The Miami Heat had an intrasquad scrimmage Saturday morning at FAU, but for all intent and purposes Friday was the final day of training camp for Coach Erik Spoelstra’s squad, which opens the preseason Sunday at AmericanAirlines Arena against the Atlanta Hawks.
Friday also turned out to be the best day of camp for rookie first-round pick Bam Adebayo.
“Today was his best day by far,” Spoelstra said. “He stayed with it. The team that he was on finally was able to get a gutsy win today. He had a pure heart, pure mind and was competitive but playing under control — controlling what he could control and ended up with a win. He did it in a lot of different ways. It wasn’t just about his stats. He was really inspiring the rest of the guys on that team.”
Adebayo, 20, has been drawing rave reviews all summer from both the Heat brass and his teammates. It’s continued through the first week of camp for the 6-10, 255-pound big man, who said he has spent as much time at power forward as he has at center.
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“There’s a lot of information to soak in,” the former University of Kentucky star said Friday. “[From] learning the plays in summer league to learning the actual plays in training camp, I’m just developing my role on this team.”
That role remains undefined at the moment and may not become clearer until the Heat begin the regular season on the road at Orlando on Oct. 18.
With Willie Reed gone, Spoelstra has minutes to dole out at backup center behind Hassan Whiteside. Most of those will likely go to Kelly Olynyk, who signed a four-year, $50 million deal this summer. But the way Spoelstra employs a positionless approach there’s a good chance Adebayo and Olynyk will also both see time at power forward behind James Johnson.
“He’s picking up things quickly,” Spoelstra said. “And you can tell that he’s registering on things. He’s been very committed, pre-practice, post-practice, getting with coaches. And he’s also keeping the main thing the main thing. What makes Bam interesting is his competitiveness, that spirit, his athleticism, making his presence felt. Sometimes those things can become dulled by thinking too much. That hasn’t been the case.”
Spoelstra said he likes the fact Adebayo has accepted and embraced a role like he did in his one season at UK.
“That’s pro preparation in my mind,” Spoelstra said. “Everybody comes in as a blue-chip player and they just want to have 40 touches a game and score 30 points a game like in high school, and then be one-and-done and on to the league. Very few have the emotional maturity to accept a role on a great team and to have an incredible impact, even when he has a skill set to give me. So, yeah, we’re encouraged by all of that. He’s going to improve over the years with us because of that work ethic, commitment. But his willingness to take on a role I think separates him from a lot of young players in the league, because he’s going to have to be a role player.”
On the court, Adebayo’s teammates say he’s shown he can do a lot more than he did in college.
“He can step out, has a consistent jumper,” James Johnson said of Adebayo, whose knock in college was that he wasn’t a consistent outside shooter. “He’s definitely proven to me [he can shoot]. He keeps on working on that and getting more consistent, the sky is the limit for that kid.”
Heat captain Udonis Haslem worked out with Adebayo a handful of times this summer and is blown away by his atleticism. He said Adebayo is also humble, hungry and willing to listen and learn.
“That’s all we need from him right now — everything else will take care of itself,” Haslem said. “He’s definitely physically capable of competing with grown men in this league. The mental part is just something you can’t really fast track for a guy at 19 coming out of college. It’s just going to be a process. He’s got to understand that. He’s not going to get any calls. It’s just going to be a process for him.”
Adebayo said all of the veterans on the team have taken him under their wing. It hasn’t just been one guy.
“I talk to Wayne. I talk to Josh. I talk to Tyler. I talk to Justise,” he said. “They’re all giving me different feedback.”
James Johnson, who compares the rookie to eight-time All-Star Dwight Howard “with better footwork,” calls Adebayo by his jersey number “13.” Adebayo likes it.
He also likes the fact his teammates have been easy on him when it comes to rookie hazing. He said all he’s had to do thus far is hand out towels and sing Happy Birthday — along with the Heat’s other rookies — to assistant Chris Quinn.
“It’s better than cleaning weights or something crazy,” Adebayo said.
Adebayo said he feels like he fits right into the Heat’s competitive culture. His favorite part of training camp thus far has been “The Hunger Games.”
“When we go Hunger Games it’s everybody against everybody,” Adebayo said. “There’s no friends between the lines. Just having that every day drives you to want to get better, want to make plays, want to make your team better so you can win hunger games.”
After Saturday’s scrimmage, the games against other NBA teams begin. Adebayo can’t wait.