Now that Jimmy Butler and the Miami Heat are set to face the Los Angeles Lakers in the NBA Finals, it may be tough to remember a world where rampant free agency rumors connected the superstar wing and legendary coffee vendor to the purple and gold.
But that’s exactly what happened last summer all throughout the lead-up to free agency. On June 3, Butler fueled speculation by showing off a pair of purple and gold shoes on Instagram. On June 14, there was a report from Chris Haynes of Yahoo Sports the Lakers had “genuine interest” in signing Butler. Two days later, Haynes reported that Butler was a “top priority” for L.A. The day free agency began, Marc Stein of the New York Times added that the Lakers were “pushing” to get a meeting with Butler.
After one of the Lakers’ final practices before the Finals, head coach Frank Vogel was asked about Butler, but said he didn’t want to comment on how close things got between the two sides.
“His fit with (the Heat’s) culture is perfect because he’s about toughness and he’s about winning,” Vogel said. “That’s what the Miami Heat are about. I’d prefer not to get into how deep the conversations went with all the free agents that we explored last year, but I can tell you I’ve got great respect for Jimmy and what he brings to the table.”
And however many conversations there were, they couldn’t have gone that deep, because Butler agreed to a sign-and-trade deal that would send him to the Miami Heat the day free agency opened, taking him out of the picture for the Lakers (who were still waiting on Kawhi Leonard).
But even if the Lakers hadn’t been chasing Leonard, it’s clear that Butler really wanted to be in Miami, something he confirmed when asked if he’d considered the Lakers last summer at NBA Finals media day on Tuesday.
“No, I knew the type of structure that I wanted and needed, and it was here. Heard about it, obviously, when I was meeting with Coach Spo, Coach Pat. It just felt right in every aspect of it,” Butler said. “We’ve got a bunch of good people here. Not to saying that the Lakers don’t got a great bunch of good people. But everything we’re about, just me working, we’ve got a group of guys that do that, as well as saying it like it is, holding everybody accountable and moving on from it. They said that that’s how we do that. You get to come here and you get to be you, so I’m in.”
Given that both sides are now in the NBA Finals, it’s hard to argue with how things turned out. Still, even if both teams are happy with how things are, that doesn’t mean there won’t be bad blood between them. And no, I’m not talking about LeBron James’ personal revenge campaign against the Heat, or Pat Riley wanting to beat his old team and former star.
No, I’m talking about coffee. Remember in the lede, when I mentioned Butler as a coffee vendor? Well, in case you missed it, he’s been selling $20 cups of coffee through his Bubble Business, “Big Face Coffee” in Disney World:
So apparently Jimmy Butler wasn't kidding about the up-charge for the use of his French Press at Disney. (From Meyers Leonard's Twitter): pic.twitter.com/1s1em6flRG— Ira Winderman (@IraHeatBeat) August 15, 2020
Why would this lead to bad blood between him and the Lakers? Well, because it turns out Vogel may have stiffed Butler or actually buying a cup. Before Game 1 against the Houston Rockets in the second round, Vogel was asked about unique encounters he’d had with other NBA figures in the bubble.
“Running into other people?” Vogel asked, pondering the question before remembering something good. “This is kind of unique: Jimmy Butler asked me if I wanted to buy a cup of coffee from him the other day. I told him I would, but I haven’t followed through yet.”
Now, most of us here are still picking the Lakers. But if the Heat win, and Butler spends his postgame podium appearance yelling “YOU SHOULD HAVE BOUGHT THE COFFEE, FRANK,” we’ll know where this attempted title run ultimately went off the rails.