A Christmas letter from Steven Adams

A Christmas letter from Steven Adams

When Steven Adams sat down to pen his annual Christmas letter I don’t think his month of December figured too greatly.

I’m pretty sure it went something like this;

Dear Bro’s and Broettes,

It’s been a big year for Steven Adams, first we got knocked out during the second round of the NCAA tournament by some team from Wichetty Grub State, I didn’t even know Wichetty Grubs had a whole state little alone a basketball team. Afterwards some old bro called Arn approached me saying I need to take my talents to the Association immediately. Arn turned out to be an agent, he was dropping names like Kobe, D-Rose and Westbrook. He said he even got Joe Johnson his money. I said excuse me Mr Bro, I’m not interested in money, but can you get me these four things;

1. Pavlova

2. A house with a clothesline

3. Play Station 4

4. Bundaberg Ginger Beer

Arn said he could give me all those things and more so I told Arn to activate the beaver and sign me up. He’s delivered on all four promises but the Ginger Beer was a little flat, I think Russell got the good slab of Bundaberg (Did you know Bundy is actually Aussie?  I had no idea).

Anyways I went and worked out for many teams and attended the combine. I must have impressed some bros because I was drafted twelfth by the Thunder. Mr Presti phoned me straight away and asked “You better be as good as Harden kid!” I replied “Who’s Harden?” Mr Presti said “I like your swagger kid”. I never did find out who that “Harden” fellow is.

I then went to play summer league near Disney Land. Thankfully my wicked side part held up in the Orlando heat, I was worried the humidity would get to it and cause it to sag. Thankfully it held strong and I’m happy to report I sit atop the NBA haircut power rankings as of writing this letter. I wish Nick Collison could read and would have a look at the rankings because he doesn’t even think I’m atop the rankings within the Thunder locker room.

Thankfully I made the opening day roster and didn’t have to go to Tulsa. That’s where we have our Development squad and in between Oklahoma and Tulsa there lies a Toll booth. Man I hope Mr Brooks doesn’t send me to Tulsa. I spent all my pay cheque on Pavlova’s, I even had to borrow some hair gel from Nick and it made my side part go flaky. Never again.

We have had a good start and Mr Brooks was happy with me. I think. I can never tell with Mr Brooks, it’s like he wants to say something nice but his lips won’t move. He’s nice to Kevin sometimes but I think that’s only because I heard a rumour Kevin was going to go play with this ‘Harden’ fellow in a few years. That made Mr Brooks sad.

Something that made me sad was the amount of guys who get angry at me on court. Not my guys, guys I don’t even know. First this little bro from Denver pushed me in my chiselled chest then Mr Carter elbowed me in my jaw , a bro from Los Angeles called swaggy diddy or swag puffy or something like that shoved me in the chest and just the other day another Nugget hit me. Maybe it’s something with the thin air up there in Denver, maybe I’m just clutching at straws here trying to figure out why these guys keep hitting me. All I know is that these bro’s keep getting fined for hitting me but I’m not seeing any money. Where does this money go? Don’t they know the postage costs on Bundy Ginger Beer from New Zealand?

Anyways I best be off, we have to travel to New York to play on Christmas day. If you don’t see me enter the game in the first quarter you know why… The Christmas Pavlova isn’t sitting right.

Merry Christmas bros and broettes,

Steven.

I’m almost certain it went something like that.

Last time we checked in with Steven he was looking for a clothesline, in particular a new home. Part II is here.

The last game we reviewed in the Steven Adams experience saw him play 27 minutes whilst grabbing seven boards against the Utah Jazz on November 24. Before that match up he had played over 20 minutes in six of his 12 games. Since that matchup he has played over 20 minutes in only two out of 17 games.

Looking at the splits from November vs. December we see a slight decrease in all stat categories. Adams minutes decreased over three MPG in comparison to his November minutes along with a 1.5 PPG decrease and he is close to one rebound down on his 5.2 RPG November average.

Looking for answers as to why this may be the case and one could simply say that the scouting report is out on Adams and teams are starting to figure out the Rotorua native (can’t wait to see how my Nets use six year, six million dollar scout Lawrence Frank’s scouting report for their January 2 game in OKC). It could be since Kendrick Lamar Perkins recovered from the hand injuries he suffered in the early part of the 2013/14 campaign that his two minute increase in minutes for December in comparison to November is slightly affecting Adams’s numbers.

Before we go any further dissecting the recent play of Adams it should be noted that I don’t believe  the Thunder are even remotely concerned about the small decrease in their number 12 draft pick’s production. The Thunder has only lost two of their past 21 games and has seen an increase in the defensive performance of Perkins.  Adams is doing his job as the backup centre and putting pressure on Perkins to perform.

