Before Wednesday’s game in Cleveland, Basketball Insiders caught up with Miami HEAT rookie center Bam Adebayo to discuss a number of topics.
Basketball Insiders: It’s halfway through your rookie season. Has it been what you’ve expected?
Adebayo: Yeah. Ups and downs. A lot of emotions. Just learning from the best, basically.
BI: You’ve taken on all kinds of challenges this year for a 20-year-old. How would evaluate how you’ve taken them head on and how your season’s gone so far?
Adebayo: I’m a competitor, so utmost respect to anybody I go against, but I just try to go out there and lay it on the line for my teammates.
BI: Where do you see your biggest impact on the floor for this team?
Adebayo: Pretty much energy. Out there making plays, flyin’ dunks, easy post-up catches and jump hooks, 15-footers and just being a smart player in all.
BI: You were just over there working on some ball-handling drills. Anything significant behind that?
Adebayo: Just keepin’ the handle tight. You never know what position you’ll be in, in the game where you gotta seize that moment.
BI: Is it just about you bringing the ball up and doing some different things?
Adebayo: Sometimes, but also just keepin’ your handle locked, handle tight unless you wanna rip through on somebody or performing handoffs and you don’t want the ball bobblin’ everywhere.
BI: You’ve been alongside Kelly Olynyk lately and you two have seen a fair share of success together. What do you like about playing with him?
Adebayo: He spreads the floor. He’s a smart player, high IQ and knows how to play on both ends. He picks his right spots.
BI: You’ve been on the floor with Hassan Whiteside. You’ve also backed him up. Do you like the four or five better?
Adebayo: Doesn’t really matter. You know I’m just happy to be on the court, honestly. It’s some rookies that don’t even get the chance to be on the court. I’m just happy to be out here doing what I’m supposed to do, trying to develop myself and help this team win.
BI: With the HEAT, this club gets better with every game on defense. What is it that makes it so tough on the opposition to break it?
Adebayo: Man, we just play hard-nosed basketball. There’s no tricks or schemes to it. We just go out there and lay it on the line, talk to each other and just try to get stops.
BI: You say you’re learning from the best. Who’s been in your ear giving you pointers?
Adebayo: It’d have to be 17 [Juwan Howard]. On the court, it’d have to be with UD [Udonis Haslem] and Wayne [Ellington], JJ [James Johnson]. Just learning from them, they got five years plus and Coach 17 got 19 years in this thing, so just learning from the best. You can’t ask for too much (else).
BI: What have they been trying to tell you? Is it preparation? On floor advice?
Adebayo: The whole nine yards. Off the court, how to carry yourself, be professional. On the court, being in the right spot, learning the little details, tricks. Other than that, they like my energy, they like my effort and I’m just gonna keep goin’ with that.
BI: You’ve mentioned Howard the most. What has he been teaching you?
Adebayo: Like I said before, Coach 17, he tries to put me in the best position for me to be successful, so I can’t ask to be blessed about it (more). We got a great teacher on our staff. He’s an unbelievable person.
BI: Summer League went extremely well for you. Did that help your transition?
Adebayo: Yeah. I’d have to say it got me familiar with all the coaches and stuff and 17 like, late, late in the summer league. Other than that, I got to know CQ [assistant coach Chris Quinn], BG [director of rehabilitation Brandon Gilliam], our whole staff, training staff. In summer league it helps you with on the court and off the court stuff.
BI: Just out of curiosity, why do you call Howard, “Coach 17?”
Adebayo: He tells us this story when he got here it was 17 years in. So everybody was like, ‘Dang. Seventeen years. That’s a lot of years.’ So they started calling him 17 and he actually finished with 19 years, but 17 just stuck with him so we call him Coach 17 now.
BI: You’ve got the size. You’ve got the finishing ability. Defense. Blocks. What’s the next step in your eyes?
Adebayo: Shoot, I don’t know. The sky’s the limit though. You know, I just try to make my impact. Sky’s the limit. I’m just trying to do the best I can to expand my game as much as possible.
BI: There are a lot of big men in this league that are stretching the floor and out on the perimeter. Is that something you’d like to add to your game throughout your career?
Adebayo: I got the 15-footer. Just stretching out to the three, that builds confidence. Just having a coach like that to believe in me to make shots and stretch out to that point, I’ll get to that point, just something I’m working on. But we in the mid-season winning, so I’m just gonna worry about my team right now.
BI: Do you keep in contact with the ‘Cats at all? Speaking with De’Aaron Fox earlier this year, he said you guys have a group chat going.
Adebayo: Man, that’s a brotherhood. Nobody can go between that. When every one of us is playin’ in each other’s city, we’ll go see the other one, or vice-versa, and go out to dinner. You know, we love seeing each other man ‘cause in Kentucky, we’d seen each other every day. Now that we in the NBA, I get to see Fox like what, twice a year? I get to see Malik [Monk] what, four times? Man, you just gotta cherish those moments while you wit ‘em ‘cause you never know what could happen.
BI: So if you guys are that close-knit, it’s safe to assume that relationship with John Calipari is still there too, right?
Adebayo: Yeah. We love goin’ back. I know we always go back during the summer, so it’s good to see Coach Cal. He always texts when we do good. He puts it out there. We love him ‘cause he was a big part of our life.
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