MIAMI — It’s no surprise to hear coaches tout the opposing team before a game, so it may be with a grain of salt that Tom Thibodeau and Erik Spoelstra exchanged compliments for the opposing centers.
Bam Adebayo is what the Knicks might dream Mitchell Robinson can be some day.
"He’s a modern-day center in terms of, he can play away from the basket," Thibodeau said of Adebayo. "He can play in the post. He can put pressure on the rim with dynamic rolls, but he can also handle the ball, play away from the basket, get into dribble handoffs. They play off him a lot as a hub, and they also play off Jimmy (Butler) as a hub.
"So, the versatility — but Bam’s skill set is very unique for that position, but we’re seeing more and more of that now. And what it does, it allows you to play five out and leave the basket unprotected at times, so you have to really concentrate on your body position. You have to defend in a lot of different ways. It’s not only him bringing the ball up the floor. It’s the dribble handoffs. It’s the roll to the rim and it’s the tradition post-up where they play a cutting game off that, as well. And then once the ball is shot, that’s when the fun begins."
Spoelstra was similarly effusive in his praise for Robinson.
"He puts incredible pressure on the rim," the Heat coach said. "He’s a vertical threat in a different way than most can. You can throw it anywhere and he’ll find a way to get his hands on it. A lot of times that’s above or behind your frontline defense. Great offensive rebounder. I think he helps their best players. We’ll have to account for him for sure."
Nerlens Noel was a late scratch again after testing his sore left knee during pregame warmups.
Noel has played in just 20 games this season, but started in Cleveland Monday and played 29 minutes with Robinson sidelined by a sprained left ankle. Robinson returned to action and the starting lineup Wednesday.