Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo’s success during three NBA seasons is connected to a number of factors, with his intensity and work ethic first catching the Heat’s attention during a 2018 pre-draft workout.
ESPN’s Zach Lowe profiled Adebayo, who remains relatively unknown, even after being selected for Sunday night’s All-Star Game.
A look back at Adebayo’s workout before the 2018 draft shows that the Heat were able to get a glimpse of how well his personality would adapt to the team’s culture.
“The Heat tested Adebayo when they hosted him for a pre-draft workout,” Lowe wrote. “They put him through a ‘hands’ drill in which a half-dozen staffers circled Adebayo, and chucked basketballs at him in random patterns. He caught every one.
“One Heat official asked Adebayo what percentage of corner 3s he could hit in practice. Adebayo answered with bravado: 60%. Prove it, they said. Adebayo hit 31-of-50 — 62%.
“They ran Adebayo ragged: block-to-block sprints culminating in an attempt to reject a shot at the rim; lane agility tests; footwork drills. After an hour, with exhaustion setting in, Heat officials began the drill they were really there to see. They asked Adebayo to switch onto perimeter players, including Justin Jackson, another prospect in attendance, and stay in front of them.
“Adebayo turned to Heat brass, including [Pat] Riley and [Erik] Spoelstra, and shouted: ‘Oh, you got me f—ing confused! You got me f—ed up!’ Translation: Don’t you know who I am? As the stops — ‘kills’ in Heat parlance — piled up, the trash talk flowed. ‘Oh, it was explicit,’ Adebayo says. It was not friendly taunting. Adebayo was not smiling.
“We were like, ‘Is this guy kinda crazy?’ Spoelstra says.
“Juwan Howard, then a Miami assistant, locked eyes with Dan Craig, the coach running the drill. ‘Our eyes got wide,’ Howard says. ‘We said, ‘This is a Heat guy.’ To have the balls to say that in front of Pat Riley — to say, ‘You’re not going to pick on me!’ — that’s a Heat guy.
“‘I’m lucky they like guys with edge,’ Adebayo says.
“Adebayo’s agents had cautioned him against overreacting to mistakes in pre-draft workouts. ‘If I miss two shots in a row, I might kick the ball across the floor,’ Adebayo says. ‘I was not gonna do that in front of Pat Riley, but behind closed doors, it’s ‘m—–f—– this and m—–f—– that.'”
Until the final six weeks of last season, Adebayo had been developing as a backup to former Heat center Hassan Whiteside. Adebayo’s success down the stretch of the 2018-19 campaign and Whiteside’s subsequent trade during the offseason allowed the third-year veteran to take his game to the next level this year.
This season, Adebayo is averaging 15.8 points, 10.4 rebounds, 4.9 assists, 1.2 steals and 1.2 blocks per game.
Those numbers show a jump in all five of those statistical categories and help explain why Adebayo was chosen to play in the annual All-Star contest.
Adebayo will be joined at the All-Star Game by Heat teammate Jimmy Butler, who was acquired by the team during the offseason. Adebayo’s and Butler’s on-court personalities are similar, with that chemistry between the two players a good explanation why the Heat enter the All-Star break with the fourth-best record in the Eastern Conference at 35-19.
With the Heat’s focus on getting back to the team’s glory years from 2010 to 2014, Adebayo is expected to be a key facet of helping the team contend for a championship. That means that the 22-year-old’s intense drive will be on display for the Heat for years to come.