MIAMI — Bam Adebayo has spent most of the season on the Heat’s bench.
Entering Wednesday’s game against the Celtics, the 20-year-old rookie has played in 10 of Miami’s first 16 games. He’s averaging 12.3 minutes of playing time in those 10 appearances.
But Adebayo is making the most of his rookie season behind the scenes.
“I give Bam a lot of credit,” nine-year veteran Wayne Ellington said in advance of Wednesday’s game against Boston. “As a young guy, it’s rare you see someone as professional and as hard working and who understands it as much as him. I don’t know if that’s the culture that just wears off on him immediately or those are habits that he already had coming in.”
Adebayo, who was selected with the 14th overall pick in this year’s draft, is averaging 3.5 points and 3.6 rebounds in his limited time on the court this season. With Hassan Whiteside, Kelly Olynyk and James Johnson ahead of him on the Heat’s frontcourt depth chart, Adebayo’s minutes usually come because of foul trouble, injury or a need for energy off the bench.
Although there was some discussion entering the season that Adebayo could play as a power forward, 100 percent of his minutes have come at center this season, according to Basketball Reference. That makes it even tougher for the Kentucky product to see game action because Whiteside and Olynyk get all of their minutes at that position, too.
“Just always staying positive,” Adebayo said about his approach toward limited playing time. “Giving to my teammates even though they don’t need me right now, just feeding positive energy into them is the best thing I can do.”
And Adebayo doesn’t have to play in a game to learn from his teammates. A lot of those lessons are taught behind the scenes.
“Just learning from the vets and just seeing what they go through having back-to-back games and how they handle that.” Adebayo said. “It’s wearing on their body, but it shows how they take care of their body. You got to be like a sponge. You got to soak in all the information you can.”
Before the start of the season, coach Erik Spoelstra mentioned sending Adebayo to the G League as a possibility if he wasn’t getting enough playing time as part of the NBA roster. But injuries to Rodney McGruder and Okaro White, and the fact that center AJ Hammons is playing on Miami’s developmental team in Sioux Falls while counting toward the Heat’s 15-man roster has created a need for Adebayo.
“He hasn’t been caught up in any kind of dilemma or impatience,” Spoelstra said Wednesday of Adebayo. “Now he wants to get out there and he’s a Type A wired personality where he’s extremely competitive, but he’s been focused on just getting better and spending a lot of time with [assistant coach Juwan Howard]. He’s been diligent and consistent with his film study, his player development and it’s prepared him when he’s gotten that opportunity. And he gets it. He understands that whole process.”
Those traits have impressed Adebayo’s teammates.
“Whenever Spo calls his name, he’s ready to go out there and help the team win,” Ellington said. “It’s tough to do, especially as a young player. He gets it, man. Him coming in here, he’s always the first person here. I’ve come in early and he’s already here whether in the locker room or on the court. That’s something you look for as a veteran guy and you see all those types of things in him. He’s going to be a big problem in this league for years to come.”