How did Bam Adebayo reach the star status in year three as a professional? The key lies in his elite level of learning how to play basketball the right way quickly. You don’t have to tell him stuff over and over again. He gets the message the first or second time.
Gregg Popovich said this version of Adebayo is not the same one he saw last summer in Team USA training. Duncan Robinson is another Heat player who brought his game to another level to prove his doubters wrong with his quick learning ability. The 20-year old KZ Okpala shows promise of being an exceptionally fast learner. He’s a different player today than the one who got mauled last summer by the Heat’s varsity squad.
On the other hand Hassan Whiteside didn’t change much since he was drafted by Sacramento Kings in 2010. He loved dunking on people then, and he still approaches the game the same today. In a way the book smart Kelly Olynyk hasn’t changed his basketball game since he was on the All-Rookie second team with Giannis Antetokounmpo in 2014.
Since then Antetokounmpo transformed himself to MVP status, because did what he had to do in both mind and body. As for Olynyk, maybe he can still go from a skilled post player to a modern big. That would help Miami tremendously.
Surprisingly the new-look Minnesota Timberwolves, with James Johnson, trounced the Los Angeles Clippers 142-115, who defeated the Heat 128-111 only a few days ago. Coach Jordan McLaughlin said, “When the new guys got into the locker room, they brought a lot of energy. As you could tell, it carried over today.” Perhaps Miami’s new players could have the same effect against Erik Spoelstra’s hometown Portland Trail Blazers tonight.
This season started so well that lately the Heat coaches mailed in game plans under the guise of “chemistry.” After a while other teams recognize plagiarism when they see it. Sometimes the lack of effort comes not from players, but from the instructors failing to draw up a winning game for an upcoming game.
But the coaches need players who can memorize the game book after only a single reading. Adebayo has that unsung ability to do so. Bringing an hitherto unseen plan to the game, hopefully veterans Andre Iguodala, Jae Crowder and Solomon Hill will repeat what the Timberwolves did to the Clippers.
Importantly athleticism alone isn’t enough to defeat the professionals in the NBA. More than physical talent is needed to stand above the rest. Everyone notices Adebayo’s energy and hops. What’s not so easily recognized is how he’s able bring his game to another level using his high basketball IQ. And in an incredibly fast manner.
Opponents already hacked the Heat’s schemes from the first 51 games. Will the coaches mail in the same ones assuming they’ll work again? If they do devise new twists, will the players pick them up as quickly as Adebayo does? Hopefully the new additions, such as Iguodala, make the Miami Heat code difficult enough to crack that Pat Riley’s dreams for a championship come true.