Adebayo reflects on second All-Star invite, the Kobe/Garnett vision and the text to mom
Bam Adebayo was sitting in front of his locker stall at Madison Square Garden late Thursday night, digesting a night of mixed emotions, when he remembered to text his mother.
Seems as though his mom, Marilyn Blount, didn’t eat all day on Thursday because she was anxiously awaiting word on whether Adebayo would be named an All-Star for a second time.
Adebayo was selected, and mom wouldn’t go to bed on an empty stomach.
“I was telling my mom she could finally eat today,” Adebayo said. “My mom has this thing where if it’s a 50-50 debate and it’s between me [and someone else], or Game 7, she can’t eat, she can’t function. I don’t know what it is. She’s just nervous.”
Adebayo stopped, with cameras rolling, to tell his mother that he loved her.
“I had to text her and tell her she can finally eat now. She probably threw it up when the game got going at the end.”
Adebayo, very good all season, was very good again on Thursday, closing with 32 points and 11 rebounds in a 106-104 loss to the Knicks.
“It’s good to be back in the All-Star Game but kind of bummed we lost the game,” he said, with his attention now turning to Saturday’s game at Milwaukee (8 p.m., Bally Sports Sun) in the final game of a four-game road trip.
Making the All-Star Game for a second time — his previous appearance was 2020 — was important to Adebayo for what it signifies, that his game has earned the ultimate respect from other coaches and players.
“More importantly, the real thing that stood out about All-Stars is the player vote,” he said. “Amongst my peers, the fact I got the fifth [most votes]. That’s big respect from not only the coaches but the guys in the league.”
Adebayo’s immense offensive growth made him an obvious choice for the game.
He ranks fourth among centers in scoring (21.6), up from 19.1 a season ago. He leads the NBA in paint points, and his 54.3 shooting percentage is 22nd in the league. He’s eighth among centers in rebounds per game (10.0) and sixth among centers in assists per game (3.1).
“The kid has great feet, great active hands,” Lakers coach Darvin Ham said recently. “Obviously, he plays offense and defense above the rim. Really good lateral quickness. Really quick twitch in terms of after he slides to keep the ball in front of him, the ability to spring up quickly and get a block or a good contest on a shot.
“He’s second to none in that area. And offensively, just his ability to handle the ball and playmake. He’s a really underrated passer in my opinion, and he plays with such force. He forces you to put multiple bodies around him — shot goes up and you got to account for him.”
Among Adebayo’s shots that have become almost impossible to defend are that rising-in-the-paint jumper, where his wingspan allows him to launch the ball well above seven feet off the floor.
“The only way [to deter that shot] is if you literally put two dudes in front of me. And at that point whoever is next to me is going to get the ball,” he said. “It’s not like I don’t see my teammates.”
He grew up admiring Kobe Bryant and Kevin Garnett and has tried to emulate small parts of their offensive games.
“I always had a dream of being like Kobe and KG,” he said.
Bryant, of course, is one of the greatest scorers in NBA history. Does Adebayo see similarities offensively with their games?
“Kobe, the way he fades into his shots. I do a good job of fading when I have bigger defenders guarding.”
And anything similar with his offensive game and Garnett’s?
“His face up game. When he got in the league, he wasn’t really a real big face up guy when he was with the Timberwolves. Him developing the face up game, that’s not a blueprint I can go by [per se], but you’ve seen somebody that type of stature coming from not being able to face up to being able to face up.
“KG had that intimidation factor, his aura when he stepped on the court, like ‘I’m in the building, this is me. I don’t care if you like it or not.’”
What’s he most proud of this season?
“I’m proud of my overall game,” Adebayo said. “The one thing everyone is going to say is the assertiveness, but me being able to hoop at a high level is the one thing.”
Adebayo is popular among teammates, and they shared in his joy on Thursday night.
“He’s an All-Star for sure,” Tyler Herro said. “Super proud of my brother.”
“He’s playing great this year,” Udonis Haslem said. “I’m so proud of him. He deserves to be an all All Star. It made [going to Salt Lake City for the game] worth it.”
Adebayo will be the Heat’s only on-court representative during All-Star weekend Feb. 17-19 in Salt Lake City. Jimmy Butler was bypassed for the All-Star game after six previous appearances and declined to comment afterward.
“I’m mad that he did not get in,” Adebayo said. “In situations like that, he’s always been even keeled about it.”