The cameras kept panning to the awkward non-jersey swap between Bam Adebayo and Kyrie Irving on Saturday night. The Miami Heat dropped their second straight game following a 128-124 loss to the Brooklyn Nets. Undermanned again, but not overmatched.
Adebayo, a 2021 Olympic Team invitee, stole the show on the road in New York where he went for a career-high 41 points. He has been trying to take on a bigger leadership role with Jimmy Butler out due to COVID-19 protocols and it starts with being more aggressive.
The All-Star center was relentless in all phases, including dishing out a team-high nine assists while shooting 14-of-20 from the field. He even knocked down a three-pointer, just the sixth of his career — and his 41 points were the most by a Heat player in a regular-season game since Dwayne Wade dropped 40 in 2015. He’s also the 11th player in franchise history to score 40 points.
“I knew I had to be more aggressive than I was last game. I put that game on myself,” Adebayo told reporters after the loss. “But I came out aggressive from the jump, and just kept going, and coach kept giving me the ball so … I wish we would have got the W, man. Forty [points] don’t mean nothing unless you get the W, for real.”
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Adebayo Vows to Start Heat ‘Winning Streak’
It’s been a wild ride for the Heat in this pandemic-induced coma to start the year. Miami has been forced to endure long stretches without top players like Jimmy Butler and Avery Bradley due to COVID-19 protocols. They are also dealing with injuries to sharp-shooting guard Tyler Herro (neck spasms) and 7-foot-1 center Meyers Leonard (shoulder strain).
They sit in 12th place in the Eastern Conference standings with a 6-9 record. Erik Spoelstra’s squad could easily play the victim and cry about being undermanned. That’s not the Heat Culture. No one is doing that in the locker room.
“We’re just going through a rough patch right now, trying to figure it out,” Adebayo said. “We don’t use the crutch of we’re down in numbers, it’s always next man up, so we are going to figure this thing out. And, like I keep saying, I’m a positive person and I feel like positive energy will turn this around and we’ll get on a winning steak soon.”
Adebayo has been forced to grow up on the fly, too. With Butler and Herro out of the lineup, the 23-year-old big man has taken it upon himself to take on a bigger leadership role. Spoelstra and the coaching staff have challenged him and Adebayo has stepped up.
“I feel like my leadership has grown,” Adebayo said. “I’m stepping into a bigger role and that’s just the responsibility I generate to get us going. Everybody feeds off of me, so I can’t have any games where I’m not aggressive, or I’m playing laid back, so from now on I got to be ultra-aggressive from the start.”
Heat Star to Send Kyrie Irving Special Jersey
There was a lot of drama over Adebayo’s desire to swap jerseys with Irving. The NBA only allows players to interact with each other for no longer than 15 minutes due to strict COVID-19 protocols. And exchanging articles of clothing is prohibited.
But Adebayo and Irving have been close friends dating back to their prep days in New Jersey. In fact, the Heat star has connections to Irving’s dad, Drederick, who helped fund his AAU basketball team.
“I knew Ky for a minute because I knew his dad, it’s all brotherly love at the end of the day,” Adebayo said. “I’m proud of him. He’s proud of me. And we left it at that.”
While the league interrupted their jersey swap after Saturday’s game, Adebayo (wink, wink, nod, nod) plans to send Irving something special in the mail.
“He definitely wants it [the jersey], I’m going to send him one on my own time,” Adebayo said. “I’ll figure something out and have a special 41 up there.”