Bam Adebayo (L) and Draymond Green (R) during warmups before an exhibition game against Nigeria on July 10, 2021 in Las Vegas.
LAS VEGAS — When you think of the playmakers on the U.S. men’s national basketball team that will be in the upcoming Olympic Games Tokyo 2020, names such as Kevin Durant and Damian Lillard instantly pop out.
But in order for the U.S. to come away with a fourth straight gold medal, it will be up to Draymond Green and Bam Adebayo to make the offense click.
The two primary interior players for the Americans are more tasked with creating a flow once the offense is engaged. While both are fulfilling the same position on the floor — Green and Adebayo have alternated starting and then they sub in for one another — they do it in different ways.
Green, at 6-foot-6 and a two-time Olympic gold medalist, is known as being more versatile, averaging 6.3 points, 2.3 rebounds and 3.3 assists in three exhibition games with the U.S. after 8.8 points, 6.9 rebounds and 5.3 assists in nine seasons with the Golden State Warriors. The 6-foot-9 Adebayo is a more prototypical big man, averaging 9.7 points, 4.3 rebounds and 3.7 assists in U.S. games, while putting up 12.4 points, 8.0 rebounds and 3.5 assists in four NBA seasons with the Miami Heat.
“I see a lot of similarities,” said Green, the 2017 NBA Defensive Player of the Year. “The way he reads the floor, the way he sees the game is incredible. Extremely good passer and (he) uses other guys to his advantage. That’s been a big thing with him with the Miami Heat. He actually was teaching me the other day how to be more effective with the fake dribble handoff, was giving me a couple tips on that, which was incredible.”
Adebayo, who is making his Olympic debut, said he appreciates the variety of skills Green brings to a team.
“How vocal he is,” Adebayo said of the biggest attribute Green brings. “That’s the one thing that makes Draymond Draymond — how vocal he is, how much of a leader he can be without scoring. He’ll have a game where he’ll have one point, but he’ll have 16 rebounds and like 17 assists. Just trying to figure out how to be that impactful knowing that I have the ability to score, that is just going to help me along the way.”
While their paths to the NBA were very different — Green played four years at Michigan State and was a second-round draft pick, while Adebayo was a one-and-done player at Kentucky and the 14th overall pick — their spots on this Olympic roster were secured by playing with a chip on each of their shoulders.
“Being in a position where everybody kind of wrote me off and thought I was washed up last year, to be here is great,” Green said of a 2019-20 season that limited him to 43 games. “It’s been a theme, the story of my career, proving people wrong. To get back to this place and compete at this level, it is special.”
Adebayo was cut from the 2016 Olympic team, which left him motivated to make the trip to Tokyo.
“Like I’ve said before, I felt like I should have been on the team from the get-go,” Adebayo said of the 2016 experience. “But I’ve hashed it out. I just worked on my game. They said I wasn’t ready. I had a point to prove that I could have been on the team and that was my goal. I did that and I’m here now and it’s my opportunity to show why I’m here.”
Green knows exactly why Adebayo is on the roster.
“I’ve watched Bam since Kentucky and obviously through his four years with the Heat,” Green said. “His growth has been amazing and to share the floor with him, he’s a lot more athletic than I am, then I could ever imagine being. I definitely see some similarities there, it’s great to learn from each other. Obviously I’ve got a few years on him, but he’s a very good player in this league and it’s great to have him on this team and be teammates.”
But on a team filled with NBA All-Stars, it comes down to knowing and understanding your role.
“We don’t want everybody on the court thinking too much,” Adebayo said, “so I feel like me and Dray, our responsibility is to do all the little stuff, screening, getting people open and making the extra pass. And scoring when there’s the opportunity.”