CORAL GABLES, Fla. - Heat President Pat Riley spoke pointedly Monday about moving past James Johnson's conditioning suspension and moving forward behind the inspiring leadership of prime offseason acquisition Jimmy Butler.
Johnson, who has been away from the team since the Sept. 30 eve of training camp for failing to meet his team-mandated conditioning standards, will soon be back with the team and with coach Erik Spoelstra, Riley said.
"He's already almost there again," Riley said. "So I think in very short notice I'm going to turn this over to Erik. And it's between Erik and him now."
Riley offered his comments at the formal opening of the Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute at Doctors Hospital, joined at the event by Heat team physician Harlan Selesnick.
Prior to Johnson being asked to leave in advance of training camp, Riley had spoken fondly of Johnson's efforts to return to pre-injury form, having battled back from May 2018 surgery for a sports hernia. Riley said that fondness endures.
"I've always had that feeling about players, even the ones that may fall short of certain goals and things of that nature," he said. "It's just something that had to be done. Now, he realizes it, and I realize it.
"It's not going to take away from the team and it's not going to take away from him once he reaches those conditioning requirements."
Riley, who established the team's demanding conditioning standards over the past two-plus decades, said he did not feel personally let down by the 32-year-old forward.
"No. I've been through too many in 52 years," he said of his time as NBA player, broadcaster, coach and executive. "And it's just part of it. It's a very, very difficult ask. For some young players it's very easy, because of their constitution and they won't have to feel this until they're 30. And there's a point of diminishing returns.
"When he comes back it's all behind us and we just move forward."
As for the arrival of Butler, Riley said it has been as advertised - perhaps even more so - with Butler, 30, waking at 3 a.m. last week for camp workouts with teammates.
"That's his deal," Riley said of the swingman added in July on a four-year, $141 million free-agent contract. "That's what he's done on his own. It isn't anything new for him. It was new for our guys and some of our guys challenged him and said, 'Well, I can be there too,' which is great.
"But I think when you get into the regular season and you have a normal schedule, you don't get home by midnight and your schedule changes. So I'm sure he'll adapt to that."
Riley said what has stood out most is Butler's drive.
"I think the one thing that he has brought, he has really brought an awareness to another level of what he has to do," Riley said. "Not just coming into another normal camp with his team. This is a new team, new situation.
"I thought he has had a perfect week. Actually went to a point where he was so hyper to a point where he became sort of exhausted by the end of the week by trying to make everything right. I love it. I think he's going to be great for us. I just do."
As for Butler's sour moments elsewhere, Riley said that element is history.
"The history that he might have had in the past, based on how I have witnessed what he has done, had to be bogus," he said. "But it had to be real, too. Or maybe he was just challenging people."
Riley then moved on to address the opening of the facility he was there to christen, the Miami Orthopedics & Sports Medicine Institute, which houses orthopedic specialties, including an ambulatory surgery center on the top floor.
But before those formalities, he spoke of optimism in screws being tightened back closer to the Heat's culture.
"It's across the board, the whole organization, basketball operations and everything," he said, with the Heat opening their preseason Tuesday at 7:30 p.m. against the San Antonio Spurs at AmericanAirlines Arena. "It's just taking things for granted, letting things slide, being a little bit late, not being on time. I told you what I hated, I hate complaining, gossiping and guys that don't work hard. I have a hard time with players that don't tuck their shirts in. It's very unprofessional. It's all of these things. Maybe I'm a little bit too picky. But I just believe in uber-professionalism. That's all."
Visit the Sun Sentinel (Fort Lauderdale, Fla.) at www.sun-sentinel.com