ORLANDO — All of the buzz surrounding the Heat was located in Miami on Saturday. But a few hundred miles north of South Florida, the Heat’s first-round pick made his summer league debut.
As the Heat met with coveted free agent Gordon Hayward in Miami, Bam Adebayo was in action in Orlando. There were some impressive moments and there were some teachable moments for Adebayo as Miami opened the Orlando Summer League with a 74-67 loss to Charlotte at the Amway Center on the Magic’s practice court.
“It was my first pro game,” Adebayo said. “It’s fun. We competed. I like the physicality. We played hard. We just came up short.”
There were some nerves to start the game, but the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft managed to finish his summer league debut with 14 points on 6-of-14 shooting to go with 10 rebounds (six offensive rebounds) and three blocks. His best spurt came in the third quarter when he scored seven points in the period.
Adebayo’s first action on the NBA level was just part of his memorable day. The Heat also announced Saturday they officially signed the 19-year-old to his rookie-scale contract that starts at $2.5 million for next season.
“It’s a relief,” Adebayo said of signing his contract with the Heat. “But it’s back to work. My mom is getting taken care of now. But that doesn’t stop. I can’t just stop now. So I’ve just got to keep pushing, keep working hard.”
Adebayo got a chance Saturday to show off his outside shot that caught some NBA teams by surprise during the draft evaluation process. There were some positive signs with Adebayo showing good form to make a face-up post jumper, a baseline fadeaway jumper and an elbow jumper, but then there were also three airballs that indicated he still has work to do to become a consistent shooter.
But just making some outside shots was a positive sign for Adebayo’s potential. He wasn’t known for his shooting stroke in college and made just 65.3 percent of his free throws as a freshman at Kentucky last season.
Although Adebayo is listed as a forward/center, the majority of his minutes Saturday came at center. This isn’t a surprise considering the Heat are looking for Hassan Whiteside’s backup.
Willie Reed, who was Miami’s reserve center last season, opted out of his $1.6 million player option with the Heat to become a free agent this summer and he’s expected to get more than double that amount in free agency this summer. Miami could use its “room” mid-level exception worth $4.3 million to retain Reed, but even that may not be enough.
Free agency is not the Heat’s focus in Orlando, though. Making sure Adebayo continues to improve and grow is the priority.
“Bam, he’s a beast,” said Heat forward Okaro White, who finished with a team-high 20 points in Saturday’s loss to the Hornets. “Like I said myself and some of the other guys, he’s a part of the Heat culture. Him getting out there and being able to get out there and run and do what he does, I’m sure he’s having fun. I’m sure he’ll say too he felt like he didn’t play the best that he could. We’re looking forward to tomorrow.”
The Heat’s summer league team moves on to face the Magic on Sunday at 3 p.m. in Orlando.