Bam Adebayo earning his keep with the Heat

Published 3:47 pm Monday, December 18, 2017

CHARLOTTE — Bam Adebayo has never let an opportunity slip by. He accomplished plenty in three years at Northside. He continued to make a name for himself as a senior at High Point Christian Academy.

Then Adebayo got a chance to play against some of the best NCAA competition as a Kentucky Wildcat. His hard work was lauded, and his dominance on the court resulted in him being picked 14th overall by the Miami Heat.

Now it’s helping him see significant playing time as a rookie. Yes, a knee injury suffered by fellow North Carolinian Hassan Whiteside freed up some minutes for Adebayo, but coach Erik Spoelstra contends that the increased action is a direct result of Adebayo’s effort.

“It’s not shocking me because he’s been very consistent with his work ethic and approach,” Spoelstra said. “He was prepared well coming into this league. He’s earned his opportunities. We talk about it all the time. You’re not guaranteed anything.

“Things always happen during a long season. Guys are in and out. You have to be ready for your opportunity. He was ready for it. He’s making the most of it. It’s good to see someone earn those minutes.”

Adebayo has played at least 18 minutes a game in the past 10 outings.

This past week or so has seen Adebayo and others seize opportunity after opportunity. The result? Miami has won four of its last five, dating back to a Dec. 9 victory at Brooklyn, and has pulled into ninth place in the Eastern Conference.

The Heat leveled their record with a win on Saturday. It was significant for other reasons, though, as the trip to Charlotte marked Adebayo’s first time playing in North Carolina as a professional.

The former Panther had a strong showing in front of some family and friends that made the journey to Charlotte. In doing so, he had to bounce back from early foul trouble.

“Just less aggression and more paying attention to detail,” Adebayo said of the adjustments he made. He was tasked with guarding the likes of Frank Kaminsky and Dwight Howard. “Being in the right spot. There’s nothing else to it. … Hands straight up and move your feet. The rest takes care of itself. We call it being a technician.”

Adebayo’s activity on defense, which has been regarded as one of his strengths, helped keep the Hornets at bay for stretches. It helped Miami lead by as much as 17 in the fourth quarter. While Charlotte, behind the sharpshooting Kemba Walker, whittled away at the Heat’s advantage, Adebayo and company hung on for a 104-98 win.

His offense came in spurts. He silenced the home crowd in the first half when he grabbed a lob from point guard Goran Dragic and slammed in the alley-oop. He finished the game with 11 points, five rebounds and an assist in 22 minutes.

“When it’s late in the fourth quarter, effort kicks in when fatigue starts to kick in,” he said. “Blood starts going below the brain. Just being ready for the moments, staying ready and staying focused.”

But Adebayo isn’t the only taking advantage of his chances. Jordan Mickey, a 23-year-old forward in his third season, excelled in only 15 minutes of action. He had eight points and seven rebounds.

“That’s every day. You can never let your spirit down because you never know when your number’s going to be called,” Adebayo said. “This organization is all about chances. Coaches notice you and let you play.

“My homie went out there and produced. That’s my homie because we were going through the same thing at one point in time. We sit there and evaluate each other. He’s getting his opportunity and I get my opportunity.”

Mickey kept it up Saturday when Miami returned home to host the Los Angeles Clippers for the second of two games in two days. Starting power forward James Johnson hurt his ankle in the first quarter. He didn’t return, and Mickey picked up the slack with a career-high nine points in 27 minutes. He also added four rebounds, three blocks, two steals and two assists.

Adebayo chipped in with seven points and five rebounds — four of which were on the offensive end — and three assists.