“He was hacking everybody,” teammate Bam Adebayo laughed of Oladipo’s foul-filled debut Thursday night at AmericanAirlines Arena. “I was like, ‘Hey, man, you got more fouls than points. What you doing? You got more fouls than points.’ “
The affable big man then paused.
“Just joking around with him,” Adebayo added.
Actually there were six points to five fouls from the versatile 28-year-old guard acquired last week from the Houston Rockets at the NBA trading deadline, but that was beside the point.
What mattered was that the Heat were able to begin to explore this next evolution during the victory over the Golden State Warriors, one that had Oladipo in the starting lineup.
That, as much as the current three-game winning streak, has led to another heartening turn during this uneven ride that has the Heat at 25-24, as they turn to Saturday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers at AmericanAirlines Arena.
“I thought it was very encouraging,” coach Erik Spoelstra said of what turned into a 23-minute debut for Oladipo. “I think defensively, it’s extremely natural, the fit. Offensively, he gives us that downhill attack, another guy who can make plays.”
It was, to say the least, a whirlwind.
“I definitely needed some help,” Oladipo said of the Heat’s play calls. “I only got a chance to walk through and a watched a few clips on film. They did a great job helping me. They were very welcoming, my teammates were.”
Because they saw the promise.
“He’s going to find his groove,” forward Jimmy Butler said. “I think we all got to get better getting him in the spots that he likes to get the ball at. That comes with time and talking to him.
“But he’s going to be a huge help. He’s going to put up some big numbers a lot of games. That’s what he’s here for. Obviously, the defensive factor, he did that well, as well. He’s going to fit in great.”
It was on the defensive end that Oladipo made the most dramatic impression, with the Heat constantly switching and keeping the Warriors off balance.
“I think we can do very special things defensively,” Oladipo said. “This was my first game with them, but I think we have a lot of versatile guys who can guard multiple positions. And when you have that, special things happen defensively.
“Like I said, it’s not going to happen overnight. We got to continue to get better, get used to one another, get acclimated to each other. But as long as we continue to play hard, play for one another, everything will take care of itself.”
In the midst of a battle for seeding in the tightly packed middle of the Eastern Conference race, Oladipo’s arrival comes with meaning.
“We want him to feel like he can be himself as much as possible, then we will incorporate his strengths,” Spoelstra said. “He just really fits, and it’s coming at a time that is really good right now.”
Just as Andre Iguodala and Jae Crowder found success after being acquired at last season’s trading deadline, Adebayo sees similar opportunity for Adebayo and big man Nemanja Bjelica, who was acquired from the Sacramento Kings at the deadline.
“Being incorporated in this system, it’s really easy to figure out things when we want you to be aggressive, we want you to have fun, we want you to share the ball, we want you enjoy other people’s success, and we want you to lock up,” Adebayo said. “That’s a pretty simple formula when you get incorporated with us.”
With Butler insisting the guidance will be ongoing.
“We’ll find out how to make him as efficient and as great in our type of play as he can be,” he said of Oladipo. “That’s my job, that’s Bam’s job. We have the ball the majority of the time. We have to share the wealth. That’s OK. He’s going to help us win. As long as we win, I could care less who shoots the ball, who scores the ball, who has the assist.”