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Australians in the NBA: Steven Adams??

Let’s start with an admission, an honesty session if you will, because this is a safe place here at NZhoops.co.nz. Up until a month before the 2013 NBA draft held at the house Jay Z built out of Russian Roubles, Steven Adams didn’t truly exist to me.

You see I enjoy the NBA 2K series, I am a slave to simulation and everything within my game must be true to life, including the draft class. Every year I download the best draft class and repeatedly use it over and over again for all 63 times I restart my Franchise.  During everyone of those 63 times I would see Steven Adams’ name pop up extremely high in the mock draft and at times even projected to go to my Nets (What the computer AI didn’t know was 63 straight times I was going to select my boy Shabazz Muhammad to play the three spot as I couldn’t ship Gerald Wallace’s contract out of Brooklyn fast enough).

Every time that Adams’ name would appear on the screen I was under the impression the creator of the draft class put in a generic player and forgot to drop his ratings like a hot scone to ensure he would not be actually drafted. Come on, a seven foot freshman centre from New Zealand playing for Pittsburgh? The same Pittsburgh Panthers team that has had no more than six first round draft picks in the previous 60 years?  And he’s projected to my Nets? No thanks, I’ll pass on your created player buddy.

But oh how I wish I could have those 63 drafts back, now that the Rotorua native is actually real.

You see, I am an Australian and we here had not heard about young Stevie Adams before he landed on the Oklahoma City Thunder roster at pick twelve. He had yet to show up on my radar and as an Australian we will not claim a New Zealander until they are truly successful, only then do we give them honorary “Aussie” status whether they want it or not.

Keith Urban. Ours.

Lisa Chappell. Yeah Claire McLeod is ours.

Rachel Hunter. Stacy’s Mom, definitely ours.

Rebecca Gibney. Do not even try and claim Emma Plimpton from the Flying Doctors is not ours.

Sam Neill. Red Meat Neilly, Yeah he’s ours.

Marco Rojas. Cheers. Ours.

It’s not long New Zealand; soon Stevie Adams will be as Aussie as our rugged Russell Crowe.

Adams had a positive showing at the Orlando Summer League in which he averaged 27.0 MPG, 6.5 RPG, 1.2 BPG and 9.0 PPG whilst shooting at a 60% clip. The 20 year old centre made note during a summer league postgame interview that the Thunder coaches including head coach Scott Brooks and assistant Mark Bryant were focusing on his defence and any offensive production was merely a bonus. It became clear why as the young New Zealander averaged four fouls per game in what some may put down to youthful exuberance.

But his foul count carried over into the Thunder’s first two pre-season games on foreign soil. The Thunder first travelled to Istanbul to face Fenerbahce Ulker who finished fourth in the Turkish league last season and were also the first Turkish team to defeat an NBA team with their win against the Celtics in 2012 (Any chance to bash the C’s I’m taking). Thankfully the Thunder restored the association’s pride as they defeated Bojan Bogdanovic’s Fenerbahce squad 95-82.

Adams came off the bench in the win, managing 15 minutes and finishing with seven points, six rebounds whilst shooting three from four from the field. Unfortunately, it was the five fouls that stood out for the NZ native in his limited action.

Oklahoma’s starting centre Kendrick Perkins dislocated a finger in the win and played no part in the rest of the Thunder’s Euro trip. This opened the door for Adams to start in the absence of Perkins against the Philadelphia 76ers in Manchester, England.

Adams split time with fellow big Daniel Orton who many thought would be above Adams on the depth chart. The two shared a very similar stat line for the night consisting of 17 minutes, four rebounds, two blocks and six points for Adams versus 19 minutes, four rebounds, two blocks and six points for 23 year old Orton.  It was ultimately the +11 +/- and only three fouls that gave Adams the position battle victory as Orton was -2 +/- and finished with six fouls.

The Euro trip provided coach Scotty Brooks with all the information he needed on his first round draft pick and although very raw, Brooks demonstrated faith in Adams as the organization waived Daniel Orton shortly after returning from Europe – a surprising move as Brooks is usually an experience over youth proponent. Nonetheless, this left Adams as one of three specialist big men on the roster with Kendrick Perkins the entrenched starter and former number two draft pick, 7’3” Hasheem “The Dream” Thabeet as the backup.

The former Pittsburgh Panther should have an old fashioned duel with Thabeet for the backup role. Considering just just how underwhelming the Tanzanian has been in his career (Four years, 201 games, 10.8MPG, 2.8RPG, .9BPG and 2.3PPG) we could see Adams cement himself in the rotation and quite possibly move ahead of Thabeet with continued development and improved discipline.

They love his excitement and enthusiasm in “The Big Friendly”, voted by his fellow rookies as the second funniest in his rookie class behind the Mavericks Ricky Ledo, Asams is sure to win the hearts of the crazed Thunderheads.

One on-court relationship he already appears to be developing is with superstar Kevin Durant as we can see in the following pieces of game film broken down by NewsOK Thunder beat reporter Anthony Slater;

These clips illustrate that along with aiming to slow the game down in his mind and focus on his defensive side that Adams has been working on his hands during the off-season. The DraftExpress crew that scouted Adams had this to say before the 2013 Draft;

“Even more concerning though is how poor of a finisher he appeared to be around the basket this year. Adams had a difficult time catching the ball cleanly all season long resulting in quite a few turnovers. He bobbles the ball on the catch regularly, as he seems to need to have it thrown to him perfectly so he can get two hands around it, at times using his chest to assist him. Because of his lack of control upon catching it, he tends to either hesitate going up strong for the finish, or just throws the ball up on the rim, seemingly just hoping for the best.”

The DraftExpress team are some of the best in the business and scouted Adams for over three years. Adams’ play so far on the Thunder is a small sample size, but the improvement is there for all to see.

It’s been a steep learning curve for the 20 year old, this being his fourth team in four years (Thunder, Pitt, Notre Dame Prep and Wellington Saints) but he is growing fast for a big.  The Thunder have five pre-season games to come over the next 10 day stretch against Denver, New Orleans Pelicans (Any chance to mention the Pelicans), Utah, Phoenix and Chicago. We will watch Adams with great intent over the stretch as he plays to avoid a bus ticket to Oklahoma’s D-League squad Tulsa, I’m off to print the Australian citizenship form.

Todd is an unrestricted free agent point guard in the local division two Tuesday night social league. Coming off an ACL injury suffered on the eve of last years playoffs he is currently on a Derrick Rose style #thereturn journey. The majority of the his 2012-13 season was spent trying to grow a Iman Shumpert flat top. Whilst rehabbing he is driving the Steven Adams hype train. Choo Choo! @toddjonessc