Just days before the start of the season, Pat Riley addressed the Jimmy Butler trade rumors with Heat players in a team meeting.
According to a team spokesman, Riley acknowledged the trade discussions and apologized for players’ names surfacing in rumors. The message was, “I’m pulling the plug,” after talks continued for too long, but there was no guarantee that a trade will not happen down the road.
Shams Charania from The Athletic reported that “Pat Riley informed his locker room that the team would stick with the current roster to start the season in a show of loyalty the organization has for their current players.”
Riley addressed players Sunday before most of the team attended the Dolphins’ overtime victory over the Bears.
“It calms you down, for sure, a little bit,” point guard Goran Dragic said of the meeting. “Of course, everybody is talking, including me. I just want to focus on my job. But deep down, it affects you a little bit. I want to stay here. I like it, really. So when Pat came after practice and sat us down and we had a small meeting, he told us that and you can feel a little bit of relief. But that doesn’t mean, in the near future it can’t happen. So we still need to do our job. We still need to be professionals.”
ESPN reported earlier this month that a deal between the teams was close but fell apart when Minnesota asked for more from Miami. The New York Times reported Minnesota rejected a Heat offer for Butler that was headlined by Josh Richardson and a No. 1 draft pick, along with another player.
A Heat source said last week that Miami would not go back to Minnesota to re-start talks, but would not rule out a trade if Minnesota reaches out to them.
Butler’s request to be traded from the Timberwolves was made public four weeks ago.
Butler is set to earn $20.4 million this season and has a player option worth $19.8 million in 2019-20. He’s expected to decline the option and become a free agent, giving him the leverage to demand a trade to a team he would re-sign with next summer.
In free agency next offseason, Butler could be eligible to sign a five-year, $190 million contract extension with the Timberwolves or any team he’s traded to. He can sign a four-year, $141 million deal with a new team in free agency.
Although the Heat isn’t projected to have cap space until the 2020 offseason, any team that trades for Butler will also acquire his Bird rights. Bird rights allow for a team to exceed the salary cap to re-sign a player.
“Even Pat said it, it is business. It’s part of the business,” Dragic said. “But it was really a lot of noise, especially all the media on Twitter and on Instagram. But at the end of the day, you’re the player that you can have control over. Don’t read the articles and try to pay attention on your game, try to develop your game. Basically, you can’t control it. That’s how I view it and that’s how I approach it. I’ve been in trade talks many, many times, so it is what it is.”