When the Heat fantasizes about what Bam Adebayo could be if he reaches his ceiling and what Josh Richardson could be if his offensive skills develop to the level of his defensive talents, Wednesday night presumably was what they see.
And it was pretty spectacular.
Adebayo was exemplary at both ends on a night the Heat rested six veterans but still shattered a franchise record for preseason points in a 140-128 win against New Orleans on Wednesday at AmericanAirlines Arena. Miami’s previous all-time preseason high point total was 126, achieved most recently in 1999.
In 27 minutes, Adebayo filled the box score with 26 points (on 11 for 17 shooting), 12 rebounds, six steals, three blocks, three assists, maniacal effort on the glass and deft ball-handling in transition. There was also a brilliant bounce pass – nearly the length of the court – to Derrick Jones Jr. for a layup.
“Out of the draft this year, there were three or four all considered big time front court players,” coach Erik Spoelstra said. “You could have made the case in Las Vegas [summer league] he played equal or better than all of them. His work ethic, his ambition to be great, you will get better. All of these things he has been working on.”
Can it translate to the regular season?
”I don’t know if he will get the opportunities to shoot 17 times,” Spoelstra said.
“Certain times he will. The force and physicality he plays with, this team can use this for sure. You will see even more athleticism with more knowledge.”
Richardson was dynamic offensively, scoring 16 first-quarter points and doing it a variety of ways – on threes, drives to the basket and pull-ups – and closed with 25 points (9 for 16 shooting, including 4 for 7 on threes), four rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes.
“All of this is something that has steadily been coming,” Spoelstra said. “He had a real offensive bent tonight and this is what the team needs for him to really be aggressive and assertive. He has the ability to impact our offense in so many different ways. I liked the aggressiveness, particularly from the three-point line.”
Jones, who entered having played only 26 minutes of preseason because of a shoulder injury, made his case for a rotation spot, flashing his unique athleticism (including four dunks) while chipping in 18 points (7 for 12 shooting) and four steals.
“He made an impact on both ends of the court,” Spoelstra said. “He’s in terrific shape now. Most were effort plays, instinctual plays. He’s a super unique player. We didn’t run one play for him tonight. I love those kind of guys that fill up a stat sheet in the right way.”
Already without James Johnson and Dion Waiters, the Heat rested Dwyane Wade, Goran Dragic, Hassan Whiteside, Wayne Ellington, Rodney McGruder and Justise Winslow, while the Pelicans rested Anthony Davis, Jrue Holliday and E’Twaun Moore. Ellington has missed all of preseason with an ankle injury but is close to returning.
The Heat opened with a starting group of Richardson, Kelly Olynyk, Adebayo, Tyler Johnson and Jones. Johnson, who entered shooting 5 for 27 in preseason, scored 12 points on 4 for 8 shooting and seven assists.
▪ The Heat (2-3), which closes preseason at home Friday against Atlanta, might keep only 14 players - one less than the maximum permitted - to slightly lessen a potential luxury tax bill and to retain roster flexibility.
“If we go with 14, I’m totally fine with that,” Erik Spoelstra said.