Another file has been added to Bam Adebayo’s motivation folder.
And, yes, the Miami Heat center is keeping score, while also appreciating that the most important scores are the ones at the ends of each game in these Eastern Conference finals.
Hours after being relegated to the NBA All-Defensive second team, Adebayo spoke ahead of Saturday night’s Game 3 against the Boston Celtics about a different type of one-point decision.
“I appreciated it,” he said, “but like I’ve said, I always feel like I deserve to be first-team. So that’s what it is.”
After consecutive years of being second-team All-Defense, Friday night’s release of the balloting for the 2022 All-Defensive teams showed Adebayo one vote from the 100-member media panel from being part of the first team.
In the weighted system, Adebayo would have tied the Memphis Grizzlies’ Jaren Jackson Jr. for the final first-team spot with one additional second-team vote, and would have supplanted him with an additional first-team vote. As it is, Adebayo received 57 first-place votes to 55 for Jackson in the balloting that was completed before the start of the playoffs.
“Doesn’t matter,” Adebayo said of being on the cusp of the first first-team selection of his five-year career, “because I’m still second team. I’ve got to live with that.”
What it will do, he said, was continue to fuel his fire, noting that he has learned from Heat captain Udonis Haslem to turn slights into success.
“I mean, I’ve tried everything,” he said. “I’m like UD. We find stuff to get mad at. So that’s basically what it is.”
But, Adebayo said, the three consecutive second-team nods means he is a constant in the conversation.
“I mean, I guess the body of work speaks for itself,” he said.
And if it doesn’t, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra spoke up for Adebayo after Saturday morning’s shootaround at TD Garden.
“I feel for him,” Spoelstra said, “because I think he did everything this year to anchor a great defense. And what we do is really unique, being able to switch out a five on all different kinds of players but then also being able to play different schemes.
“Without him, we wouldn’t be able to do a lot of these things. And the most important thing is we had a great defense. So we just have to keep on doing it.”
The Heat closed the regular season with the NBA’s No. 4 defensive net rating.
“I think it’s one of those awards,” Spoelstra said, “I think it’s great for players to strive for that. Even though it’s an individual award, you have to have an effect on your team and winning. Like if we were a 25th-ranked defense, I would tell him you don’t have a shot on being on All-Defense.”
Celtics forward Grant Williams said Saturday that among players that Tennessee coach Rick Barnes told him to try to emulate in the NBA was Heat power forward P.J. Tucker, who was coached by Barnes at Texas.
“Coach Barnes used to say a lot of times I reminded him of guys like that,” Williams said. “He said [former Heat forward] Jae Crowder, P.J., those are the roles you’ve got to find a way to fit in. And so an honor to be able to compete against him, and not only because he’s playing in the league for as long as he has, but the amount of guys he competed with, and the amount of tenacity and energy that he brings every single night.
“So I guess it’s that Rick Barnes connection that brings the best out of both of us, I guess.”
A bit late
It turns out the Celtics guard Derrick White, who left the series ahead of Thursday night’s Game 2, did not make it back in time for the birth of his son.
White’s family sent him videos of the moment as he traveled, landing in time to watch Game 2 with his expanded family.
“He’s already changed our lives, so it’s been crazy, just sitting with him watching the game, cheering us on from home,” White said of Hendrix James White. “It was cool, and just one of those moments I’ll have forever.”