Best of SI: How Miami Heat Rebuilt Without Tanking

SI Wire

It looked like Bam Adebayo came out of nowhere, but he didn’t. When Adebayo blocked Jayson Tatum’s dunk at the end of Game 1 of the Eastern Conference finals, he flew in from Heat practice, from the film room, from a culture that Pat Riley created 25 years ago and has always maintained.

If life is a game of risk and reward, there were two ways to look at Adebayo’s block. As coach Erik Spoelstra said afterward, “That can be a poster dunk, and a lot of people won't be willing or aren't willing to make that play and put themselves out there.” That was not just a possibility when Adebayo ran over to Tatum; it was likely. It could have been like Damian Lillard waving goodbye to Paul George last year (even though it was only Game 1).

Everybody in the Heat organization understands his teammates might have asked why he didn’t try. Adebayo was not going to risk that. It’s not the Heat way. As Jimmy Butler said of Adebayo afterward, “I love how he does anything and everything that you ask him to do, I really do.”

After Butler hit two huge shots in Game 1, Spoelstra said, “The most important thing about that is having guys that are willing to put themselves out there. He's vulnerable enough to put himself out there, and that's why we have him.”

It is exactly why Butler ended up in Miami. It is why the Heat wanted him and why he chose to go to Miami. Butler is the NBA’s ultimate worker, the rare superstar who isn’t just tough, but became a superstar because of how tough he is. Some players get knocked down in the first quarter and won’t enter the paint again. Butler just drives harder to the bucket the next time.

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