MIAMI — While he recognizes it a bit more acutely in his first season as a captain, Bam Adebayo said Monday that outside doubts are nothing new to the Miami Heat, whether it is a losing streak or questioning of previous accomplishments.
So, no, the preference would not have been to carry a six-game losing streak into Monday night’s game against the Phoenix Suns at Kaseya Center. But the seventh-year center said there is no need to tune out outside questioning because his team has grown attuned to tuning out such outside noise.
“It’s about finding solutions, getting everybody to really buy into what Coach is saying,” Adebayo said of Erik Spoelstra. “And eliminate any distractions that we could possibly have. Now that we’ve lost a couple, the outside noise is starting to pick up. And the outside media is starting to find out any which way to pick us apart. The thing for us is to just stay together in these moments.”
The slide in the Eastern Conference playoff race has opened the door to questioning the team’s run to last season’s NBA Finals. Adebayo said he can understand questioning on a certain level, but not from those who haven’t achieved the Heat’s playoff success over the past four seasons that has included three Eastern Conference finals.
“We’ve gotten there and we haven’t gotten over the hump,” Adebayo said, “so everybody’s going to say, ‘Well, they just can’t do it.’ And we’ve seen many other teams fail with what they say is better talent or core, or whatever the case may be. The driver for us is to figure out how we can get over this hump.”
For now, Aebayo said it’s about staying in the moment, with that run to last season’s NBA Finals coming only through a fourth-quarter rally in a winner-take-all play-in game against the Chicago Bulls.
“I learned a valuable lesson last year: Don’t let go of the rope, because you never know what’s on the other side,” he said. “I mean, we could have let go of the rope after the first loss in the play-in game and been like, ‘This is our season.’
“But we didn’t. And because of that, we made a run to the Finals that was so unexpected. So for us, it’s not letting go of the rope.”
After running Saturday in a reserve role after missing six games with a groin strain, rookie wing Jaime Jaquez Jr. said Monday he is willing to move forward in the role that best helps the team.
“Just realizing the big picture, and that’s getting a win, filling in a role, whatever that is,” said Jaquez, who had started seven consecutive games before being sidelined.
“Whether it’s starting or coming off the bench, just trying to be a star in my role and doing what I can to help this team win.”
Jaquez’s longest losing streak in his four seasons at UCLA was four while a sophomore, also with a stretch as a freshman when UCLA lost six of seven.
“Everyone feels a sense of urgency,” Jaquez said of the Heat carrying a six-game skid into Monday. “They always tell me times like this happen during the season. So it’s important for us to come together.”
Spoelstra hosted a clinic for nearly 150 special-needs participants Sunday at the University of Miami, with those in attendance ages 5 to 40.
The two main beneficiaries were the WOW Center Miami and Grind Fitness Miami, both dedicated to empowering individuals with developmental disabilities.
Included in the event held in a partnership with Hoop Camp under the Jr. HEAT umbrella were coaches who were Spoelstra’s collegiate teammates at the University of Portland and flew in for the clinic.
In addition, Spoelstra purchased tickets for all in attendance to Monday’s game.
The Heat on Tuesday will host their 14th annual Heat Beach Sweep, partnering with Miami-Dade’s County Division of Environmental Resources Management (DERM) to support the ecological restoration at the Tamiami Pineland Complex Addition in West Kendall.
As part of the NBA Green initiative, Heat and Amerant Bank volunteers will aid in planting 3,000 trees in the globally imperiled pine rockland habitat.
Among those from the Heat scheduled to participate are former Heat players Alonzo Mourning and Glen Rice, as well as former WNBA star Ruth Hunter, the Heat’s director of team development.