MIAMI -- For months, going back to when he signed with the Miami Heat in July, the question about Jimmy Butler was what would happen when it started going south, when the losses mounted, when the outlook wasn't as auspicious.
You know, as in now, as in the first losing streak of the season and losses in four of the last seven.
"We should be winning these games," he said in a measured, stoic tone in the wake of the weekend road losses to the Brooklyn Nets and New York Knicks. "So leadership or not, I've got to figure out a way to help us win."
It was a three-game road trip that began with Butler mocking the attempts by the Indiana Pacers' T.J. Warren to defend him in the Heat's blowout victory and ended with the Heat's defense proving laughable, even as Butler continued to score.
That left Butler, even with his team at 27-12, short on patience, such as when it was mentioned that center Meyers Leonard cited communication issues as a possible reason for the Heat's reeling resistance.
"It's all about effort, man," Butler said, with the Heat now off until Wednesday's game against the San Antonio Spurs at AmericanAirlines Arena. "You can yell and talk all you want; communicating is not going to make you guard anybody. You've got to want to do it. You've got to play harder.
"When the ball is in the air or on the floor, we've got to be the ones to get it. That's who we are. Communication? Maybe it could be a little bit better, but we've got to man up and guard."
This is a different approach from a Heat leading man.
The Dwyane Wade slant was to warn against overreaction, that it is a long season, a grind.
Butler's tone was more in line with how Pat Riley, during his coaching days, would draw a line at such failure, no matter the juncture of the season.
"I'm gonna figure this out," Butler said.
Starting with a demand for accountability.
"If somebody is beat -- it does happen, this is the best league in the world -- you got to be there," he said of the Heat's defensive tenets. "But a lot of the times, you've just got to man up and then you just got to stay in front of the ball. But it's a little bit of both.
"A lot more effort has to go into it. A lot more want-to -- you've got to take it personal when somebody scores on you."
On the opposite side of the locker room, veteran forward James Johnson had attempted to put the situation into perspective.
"It's good," he said, "it's good for us to finally see the things that are catching up to us."
Butler wouldn't hear of it, the notion that such losses in January could prepare the Heat come the significant games of March, April and then the playoffs.
"Nope," he said. "I don't like to lose. We don't like to lose. This doesn't benefit us."
Center Bam Adebayo clearly is in agreement about the urgency aspect with the team's defense.
"That ain't no scheme; you've got to make multiple efforts," Adebayo said. "It's not Xs and Os. It's staying in front of your man. And we've been lacking in that department."
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