Haslem’s message to Bam with some straight-talk advice and counsel

·5 min read
Daniel A. Varela/dvarela@miamiherald.com

Udonis Haslem might need to have another talk with Bam Adebayo.

A Haslem/Adebayo summit during the weekend in Boston led to a Bam breakout. (More on that in a minute.)

But like every other Heat starter in Monday’s 102-82 Boston rout, Adebayo didn’t offer nearly enough.

It has been an odd series for Adebayo, with one epic game (31 points, 10 rebounds, 6 assists, four steals, one block) and three games of pedestrian production.

In Games 1, 2 and 4, Adebayo combined for 25 points, took a combined 15 shots, with 19 rebounds, five assists, six turnovers and four blocks. Those stats in those three specific games would be the equivalent of very good game for an All-NBA-type center.

The Heat was outscored by 26 with Adebayo on the floor in Games 1, 2 and 4.

Adebayo had his 31-point breakout in the one game that Celtics center Robert Williams missed. He averaged 8.3 points and 6.3 rebounds in the three games that Williams played.

Statistics have never been the best way to measure Adebayo’s impact because of his defense, which has remained strong in this series. And he had a big impact in the 118-107 Game 1 win with as many blocks (four) as shot attempts.

But more is needed, particularly in Game 4, when Adebayo (six boards) was outrebounded by four Celtics, including Al Horford (13) and both of the Celtics’ starting guards.

Adebayo said Game 4 was partly a case of commanding more attention from Boston’s defense than he did Saturday. “They adjusted,” he said. “So next game, we’ve got to adjust.”

Celtics coach Ime Udoka said late Monday night: “Bam got it going last game, and guys take that personal.”

It might be time for another chat from Haslem, who has done great work in the five-year center’s development.

Hours before Adebayo produced that elite performance Saturday, Haslem sat with him for two hours. They watched film. They talked. They discussed what it means to be a $163 million man, a reference to his five-year max extension that began this season, with Adebayo earning $28.1 million this season.

Haslem explained, to the Miami Herald, what happened during that visit before Game 3:

“Right before [Game 3], him and I sat down and watched film for about two hours. It was a lot of technical things I wanted him to focus on. When you get this deep in the season, you have to be real technical about everything that is going on. You’ve got to do the right thing every time. It’s not going to work every time. But you’ve got to continue to work those habits and then you’ll have your breakthrough. A lot of the film work the night before Game 3 was details and going back to who you are and what you are and what you mean to this team.”

Haslem tries — as the expression goes — to keep it real with Adebayo.

“A lot of those conversations Bam and I have always had, it’s different,” Haslem said. “There’s a lot that comes with making $163 [million]. There’s a lot of expectations. But I told Bam the expectations that come with $163 [million] is just be a winner. You just be a winner! You be the kid you’ve been.

“You be the kid we gave the $163 [million] to because we know that kid can lead us to winning with the way he impacts the game. That’s all I told Bam.”

But that wasn’t all.

“After we watched film for two hours, we sat and talked about what a champion is,” Haslem said. “What it means to be a champion. What it takes to be a champion. What you have to go through to be a champion. It’s hard. [I told him], ‘you’ll be down. You’re going to be out. There’s going to be a lot of frustration, a lot of confusion. Sometimes there will be doubt. All those emotions, you have to channel and manage those and be who you are.’”

Haslem said the key for Adebayo flourishing offensively “had nothing to do with getting the ball in the post. It was all recognition, all recognizing your opportunities, how to take advantage of them, how to attack different matchups, when to attack in the flow of the game, early, transition, things like that.

“Just pointing out there are opportunities to get himself involved and not necessarily from the standpoint of just having the ball in your hands. Also when you’re setting screens, who you want to target, how you want to screen them, how you get off the screen early, how fast. All those things matter.”

When I asked Adebayo who was most in his ear about being more aggressive offensively, he cited Haslem.

But Haslem said it’s not as simple as Adebayo turning on a switch.

“The way our offense works, the ball moves around a lot and the ball ends up where it ends up,” Haslem said. “The ball finds energy. It’s hard to really say be aggressive, take the ball into your hands because if the ball is moving around and having energy, it could end up anywhere. But what I do want him to do is always maintain a certain mentality whether he’s getting the ball or not. It’s a mentality of aggressiveness and physicality.”

That message, when it comes from Haslem (among others), resonates with Adebayo. Now the Heat hopes the Adebayo for the remainder of this series more closely resembles the Game 3 version.

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