Genetics only part of the reason why Heat rookie Bam Adebayo can guard smaller, quicker players

Heat center Bam Adebayo defendes Los Angeles Clippers guard C.J. Williams. (AP Photo/Joe Skipper)

MIAMI – Guarding players in the post with comparable size, strength and speed is one thing. But when a 6-foot-10 center is able to step out to the perimeter and hold his own against superstars like Stephen Curry, LeBron James and Paul George. … that’s impressive.

And that’s what we’ve seen from Heat rookie Bam Adebayo, who explains how he learned to stick with smaller, quicker players.

“Genetics? I guess that’s how you can put it,” Adebayo said today before delving deeper into the question.

“Our AAU team when I was younger was packed with a lot of guards. … We had a whole bunch of guys that grew up to be big-name point guards (including Dallas rookie Dennis Smith Jr.). Guarding that every day in practice as a 12-, 13-, 14-year old you develop habits.”

Heat coach Erik Spoelstra was more complimentary. Spoelstra said one reason the Heat took Adebayo with the 14th overall pick was because of his defensive versatility and willingness to be coached.

“That’s one of the things we really like about him was his competitive disposition,” Spoelstra said after the Heat’s shootaround in preparation for tonight’s game against the Magic. “The fact that he really takes pride defensively. And for a young player that’s unique. But he did a lot of those things last year at Kentucky, guarding (point guards) through (centers), switching, showing his speed and quickness laterally.

“And then you add to that the fact he is open to coaching, he is hungry to learn and get better and that’s what you’re seeing. He’s a much different player now on both ends of the court that he was six weeks ago.”

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