Just days before guard Damian Lillard was traded to the Milwaukee Bucks, Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo spoke about what he wanted for his close friend.
“Peace of mind,” Adebayo said recently before Lillard was dealt to the Bucks. “That’s the biggest thing when guys go through situations like this.”
At the time that Adebayo said those words, it was still possible that Lillard and Adebayo would team up in Miami. Lillard made it clear the Heat was his preferred trade destination when he put in his trade request on July 1, and his friendship and respect for Adebayo was a big reason behind his interest in being dealt to Miami.
But Lillard was instead traded to the Bucks on Wednesday after talks between the Portland Trail Blazers and Heat stalled early in the process and never were revived.
“I stay in the situation that I am,” Adebayo said days before the deal was made when asked what it has been like to watch Lillard’s situation play out. “Even though we both play basketball, we’re good off the court. When we have conversations, we don’t even bring up basketball. We’re not talking about it. You know what’s going on, we all know what’s going on. But I can’t control it, he can’t control it and nobody else can control it but the people upstairs in the front office making the move. So my biggest thing is just me still being a friend to him. It’s not about basketball.”
The Heat holds its annual media day at Kaseya Center on Monday before opening training camp at Florida Atlantic University in Boca Raton on Tuesday.
Here’s the rest of the Miami Herald’s conversation with Adebayo ahead of his seventh NBA season:
How did you manage this short offseason as far as resting your body and putting work in?
“I had half of June and all of July really dedicated to being a great son, a great dad to my little dogs that I have and just being active, people who have been close to me, in their lives. So I took the time to really hone in on that because these people in my circle sacrifice so much for me every day for nine months. So I can give all my people a month and a half of we’re going to enjoy whatever we need to enjoy and then it resets. But I really took the time to be a great son, obviously be a great friend to all my homies and friends and also being a great boss. From that standpoint, that month and a half everybody had a ball, we had fun, we got to see the world, travel a little bit.”
Where did you travel to this offseason?
“I went to Cabo for my birthday, I went to Saint Lucia for Labor Day weekend. Obviously, I went to South Africa. But I got to go home to North Carolina for a little bit. I got to go to the West Coast, L.A. to be there for a little while and see the other side of the country. Now I’m back.”
Do you just simply not play basketball during that month and a half?
“During that time, I don’t really try to. Because I know if I start working out, I’m not going to want to stop. So to obviously help me and help my body, I try to stay away from it. But I do still bring a basketball with me just to have. The basketball I bring is flat. I bring it because it reminds me I got to chill. I can’t dribble this basketball. It’s here for my sanity basically because we as people, when we get obsessed with something, we have to literally have it 24/7. So whenever I travel or go anywhere, I just keep this flat basketball with me. It’s just a constant reminder that this is my vacation, but you still get to hold the basketball. I roll it on the ground, I try to dribble it sometimes in the house but it’s flat.”
When you started basketball workouts again in August, what did you focus on improving?
“Really being efficient. So being efficient in drills on what I work on – middys, touch shots, threes. Being efficient and really locking in because I know you get up all these reps in the summer, but being efficient with all those reps is the biggest thing for me. Really being efficient and trying to be efficient in every workout. Making three in a row, making five in a row, making six in a row and just doing that over and over and over again in different drills or different contexts of what you’re working on. I feel like it just helped me sharpen and really lock in to the craft.
“Because instead of just shooting 10, it’s like no you got to make nine out of 10. So every rep matters. Then you’re not in there wasting your time getting up 500 shots and you only made 200. So it’s like being efficient throughout all my workouts is key to me. I made it an emphasis to my trainers and the Heat that I want to continue to grow and expand, but I also want to stay efficient. I don’t want to be, ‘Yeah, Bam had 30 points tonight but it took him 26 shots.’ I need, ‘Bam had 30 tonight and he only took 15 shots.’”
Why did you make efficiency an emphasis this summer?
“I felt like I once I developed the patented dotted line jumper, I worked on it so much and it was very consistent throughout the whole season. Everybody knew if Bam gets here, it’s money. So I want to be like that with all my shots, not just that one even though that’s the go-to. But the counters to that, in different situations with that and just making everything muscle memory and really like locking and feeling like every shot I take I know is muscle memory and I feel like it’s good.”
Do you even need to work on your defense during the offseason?
“[Laughs] I mean, you watch tape and you watch film and obviously going into camp, you want to be ready to be vocal. Defense is really effort and communication. So while I’m in the gym and we’re playing pick-up, that’s when it starts. Now I might not guard anybody in pick-up. But being able to be vocal, be loud, make sure guys hear the call, I feel like that’s where you improve on defense. Well for me, not for everybody else. But for me, specifically like being able to be in the right spot and then as you go through training camp, that’s when the lockups start happening.”
Udonis Haslem and Dwyane Wade have both labeled you as the Heat’s next culture carrier. Do you feel like you’re ready for that role?
“I mean, you can’t run from it. The thing about it is it’s not going to be easy. It’s not going to be something that obviously you take for granted. But do I feel like I’m ready? Yes. At this point, I’ve done a lot of stuff in my career in my six years that a lot of dudes haven’t done in their whole career. So being able to one, obviously, have D-Wade in my ear the first year and a half of my career and then having UD all the way through up to this point, it’s prepared me for that role. It’s prepared me for the standard, it’s prepared me for understanding what this looks like and how it’s supposed to be. When guys are new to the roster or just got drafted, when they get here, obviously the work speaks for itself. But when we come together and it’s time to really compete, that’s when I get to explain it. That’s when I get to show you what this is like because I’ve been here so long. So being a culture carrier comes with a lot of responsibility and a lot of selflessness. You can’t be about you and want to be a culture carrier. That’s now how it works because you have to share that knowledge with other players.
“Once you teach somebody about the culture and what it is, you can relate it to every day life at that point because it’s a standard you damn near have molded into your mind. It’s one of those situations where anything in your life that you feel like is below your standard, you’re going to fix it because you’ve been in the culture where it’s driven into your mind that we’re not mediocre. We don’t like mediocre, mediocre isn’t good enough.”
You’re a different type of leader than Udonis, right?
“It’s something I’ll find out. But for me, I’m one of those people that I want to bank equity with you. So like spending time in the gym with you, going out to eat, having conversations, even when we’re on the bench talking about certain stuff. I feel like me banking equity is the best way to be a leader because in the heated moments when I speak and you look at me or you’re going through something and I speak to you like, ‘We need you right now,’ I feel like it’s easier when you bank equity with everybody to reel them back in and get them to buy into something. Banking equity is the best way for me personally. That’s how I’m going to lead.”
I know you’re tired of this question and we ask it before every season, but is this the year the three-point shot becomes a bigger part of your game?
“Yeah. Talking to Spo (Erik Spoelstra), obviously he wants me to keep improving. I obviously want to keep improving. Obviously, it’s a big emphasis to us because when everybody can space the floor, we’re a better team hands down. So, yeah.”
Do you feel a sense of unfinished business with some of the returning guys from last season’s team that made the NBA Finals?
“Yeah, that was like three months. So, I feel like losing should always be a motivation because it’s not only you losing, but it’s a lesson at the end of the day. What could we have done better? What could I have done better? What could I have done differently? What can I do this year that I didn’t do last year? There’s stepping stones to that.”