Pat Riley says Jimmy Butler 'should keep your mouth shut' if Heat star is not playing

Miami Heat president Pat Riley discussed the future of the roster, Jimmy Butler and more during his annual end-of-season press conference with the media.
Miami Heat v New York Knicks - Game Two
Miami Heat v New York Knicks - Game Two / Elsa/GettyImages

Miami Heat president Pat Riley set off alarms when he responded to Jimmy Butler’s recent comments about the NBA playoffs by saying he “should keep your mouth shut.”

The comment sent shockwaves across social media and has left many questioning Butler’s future in Miami ahead of a pivotal offseason. It was made after Riley was asked about Butler’s comments over the weekend about the Boston Celtics being lucky he was sidelined with an MCL sprain for the first-round series in which the Heat lost in five games.

“If I was playing Boston would be at home, New York would be at home,” Butler said an interview while attending an event in Miami over the weekend.

When asked about those comments, Riley said he didn’t know if Butler was trolling or if he was serious, but added, "If you're not on the court playing against the Boston Celtics or on the court playing against the New York Knicks, you should keep your mouth shut."

Most of Riley’s 40-minute press conference focused on the availability of the Heat’s players this past season. The Heat had the fifth-most games missed to injury in the league and used 35 different starting lineups as they went 46-36 and slipped into the play-in tournament for the second straight year. The Heat were then eliminated by the Celtics in five games, losing four games by double-digits. Butler missed the Heat’s final play-in game and the entirety of the first round with a sprained MCL. 

However, during Riley’s press conference, he appeared to take issue with Butler’s limited availability. Butler, 34, was limited to just 60 games all season with various ailments and has yet to play more than 64 games in a season since joining the Heat in 2019. 

This was a topic of conversation between Riley, Butler and Butler’s agent Bernie Lee last summer. For the Heat to reach their goals of winning a championship, Riley said, the team needed more from Butler in the regular season so that they could avoid the tough road that includes the play-in tournament.

“That was discussed prior to last year,” Riley said. “We had a discussion with his agent about that. That was discussed thoroughly.”

Butler missed the third of ninth games of the regular season for “rest” and “personal reasons” and missed 11 games from December to January with a calf and foot injury. There were also games he missed late – against the 76ers with a foot injury and against the Warriors with a migrane – that could have helped the Heat avoid the play-in tournament.

“There was a grey area in the regular season,” Riley said when discussing appropriate reasons for missing games.

All of this puts the Heat’s relationship with Butler into question and further complicates upcoming negotiations over a potential contract extension. Butler is eligible this summer to sign a two-year, $113 million extension that would keep him under contract through his age-37 season. The Miami Herald reported last week that Butler is expected to ask for the full maximum extension.

However, Butler will be 35 going into next season, is showing signs of aging, and the front office is less-than-thrilled about their star player’s availability. 

When asked about extension talks with Butler, Riley said the Heat aren’t in a rush to engage in those negotiations since Butler will be extension eligible between this summer and the summer of 2025.

“We dont have to do that for a year,” Riley said. “We have not discussed that internally right now but we have to look at making that kind of commitment.

“If he requests [an extension], we can either accept or say we’re going to think about it,” Riley continued. “We have not made a decision on it. I think we make too much out of this. He still has two years left on it.”

While the Heat would prefer to wait until next season, Butler might not be as patient. Butler will turn 35 in September, coming off an MCL sprain, and might want to lock in his final big contract now before possibly showing more signs of decline next season.

If Riley’s press conference made anything clear, it’s that the organization wants more from Butler in the regular season in order to justify the commitment that comes with a maximum contract extension worth upwards of $58.6 million and would keep Butler in Miami through 2027.

“Who moves the needle the most on our team? It’s Jimmy. He’s an incredible player,” Riley said. “Until you change the way you go about doing the things that were necessary to win -- whatever they are -- those things you are doing to try to win if they aren't working, must change.

“He has to give it some thought for this to be what he wants it to be.”

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