ASK IRA: Is there a compromise option for a Heat-Butler extension?

Q: Do you think the Heat will give Jimmy Butler an extension this summer or expect him to play out the final years of his existing contract and deal with it after the ’25-26 season? – Brian.

A: Getting inside of Pat Riley’s head would be a fool’s errand, especially at this moment, in the immediate wake of playoff disappointment. But I cannot see any benefit of an extension at the moment, amid so much uncertainty, be it with the time missed by Jimmy Butler or NBA front offices still adjusting to the new rules and apron limitations of the new collective-bargaining agreement. That said, Jimmy does hold a player option for 2025-26, so there is a degree of a time pinch. If forced into a corner, which Jimmy has adeptly done elsewhere, I do believe there is a workaround. If there is an extension, I would make it contingent on the number of games played and even how many rounds the Heat advance in the playoffs. In other words, if years are added, make them contingent, at least in terms or bonus and guarantee, say, on at least X-number or games and/or advancing to X-round of the playoffs. In other words, if Jimmy provides a payoff (both regular season and playoffs) in his mid-30s, then the Heat would be better positioned to make such a payoff, regardless of age.

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Q: Ira, as a fan, I know that it is difficult for a team to reach the Finals and win the championship. This year after seeing the makeup of our team, I had doubts about our team. As the year went on and I saw how we were throwing away games and not competing as hard as we could, I was pretty down on the team. I blame this on the leadership of the team – both coaches and players – especially Jimmy Butler. I didn’t see much improvement as the year went on. Even the players other than Nikola Jovic did not show much individual improvement. Jaime Jaquez Jr. started out strong but basically stayed at the same level or faded as the year went on. If the team competed hard, played together and showed improvement as the year went on, I would enjoy watching the games so much more. As you said in an article recently, if they blew up the team, they still might not make it out of the first round. I would take that if the players worked hard, treasured the games, and improved individually and as a team over what I saw this year. That would be a success to me. This year was a major failure. – Richard, Plantation.

A: First, in addition to what you mentioned about it being difficult to reach the Finals or win a championship, it also is not necessarily simple to finish 10 games above .500. So at least credit that there were 46 nights to feel good in addition to the 36 of not being so good. What I think has to change is the institutional arrogance of some sort of divine right to be in contention. While the Heat have minimized the notion of not competing in each and every game, greater participation and effort would go a long way toward winning back faith and trust. It can’t be “just wait until the playoffs” again. The some-of-the-time nature of the 2023-24 Heat is what ultimately has resonated.

Q: Perhaps the solution could be as simple as building around the Heat’s young core of Bam Adebayo, Tyler Herro, Nikola Jovic and Jaime Jaquez Jr. and not giving away first-round draft picks for someone as Terry Rozier. – Rodney.

A: Which I agree with, which is why there were questions here about the elements of the deal for Terry Rozier (but not the Kyle Lowry element). Considering the Heat could lose a pair of unprotected first-round picks in short order to the Thunder and Hornets, there is something to be said about restocking the supply. That, in turn, could leave the Heat as a more viable trade partner in the longer run. But it also could mean potential short-term pain.