Jimmy Butler loves country music. He also enjoys leaning on its twangy tropes. The outlaw, the cowboy, the sheriff who is here to crack down on the younger townspeople squandering all their talent on video games, Butler has pulled each one of these personas on like a pair of worn-in cowboy boots, of which he has many beautiful pairs.
In a recent in-Bubble interview with ESPN’s Rachel Nichols, Butler was asked about some of his more notable moments in Orlando thus far and how he’s been spending his time. It turns out that Butler has “barely” left his room (he’s been toiling over his retirement plan and making coffee — Butler came equipped with a French press and other equipment and is willing to part with his cups of liquid gold for $20 each) and doesn’t seem to mind the isolation.
Sat down with @JimmyButler, who says the Heat can win the title *this* year, "and I don't give a damn what anybody says about that." We also talked about his recent dust-ups with TJ Warren and Chris Paul…Jimmy: "I don't need friends here in the bubble." pic.twitter.com/tCgTFap0iq
— Rachel Nichols (@Rachel__Nichols) August 14, 2020
“I don’t care,” Butler tells Nichols, “I don’t need friends here in the Bubble.”
The desperado-sounding answer came after Nichols had asked whether Butler had seen Chris Paul since wailing into him on court in the Heat’s close loss to OKC earlier this week, and whether there were any hard feelings.
But the biggest anticipated dust-up, the high noon of meetings, came when the Pacers played the Heat for the first time. Back in January, Butler and T.J. Warren got into a back and forth on court that ended with Butler blowing kisses to Warren’s back as he got ejected.
“I don’t know, I guess there’s some history between Miami and the Pacers,” Butler mused when Nichols asked him why the two teams have been so chippy, “and you inherit that the second that you put on a Miami jersey.”
On Warren specifically, Butler is coy. He gives a wry smile when asked what people can expect between him and Warren on court, assuring only “a high level of competition.”
The bravado carries through to the conclusion of the short sit-down. Butler is adamant on the Heat’s chances of making it to the Finals, on taking the title.
“We can win this,” Butler grins.
“You know you’re not favored to,” Nichols says.
“I don’t care, I don’t care,” Butler smirks, “The thing about myself, I don’t give a damn what anybody says, and I think I can speak for my teammates when I say they don’t give a damn either.”
Maybe it’s because classic western gunslingers live by a certain moral code, akin to the highly regimented way Butler structures his work and the Heat system that Butler has so evidently thrived in this season, but where he shows the most restraint is when outlining the problems the Bubble’s proximity present to his own competitive mentality and drifter’s persona. Butler admits it’s tough to play somebody you know you’re going to have to walk by on the way to frequent COVID-19 testing, or to practice. That there may be a “mean mug here or there”, but no punches thrown.
And still, when the conversation comes around to free agency and whether or not Butler expects players to be drawn to Miami given what he and his young team have established this season, he’s sure. With vets, youth and shooters, the team really is looking rounded out and ready to compete well into this postseason and grow into the next. And, Butler adds with a smile, “Miami sunshine never hurt anybody.”
It sounds lonely, the world Butler is living in in Orlando, and every cowboy can use a sidekick. Somebody to look out for you, to get along the little doggies with. For Butler it feels like he’s found a degree of this in his teammates, but it wouldn’t be so bad if he got a quick swim in here or there, would it? You can wear your boots to the pool, Jimmy, even cowboys get to schmooze.