragic and James Johnson, part of a gambit by Spoelstra to get Dragic to be more vocal, and part of an attempt by Spoelstra to rein in Johnson’s infectious enthusiasm.
But Dragic is on an expiring contract.
Johnson is nearing the end of a potentially tradeable one.
And Haslem is more likely to have his jersey hanging from the rafters than from his locker a year from now.
In many ways — including a tangible, boots-on-the-ground way — only now has Butler arrived.
What must follow, even before the start of camp, are moments of impact.
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