What will Adebayo’s Olympic role be? Also, praise for Spoelstra and Battier’s next challenge – Miami Herald

Bam Adebayo still isn’t sure what his specific role will be with Team USA, but national team head coach Gregg Popovich has a pretty good idea of how the Miami Heat big man will help.

“Well, he’s a center. That’s his role,” Popovich said with a grin via Zoom on Wednesday, Team USA’s second day of training camp in Las Vegas. “He does what he does. He’s active, he’s a rebounder, he runs. He knows how to play with teammates. He handled he ball in Miami a lot on wings, on elbows, up top, [dribble handoffs], splits pick and rolls. He’s going to be very valuable to us and obviously our best rebounder.”

USA Basketball opens its five-game exhibition schedule on Saturday (8 p.m., NBC Sports) against the Nigerian national team in Las Vegas in preparation for the Tokyo Olympics. Nigeria’s 16-man roster, which needs to be cut to 12 for the Olympics, features three Heat players — Precious Achiuwa, KZ Okpala and Gabe Vincent.

Adebayo is one of the few post players on Team USA. The only other true USA Basketball frontcourt players are Cleveland’s Kevin Love, Golden State’s Draymond Green and Detroit’s Jerami Grant, with the national team looking to bring a more versatile group to the Olympics.

The tallest player on Team USA’s roster for Tokyo is Brooklyn’s Kevin Durant (6-10, 225), but he’ll be used as more of a perimeter player on the offensive end who also has the length to defend bigger players and protect the rim on the defensive end.

“We’ve got a lot of scorers and guys who want to pass the ball,” Adebayo said. “So I don’t know what type of role I’ll be in yet. I’ll figure it out and we’ll go from there.”

Adebayo, who turns 24 on July 18, is coming off the best two seasons of his NBA career. He won the Skills Challenge, played in his first NBA All-Star Game and helped lead the Heat to the NBA Finals in 2019-20, and averaged career highs in points, assists and steals this past season.

“This is the perfect thing for him at this stage in his career,” said Heat coach Erik Spoelstra, who is serving as the Team USA select team’s head coach. “I think the experience two summers ago of going through [USA Basketball] training camp was an important point in his development as a player and a young guy learning how to continue to get better.

“Now he’s a much different player than he was then. How his game has grown, his confidence, his esteem, his leadership, his competitive will. I think all of these things are really going to add to the chemistry and what the U.S. team brings to the table. I think he just helps so many different players and that’s unique for somebody of his position. This summer, the opportunity to compete for a gold medal is the perfect thing for Bam.”

PRAISE FOR SPOELSTRA

Spoelstra just completed his 13th season as the Heat’s head coach, making him the second-longest active tenured NBA head coach with one team — trailing only Popovich with the San Antonio Spurs.

Yet Popovich referred to the 50-year-old Spoelstra on Wednesday as a “fantastic young coach.” Not many would classify the experienced and accomplished Spoelstra as a “young coach,” but one of Spoelstra’s assistant coaches on the select team does agree about the “fantastic” part.

“He is a great basketball coach. X’s and O’s, he’s an A-plus,” said Gonzaga coach Mark Few, who is one of two assistant coaches on a select team staff led by Spoelstra. “How he delivers his message is A-plus. How he reads and feels things that are happening in real time is A-plus. Yet he’s at this thing learning and asking questions from the lowly college guy here. Awesome, I mean just an incredible person and incredible coach.”

BATTIER SPEAKS

Shane Battier recently left his full-time job as the Heat’s vice president of basketball development and analytics, and it appears that he’s focusing on his business outside of sports for now.

Battier, 42, joined New York-based software company Yext as a board member last week, CNBC reported. Yext “offers a modern, [artificial intelligence]-powered Answers Platform that understands natural language so that when people ask questions about a business online they get direct answers – not links,” according to a description on the search company’s website.

“I’m scratching my business itch right now,” Battier said to CNBC. “Basketball will always be a huge part of my life. I’m never going to say no to get back in a more official capacity … but right now, I’m trying to make my mark as a businessman.”

Battier is still expected to do consulting work for the Heat, according to a league source. He had just completed his fourth season as the organization’s vice president of basketball development and analytics before stepping down from the position.

Battier, who played three seasons with the Heat from 2011-14, retired as an NBA player following the 2013-14 season.

The Heat will return to Sacramento to open its summer league campaign this year before moving on to Las Vegas Summer League.

The Sacramento Kings announced that they’re hosting the third annual California Classic Summer League, which will include four teams — the Heat, Kings, Los Angeles Lakers and Golden State Warriors.

Each team participating will play two games at Golden 1 Center, with the Heat’s summer league team scheduled to face the Lakers on Aug. 3 at 8 p.m. and Warriors on Aug. 4 at 8 p.m.

Las Vegas Summer League will take place Aug. 8-17.

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Anthony Chiang covers the Miami Heat for the Miami Herald. He attended the University of Florida and was born and raised in Miami.