In all of the talk leading up to the NBA Finals, one storyline stands above the rest: guys who played at Kentucky are uniquely prepared for the league and the spotlight that comes with it. Yesterday, John Calipari spoke at length about his former players in the finals, specifically Bam Adebayo and Tyler Herro, who are flourishing with the Miami Heat.
“How about Bam (Adebayo) taking responsibility for their loss?” Cal said in a Zoom with reporters. “They brought their team together. How about Tyler Herro saying I’m playing for Jimmy Butler? ‘I want him go get his first final.’…I’m proud of these kids. They learned to be great teammates. They learned to fight and compete every day and you’re seeing it out there.”
Pat Riley, a fellow former Cat and current Heat president, has said multiple times that he loves having Kentucky players on his team because of their unselfishness and work ethic. This week, Heat coach Erik Spoelstra echoed those comments.
“We love Kentucky players because you’re there to get better, to be pushed, to understand what it means to play for a team, play a role and to train to become a pro at this level,” Spoelstra said, via the Sun Sentinel. “You’re going to face good competition in practice. You’re going to be expected to work. It’s an environment that, as much as it possibly can, prepares you for the pros, even though it’s at the collegiate level.
“Our two guys played significantly different roles for Kentucky when they were in college. That was part of the thing that we liked. They were both willing to play a role. Young players, oftentimes, it’s just about how many shots they can get, and how many touches, scores, so they can improve their draft process. But if you just watch all of those games of Tyler and Bam . . . they truly did just commit to a role and then worked like crazy behind the scenes on their player development.”
With Bam, Herro, Anthony Davis, and Rajon Rondo all playing and Frank Vogel, a former UK manager, coaching the Lakers, the Big Blue Nation will be tuned in to Game 1 tonight. Like Calipari, we’ll all probably yell at the TV when a former Cat is taken out — although given the way they’ve played thus far, that probably won’t happen a lot.
“(Erik) Spo(elstra) and I were texting,” Cal said of the conference finals. “Brad Stevens and I texted or I texted Mike Malone or Frank (Vogel) and I wished him well in this thing. You just go back and forth, but they don’t know I’m watching my TV and I’m saying, ‘Put him in more. Get him in. Where’s Tyler? He needs to be in the game.’ I also want my guys to take those big shots, to show that they’re not afraid to take those which means they’re fearless because they’re not afraid to lose.”
Who are you rooting for in the finals, the Lakers or the Heat?