MIAMI (AP) — A late-arriving baby. A delayed Miami debut. A lot of lost sleep.
Jimmy Butler’s first official week with the Heat was one he won’t forget.
Getting the distinction of being the last Miami starter to be introduced — a role Dwyane Wade held for most of his Heat tenure, the honor that typically goes to the player deemed to be the face of the franchise — Butler has finally gotten onto the court with his new team.
The debut went well: He scored 21 points, making his first four shots, and the Heat defeated the Atlanta Hawks 112-97. And afterward, he was going home to his newborn daughter.
“All good things,” Butler said. “We won. Obviously, I’m a father. But I’m blessed beyond measure. I get to play basketball with some incredible guys, for an incredible organization. Life is good right now.”
The baby’s name is Rylee — pronounced the same way Heat President Pat Riley pronounces his last name. Mother and baby are both doing well, Butler said.
“I know I can handle it,” he said. “It’s fun. Hell, I get to be a dad and I get to hoop.”
Rylee, however, has no grasp yet on when the NBA season starts. She was due in mid-October. She didn’t arrive until Oct. 23 — which was opening night for the Heat, and that meant her dad had to wait a few days to get onto the floor.
As the days of waiting stretched on, Butler started to suspect Rylee would pick opening night for her debut.
“I just had a feeling that God was going to show me what’s truly important in life,” Butler said.
The Heat more than held it down without him: They were 2-1 in the three games Butler watched from home to open the season.
When they arrived for work Tuesday, Butler was beyond energetic.
“He was running around in shootaround like it was a playoff game,” coach Erik Spoelstra said.
Butler is going through all the new-dad issues: jagged sleep cycle, juggling training time with family time, fussing over the new mom and new baby — all while he was waiting to get his first season with the Heat underway.
He has no complaints.
“I started looking a life different a long time ago, but I definitely look at it way differently now,” Butler said. “I feel like every time I leave the house, every time I hop in the car, any time I do anything I’m like, ‘Yo, I’ve got to make it home.’ And I look forward to having that feeling for the rest of my life.”
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