While we amuse ourselves with Comrade Redford’s vow to eat an entire raw onion if the Sacramento Kings make the playoffs, there is a real pledge in play that tangentially involves the Kings. They played the Miami Heat Wednesday night, and the Heat still employ the chatty yet mostly benign Jimmy Butler, who recently laid out a not entirely binding pledge for all to hear. Sam Amick of The Athletic asked him after a loss this past Saturday about the fact that this Heat team is off to a slow start, when last year’s cheated the reaper and nearly made the NBA Finals. This was his response, in all its Butlerian glory:
“Man, I hate when people talk (about the past). Like, we’ve got a different team. Yeah, we’ve got the same players (as last season), but like, Max [Strus] don’t start, Tyler [Herro]’s starting. Tyler just got an extension, P.J. [Tucker]’s not here, Caleb [Martin] is starting. Like, everybody’s role is so vastly different—and it’s a good thing. It’s not bad. I’m not complaining. It is good.
“But yeah, on paper it looks like we have the same team. But we’ve gotta figure out a lot more things because things are different. As much as they are the same, they are different. And I’m telling you, it’s not bad because we’re going to figure it out. Two and five is not that bad. When you talk about all the practice that we’re going to get in, how we’re going to break down the film and talk about how ‘We need to be here (on the floor). We need to be in this spot.’ Like, sometimes we’ll be confused where everybody needs to be out on the floor, you know? And that’s OK. It’s growing pains. It’s not bad, and we’re gonna be just fine. … Y’all will look back at this, and be like, ‘Oh man, they started 2-5 and they ended the season fucking 77-5.’”
Not just any 77-5. Fucking 77-5.
Butler didn’t even play Wednesday night; he got load-managed for the second part of a back-to-back. But even without Butler, the Heat aren’t the Kings. That’s why the Kings failed to succeed as only they can, mere days after beating Miami in Sactown and prompting the most outlandish boast in NBA history. The Heat may have been slow to be roused, but spurred by Butler’s words resetting the bar from mediocre offense/bad defense to indomitable force, they have beaten the bifurcated Golden States and now the Kings, who couldn’t hold a seven-point lead with seven minutes to play. The 2016 Warriors would be shaking at the possibility that their record could stand a mere seven years if their next class didn’t already have plenty on their plates.
Still, 77 wins is its own reward, and if it means Comrade Redford is deprived of the honor of horsing down an onion, it’s a small price to pay. Butler can’t take any more days off if he wants to see it through; this came close to dying days after being blurted out. Even if the Heat fail as a team and organization and don’t pull off the 75-game winning streak Butler has laid out for them, it’s refreshing to hear an NBA player speak recklessly about his team’s chances, and not on a subject that has been covered exhaustively on The History Channel.