MIAMI – This time, Heat rookie Bam Adebayo was prepared.
It may have not looked it, not with Spurs forward LaMarcus Aldridge finally resembling the $84 million man San Antonio thought it was getting two years ago. But the 20-year-old was not alone in his struggles Wednesday against the five-time All-Star.
Nobody on the Heat could stop Aldridge Wednesday.
Otherwise, Adebayo’s starting debut was a good first step. He had two field goals, both dunks on lob passes, and contributed eight rebounds, one shy of a team high, and a block in 19: 35. One might look at the Heat being outscored by 12 points while he was on the court, but in a 117-100 loss, nobody was taking home this box score for keepsake.
“I thought his minutes were solid,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “That’s a big ask to throw him in there against a multi-year All-Star, a guy that has been playing extremely well this year and has a lot of elements to his game that keep you honest.
“I though Bam gave us some energy, some athleticism.”
Much more so than his first preseason game in which he played six minutes and missed 7-of-8 free throws, or when Spoelstra purposely summoned Adebayo in the second quarter (after he had entered in the fourth quarter in three straight games) to face Charlotte’s Dwight Howard during the preseason. Adebayo committed three quick fouls and the Heat were outscored by 10 points in his three minutes.
The lesson: Always be ready.
“It was more like I was prepared for this,” Adebayo said. “I feel like I played well. My teammates, we talk and I was just out there being myself, being active and trying to do everything I could for my team.
“I went out there, played hard, we came up short.
Adebayo was told at the Heat’s morning shootaround he would be starting alongside 6-foot-8 James Johnson down low. With center Hassan Whiteside missing his third game because of a bone bruise on his left knee, Adebayo’s 6-10, 255-pound frame was needed against the Spurs bigger front line of 6-11 Aldridge and 7-0 Pau Gasol.
Aldridge led the Spurs with 31 points and added seven rebounds. Gasol had 13 points and nine boards. They combined to shoot 17-of-28.
But Adebayo, taken with the 14th overall pick after one season at Kentucky, looked at this assignment as if he were facing Florida in March, or even Stephen F. Austin in November.
“It was like every other matchup. … I take it personal,” he said. “(Aldridge) was just making shots. He’s a great player, my hat’s off to him. He was executing, he was making shots.”
Adebayo clearly is a work in progress. He was drafted on the recommendation of Heat vice-president of player personnel, Chet Kammerer, because of his raw ability. His calling card, right now, is defense and rebounding. His offense will take much more time to develop.
Adebayo averaged 6.2 points on 38.7 percent shooting in six preseason games. He had not scored in his only regular season appearance, six minutes in the season opener at Orlando, but made 2-of-6 shots Wednesday and appears to be developing something with the guards, who were looking for him with the lob pass.
“We’re working on that,” Goran Dragic said. “Bam is great at rolling to the hoop and he has that ability to jump high and get those lobs. It’s hard against this kind of team because they’re really good defensively. They know what they’re doing.”
Adebayo’s start means little when it comes to Saturday’s game against Boston, not when the rookie went from sitting for two straight games to starting and Jordan Mickey went from starting two straight game to never leaving the bench Wednesday.
In fact, if Whiteside remains sidelined, Spoelstra has all kinds of options against a Celtics team that starts 6-10 Al Horford and 6-7 Jaylen Brown down low, neither being a huge post presence.
Adebayo was asked what he took away from the experience.
“It’s a building block. … for the whole team,” he said. “We just got to keep stepping in the right direction. It’s a minor setback but we’re going to get practicing and work on it.”