Bam Adebayo reiterated going into Wednesday night’s Miami Heat opener against the Chicago Bulls at FTX Arena that getting to the foul line more often stands as a prime priority.
“Just assaulting the rim, really forcing the refs to make a decision,” the Heat center said. “I just keep constantly putting that assault on the rim. You know, obviously doing it in an intelligent way. You know, when we’re in the bonus, get sneaky fouls and just trying to, I guess you would say, manipulate the game.”
Adebayo averaged a career-high 6.1 free throws per game last season, up from his previous high of 5.5 the previous season. That average, however, fell to 4.2 in the playoffs, compared to the 6.1 he averaged in the Heat’s 2020 postseason run to the NBA Finals.
Adebayo said there is a natural sense of renewal with a new season.
“Everybody tries to come in a different version of themselves, a better version, and with that mindset to compete and get excited,” he said.
The Heat’s first two games just happen to come against the two teams that gave up on Max Strus before the 3-point-shooting wing found a productive home with the Heat.
Strus was with the Bulls on a two-way contract in 2019-20 before he was sidelined for the season when he tore his ACL while playing for Chicago’s G League affiliate, subsequently signing with the Heat upon his recovery.
Before that, Strus was cut by the Boston Celtics, the Heat’s Friday night opponent at FTX Arena, as an undrafted rookie in 2019, with Boston instead keeping current Bulls forward Javonte Green.
“That’s always a thing,” Strus said of trying to prove previous doubters wrong. “It’s just who I am. Not just to those teams, but all 30 teams.
“If you really think about it, everyone took a pass. So I don’t really take things that personally. But that is in my nature, just to prove people wrong and keep advancing in my career.”
Some, in fact, questioned the Celtics during last season’s Eastern Conference finals for having allowed Strus to get away.
“I mean, it feels good,” Strus said of making good. “But I try not to get into it too much and think about it. I just try to play my game.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said there is a sense of normalcy to the start of this season.
“You never miss that feeling,” he said of opening night. “Particularly this year, too, in comparison to the last two years, where there were truncated offseasons. We feel like we’ve been able to go through the whole process — reflection off of last season, decompression and then anticipation and excitement for this season.
“And that’s genuine. You feel it in the gym with everybody.”
Spoelstra said it’s also nice to have NBA games back on television.
“We get to throw on these games and have that entertainment instead of Netflix,” he said.
The Heat have partnered with World Central Kitchen and Direct Relief to provide support to affected communities in Southwest Florida in the wake of Hurricane Ian, with the team and the Micky & Madeleine Arison Family Foundation donating $500,000 each of the two relief organizations.
World Central Kitchen is a nonprofit that uses the power of food to heal communities and Direct Relief is a humanitarian aid organization for those affected by poverty or emergencies.
“In South Florida, we are all too familiar with the lasting impacts of such a powerful storm,” Heat president Eric Woolworth said in a statement. “Understanding that the aftermath of Hurricane Ian will stretch into months and possibly years, our hope is that the services provided by World Central Kitchen and Direct Relief will help our neighbors in Southwest Florida to get back on their feet.”