Even when Donovan Mitchell was thinking about planting roots in South Florida, even when Bam Adebayo was playing as Mitchell’s summer teammate at the Miami Pro League, and even when the “Let’s Go Heat!” chants filled that gym during Mitchell’s appearances, Adebayo took it all for what it was (and mostly wasn’t) worth.
“The media saw that and magnified that,” Adebayo said of the summer simmer that tried to connect Mitchell to a potential trade to the Heat. “To me, it was just playing with one of my best friends.”
Ultimately, Mitchell was traded by the Utah Jazz to the Cleveland Cavaliers, the Heat’s opponent on Tuesday night at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
And, no, Adebayo said there wasn’t disappointment . . . because there never was expectation.
“The connection with him wasn’t even trying to recruit,” Adebayo said amid the Heat’s preparations for Mitchell and the Cavaliers, the second of four games on this trip that continue Thursday night against the New York Knicks and concludes Saturday night against the Milwaukee Bucks. “If he wanted to be here, he would have said that. And that’s the bottom line. I respect the fact that he was up front during the process.
“I don’t think the way it happened was in his control, anyway.”
It wasn’t, with the Jazz able to send the 6-foot-1 All-Star anywhere for the best possible package, one that turned out to be Collin Sexton, Lauri Markkanen, Ochai Agbaji, unprotected first-round picks in 2025, 2027 and 2029, and first-round pick-swap rights in 2026 and 2028 from the Cavaliers, the type of draft capital the Heat lacked.
As the trade negotiations played out, Mitchell thought he might be dealt to the New York Knicks, Washington Wizards or Heat. So, yes, there was a degree of sizing up the Heat situation.
“I said this to somebody, I was like, ‘Man, I’m working out with Bam and others, and I’m thinking like, ‘This is just preparing. This is what it’s going to look like,’ ” Mitchell said in October on Old Man and the Three podcast of former NBA guard and current ESPN commentator J.J. Redick.
So, no, Adebayo said, not a matter of a friend who got away, with Mitchell taken out of Louisville at No. 13 in the 2017 NBA draft, one pick before the Heat selected Adebayo out of Kentucky.
But the episode with Mitchell, or at least the external perspective, was of Adebayo as a potential recruiting agent for the Heat, just as Dwyane Wade had served in helping bring LeBron James and Chris Bosh to the Heat in 2010, and later selling Jimmy Butler on the benefits of the NBA in South Florida.
That, for Adebayo, is where it gets tricky, particularly with so many friends around the league.
“It depends, it depends,” he said when asked whether he would actively recruit for the franchise in free agency or otherwise, under contract to the Heat through 2025-26. “I don’t know how to answer. But for the greater good of the team, if we needed this one guy, I’d reach my hand out, because it’s for the great good of the team and I’d want to make that situation better.”
But, he said, it wouldn’t come from a place of forcing management to bring in a friend, appreciating the delicate balance of roster construction and locker-room chemistry.
“So, for me,” Adebayo said, “it would be if it results in winning, and not, ‘Oh, we just want to be on a team just so we can play together,;
“No, I’m not built off of that. I’m built off of if you’re going to buy in, buying in to win and see some greater good than you see in your previous situation, then yes, I’m there for that.”