Injuries may have kept him out of the lineup over an extended period, but Bam Adebayo has nonetheless put together an incredible season for the Miami Heat. And his output in the club’s Tuesday win over the Hornets was one of his better efforts to date.
Adebayo scored 22 points on 7-of-10 shooting, adding nine boards, three assists, one steal and a blocked shot in 31 minutes of play.
Of course, the 2020 All-Star already had some major momentum entering the campaign. Over the summer, he played a key role in the pivot for Gregg Popovich and USA Basketball, helping the team capture its latest gold medal at the Tokyo Olympics.
In spite of the success that the two shared together on an international stage, though, Adebayo just revealed that there’s no love lost between himself and the legendary coach.
During a recent sitdown with Sports Illustrated’s Ashley Nicole Moss, Adebayo was reminded that Coach Pop had cut him from the national team ahead of the 2019 FIBA World Cup. When asked if there had been any lingering feelings about that last summer, the Heat star didn’t mince words.
“Definitely animosity, because I felt like I should have been on that team,” Adebayo said. “But when we got to the Olympics I had to let my animosity go because he was my coach at the time.”
Ultimately, Popovich may have been wise to keep Adebayo on the World Cup squad. Without him, Team USA stumbled to a seventh-place finish in the tourney. Moreover, they were dominated down low in the quarterfinal round by Rudy Gobert and France.
The Olympics played out differently, of course, and that perceived slight in 2019 may have fueled some of the fire that helped Adebayo become an elite player. Regardless, Miami’s paint protector made it clear that the Spurs’ play-caller would revert to being the guy who wronged him once they got the gold.
“I let him know, ‘Look, for the time being in this Olympics, we’re cool. You’re my coach, I’m your player. We’re gonna be like you and Tim [Duncan]. But when we leave, just know I’ll never forget that you cut me.’”
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Pop Has Paid the Price
According to Adebayo, Popovich was surprisingly unbothered by the big man’s confession. “He respected it so much,” Adebayo said. “He was like, ‘I can’t be mad at that. I did what I thought was best for the team, but I’ve got to live with that.’”
That’s not all he has to live with; Adebayo also issued a stern warning to Pop.
“Just know, whenever we play the Spurs and you’re coaching, it’s always going to go back to that — you cut me.”
So far, he has made good on that promise. In a February 3 bout with San Antonio, he logged 18 points, 11 rebounds and four steals to key a blowout win. Three weeks later, Adebayo exploded with a season-high 36 points and added seven boards and three blocks for good measure in a 133-129 victory.