MIAMI — Hours before The Captain would see his No. 40 raised to the rafters at Kaseya Center, Miami Heat center Bam Adebayo said the reason he has been able to take over as captain is because of the example set by Udonis Haslem.
Ahead of Haslem having his jersey retired at halftime of Friday night’s game against the visiting Atlanta Hawks, Adebayo spoke of how his six seasons alongside Haslem eased the transition in taking the captain baton.
“Captain now? I mean I guess that reflects it all,” Adebayo said after the morning shootaround. “Because coming into this league, I did not think I would be a captain. Coming into this league, I was just like, ‘Man, I’m just trying to get in where I fit in. Get a couple of dollars and move on with my life.’
“So for him to have that much impact on me, for me to be like, ‘All right, I can be a captain of this type of organization,’ I feel like that keeps him young.”
Adebayo also said that it’s not exactly as if Haslem has fully abdicated the captaincy since his retirement at the end of last season, the mentorship continuing at all hours.
“A lot of conversations, a lot of voice messages at 3 a.m. after losses, about some of the most random plays in the game,” Adebayo, 26, said with a smile of Haslem, 43, still very much being in his ear. “Like he’ll text me at 3 a.m. about a loose ball in the first two minutes of the game.
“But that just speaks to who he is, how obsessed he is with the game, and how obsessed with not only us getting wins, but us getting to experience a championship.”
As for Adebayo’s replies to those 3 a.m. messages?
“I don’t respond to them. I’m not doing that,” he said with another smile. “No, I’m going to sleep.”
Heat coach Erik Spoelstra said it is undeniable that Haslem rubbed off on Adebayo from a leadership standpoint.
“The part that I really love seeing,” Spoelstra said of Adebayo, “is how he connects to the history of Heat culture and he wants to be a steward, like myself, like UD wanted to be after a certain point of time. And how Dwyane (Wade) felt about it, as well.
“When you get that kind of connection with an organization, it’s so rare, because of how transient this league has become. But he’s really taken that responsibility. He knows the history. He embraces it. He loves connecting with all the former greats, and it’s cool to see him step into that position where he’s one of those guys now.”
Guard Duncan Robinson said it is difficult to cite one defining moment of Haslem’s leadership, but when pressed Friday morning he pointed to the 2020 pandemic quarantine bubble at Disney World, when the Heat were sequestered for almost three months on the way to a trip to the NBA Finals.
“Kind of felt isolated in there,” Robinson said, “and we all kind of felt isolated in there, and he just did an amazing job of making sure that we just all came together, playing cards, poker, staying in the meal room afterwards and just chopping it up and sharing stories and doing that sort of thing.
“There’s really so many, it’s hard to just choose one. But he’s definitely left a big-time mark on my career, for sure.”
No Trae Young
Hawks guard Trae Young did not travel for Friday night’s game, listed as out due to illness, just the third game Young has missed the season, with the Hawks splitting in his two previous absences.
Young scored 27 and 30 points in the teams’ previous two matchups this season, a pair of Hawks losses, with the four-game season series to conclude with the Heat’s April 5 visit to Atlanta, in their final road game of the regular season.
For the Heat, rookie wing Jaime Jaquez Jr. missed his third consecutive game with a groin strain sustained in Sunday’s home victory over the Charlotte Hornets, having remained behind from the just-completed two-game trip.