Saturday, April 1, 2023

Eric Spoelstra, Pat Riley and the Great Heat Center Debate. , , It’s Back, starring Bam Adebayo

Eric Spoelstra, Pat Riley And The Great Heat Center Debate. , , It'S Back, Starring Bam Adebayo

The last time Pat Riley intervened himself in a discussion about use by the emerging Miami Heat Center and coach Eric Spoelstra, things went sideways.

“How can the SPO change his thinking when it’s offense and defense or minutes or whatever?” Riley said during his season-ending media session in 2018. “However he uses that, so do you. We go through this with players almost every year. There are always disagreements, a change in philosophy or whatever.

“There has to be an intervention and I’m about to intervene. It’s real.”

That was then.

When the discussion centered on Hassan Whiteside.

And then it came last week, as Riley reflected on the Heat’s season and another big man and shot totals.

This time with Bam Adebayo front and center in the remarks of the Heat President.

“It could be a year, and Spow and I would talk about it, talking about how the balm could be developed to improve my consistent shot ability every night to get 15 shots every night. Is?” Riley said. “Quality shots, you know, that he can get, that he can make, whether it’s in post, whether it’s elbows or whatever.”

Adebayo’s shots have risen every season since he was selected number 14 from Kentucky in 2017, from 4.9 to 5.9 from 11.0 to 12.5, this season, 13.0. Similarly the scoring average has increased each of his five seasons to 19.1 this season.

But after averaging 14.3 shots in the heat’s postseason leading up to the 2020 NBA Finals, that average dropped to 9.7 in this postseason run in the Eastern Conference Finals.

“He can be very prolific at times,” Riley said. “But he can’t always be on effort, on running, on aggressive rebounds, on lobe dunks, on small floaters. I think there is a part of that that we can develop.”

Which brought it back to Spoelstra, though with hardly the same passion for debate as when Riley was certainly more in the corner at Whiteside in 2018 after Adebayo’s rookie season.

“So it’s a little bit dependent on your overall offensive philosophy and how much you want to change that,” Riley said of Adabio as a major offensive threat. “I think there’s another level now at his age, that we need more consistency in his ability to take good shots, make and score good shots for himself and us.”

Spoelstra, who spoke shortly after the Game 7 loss to the Boston Celtics in the pre-finals a week before Riley, avoided any comment on the future use of Adabio. Typically, he then hands the floor over to Riley, moving past guesses, and once such noise has subsided, often proceeds without comment.

As Spoelstra put it, “he has reinvented himself every off-season.” “Every year he should have been considered the best player in the last three or four years.”

Jimmy Butler struggled with knee pain, with Kyle Lowry being limited in the playoffs with a hamstring strain, a canvas Adabio had at times during the post season.

Earlier in the playoffs, there were three consecutive 20-point games, then, in the East Finals, 31- and 25-point performances against the Celtics.

Which is why, if selflessness wanes, or if Riley or Spoelstra opt for greater tension, teammates see even more potential, even as Adabio sums up his shots. Tried to mute the conversation.

“I’ve said it all year, he’s the engine that drives us on both ends of the floor. He does a lot of things well,” Butler said. “I’m with a person like him, so many other people on the roster. So grateful to be able to play with.

“I think the more relaxed Baum is knowing he’s a star in this league, you can’t put a cap and a roof on his talent and his abilities. As long as he stays comfortable, when Even if he is on the floor, he becomes hell.”


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