Spoelstra anticipates Heat’s Butler, Adebayo will be All-Stars, also sees Bam path to All-NBA
Erik Spoelstra’s perspective on a position-less universe has eased rotation decisions for the Miami Heat coach in recent years.
The NBA’s insistence on such delineations has made the past week all the more complex.
Having filled out his ballot for the seven reserves from the Eastern Conference for the Feb. 19 NBA All-Star Game, with those reserves to be announced Thursday, Spoelstra said it required an adjustment from his typical perspectives.
But that said, he also said he believes the Heat’s Jimmy Butler and Bam Adebayo will be selected.
“I think they’ll both make it,” Spoelstra said ahead of Tuesday night’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse. “Coaches vote on that, and I think they recognize, both those guys, how they impact winning. We’ve talked at length about Jimmy. But Bam is deserving. You can’t tell me that he’s not one of the top whatever number of players in this game and definitely deserving of being an All-Star.”
That matter was in the hands of others, with coaches not allowed to vote for players on their own team.
But with a maximum of five frontcourt reserves to be added among the seven East reserves — beyond selected starters Giannis Antetokounmpo, Kevin Durant and Jayson Tatum — Butler and Adebayo could find themselves splitting the Heat vote.
Spoelstra said the voting for All-NBA, which formally designates a center selection for each of the three teams, works more in Adebayo’s favor, with the Denver Nuggets’ Nikola Jokic and Philadelphia 76ers’ Joel Embiid two of the clear choices there.
“It is a little bit different now, with the fan voting, because that can distort positions a little bit,” Spoelstra said, with forwards and centers in the same All-Star pool. “I think it’d almost be easier voting Bam for All-NBA. You definitely could make a case that he’s a top-three center. There’s clarity on that. It’s like, ‘OK, he’s playing at an All-NBA level.’
“It just gets a little bit trickier with this voting system for All-Stars.”
Beyond Jokic and Embiid, Adebayo for the final All-NBA center spot figures to face eventual competition from Domantas Sabonis and Anthony Davis, and possibly others.
Adebayo said Tuesday his expectation is of his second career All-Star selection, having also made it in 2020.
While Adebayo’s game embodies what coaches are looking for in terms of two-way play, he said his numbers speak for themselves.
“I feel like everybody’s seen my increased jump offensively,” he said, after the Heat completed their morning shootaround. “And it’s been one of those things where it’s just been a thousand hours, ten thousand hours getting the reps in. So, for me, I feel like it’s more the body of work than the coaches’ decision.”
Adebayo’s previous All-Star appearance, in 2020 in Chicago, came with Butler also in the game. He believes both should be ticketed for this season’s game in Utah . . . even if the reward is a February trip to Salt Lake City.
“Yeah,” he said, “it’s cold as hell.”
Back at it
In the wake of Sunday’s disheartening loss to the Charlotte Hornets at the start of this four-game trip, the Heat took the unusual step of both practicing in a road arena the day before a game and then returning the morning of the game for a shootaround.
“I see a path for this team to be special,” Spoelstra said. “But consistency is one of the things that we certainly have to get better at.”
With that consistency, Spoelstra insisting, having to come on the defensive end, despite the Heat entering Tuesday last in the league in scoring but second to the Cavaliers in fewest points per game allowed.
“We have to commit to our identity,” he said. “I’m saying it over and over and over. We have a great defense. We can win games against anyone, anywhere, any place when we defend the way we’re capable of.
“That commitment to defend, when we have not done that – it doesn’t mean that we would have won all those games – but they’ve been incredibly costly, especially when we give up big second halves when we have leads, double-digit leads. The eight games that we’ve lost with those kinds of leads, the common trend has been not defending to our standard.”