Now It could simply be with this greater sample size that this is Adams true ability. There has been much talk lately about who is the Adams player comparison. Many names have been thrown about, NZhoops senior writer Niall Anderson mentioned Samuel Dalembert in his prime could be the level at which Adams reaches.  Other names mentioned have been Nene, Nenad Kristic, Andrew Bogut, Collison, Brook Lopez and Joakim Noah. I’ve also heard Zaza Pachulia’s name mentioned but some may think I just made that up so I could write his name and say it over and over again in my head as I proof read this. Lastly I’d seen Byron Mullens’ name thrown about as a player comparison for Adams, but without a doubt that was simply put in there to show this again

So let’s do a lightning round comparison of Adams’ first 30 games in the NBA in comparison to a few of the previously mentioned names first 30 games (did you notice how most of the names thrown about when trying to find the player comparison for Adams are white players, this trend of only being able to compare white players to white players is a whole entire article in itself but just something I have never understood).

In Adams’ first 30 games he is averaging 15.7 MPG whilst grabbing 4.5 RPG, 0.9 BPG and 3.9 PPG.

The Haitian Sensation Samuel Dalambert averaged 5 MPG, 2 RPG, 0.3 BPG and 1.3 PPG debuting for the Philadelphia 76ers.

The seven foot Nenad Ballistic Krstic averaged 20 MPG, 4 RPG, 1 BPG and 6.7 PPG.

Currently ranked within the top 10 in NBA haircut power rankings, Nick Collison averaged 13 MPG, 3.8 RPG, 0.4 BPG and 3.7 PPG for the Seattle Supersonics (man I love me some Supersonics basketball, the biggest blight on the association is that a team does not exist in Seattle).

The seventh pick from the 2002 NBA draft Nene averaged 25 MPG, 6 RPG, 0.8 BPG and 8.5 PPG in his first rookie campaign with the Denver Nuggets.

Zaza Pah-chool-e-ya averaged 11 MPG,  2.8 RPG, 0.2 BPG and 3.3 as a 19 year old for the Orlando Magic.

The never ever, ever, ever going to leave Brooklyn Brook Lopez averaged 28 MPG, 7.8 RPG, 2 BPG and 10PPG for the then New Jersey Nets.

The former number one pick from the Utah Utes Andrew Bogut averaged 27 MPG, 7.4 RPG, 1 BPG and 9 PPG for the saveourbucks.com in 2005.

Finally the Bulls ninth pick in the 2007 draft Joakim Noah averaged 13 MPG, 3.6 RPG, 0.6 BPG and 4.3 PPG.

Looking at the above statistical comparisons and making the statement that Adams will end up as a mix between Nick Collison and Joakim Noah because his numbers through the first 30 games compare well would be very dangerous, but it’s good to know where he sits in a vacuum.

Returning to why Adams has seen a recent decrease in production, it could also be due to some reporting he’s been looking a little lost at times. Following the win against the Spurs two nights earlier the Thunder would go against their newest rivals in the Golden State Warriors. Although the Thunder would turn the tables on the one point loss in the previous match up and get the victory on a Westbrook bomb, Adams would struggle. Darnell Mayberry of NewsOk.com would report in his daily nuggets that Adams would start the second half in place off the struggling Perkins. Just before the half begun coach Scott Brooks pulled Adams aside to draw something up for the rookie centre in a teaching moment. He would play the first six minutes and had some success but ultimately would be pulled and didn’t see any more action in the clash. Mayberry wrote a good example of how the coaching staff wants and needs Adams to communicate better:

“As the Thunder transitioned back on defence, Ibaka looked directly at Adams and motioned with his hand for Adams to talk. Andrew Bogut then set a high ball screen for Steph Curry, but because Adams was fighting through traffic to get out he couldn’t really inform Westbrook that the pick was coming. Westbrook crashed into Bogut and during a stoppage shortly thereafter got on Adams’ case about calling out the screen. The poor rookie couldn’t even explain that he was getting screened himself. And Westbrook didn’t look like he cared. He just wanted communication.”

Thunder would end a six game home stand against Shabazz Muhammad’s Timberwolves (I don’t care that he only played 81 seconds, its Shabazz’s team).  It was the first real time Adams came up against an opponent he could not out-muscle in Nikola Pekovic. Adams was called upon early due to Perkins facing first quarter foul trouble and according to Mayberry quickly learnt he wasn’t going to be able to bang with Pekovic as he simply bumped, spun and scored on the young Kiwi.

There were little talking points during his following five games in which Adams couldn’t crack five points or five rebounds in any game including a loss to Portland. After the loss and before the clash against the CANS a few nights later Adams conducted this interview with Grant Long. I love how he talks about passing in the post.

Adams would only manage to play more than 15 minutes once during the non notable stretch with that outing coming in the blowout win against the visiting Pacers in which Durantula made a statement in the KD vs. PG debate for second best player in the league. Below is a brief video of Adams’ work against the Pacers.

A few nights after the big win over the Pacers, the Thunder would face off against the Memphis ‘There are no bears near Tennessee’ Grizzlies. Coach Brooks has to be gaining some sort of confidence in the young Kiwi as much as he tries to fight it. Royce Young of the Daily Thunder reported at one point Adams went to enter the court but briefly turned back to Brooks and asked if he wanted him to guard Zach Randolph, Brooks would reply “Yep”. Later in the game Adams would suffer a high ankle sprain after landing awkwardly following a rebound attempt. Yes, you read that right. Funaki is not immortal.

It was great to see his Thunder teammates tend to the young rookie, shows he is a well received player within the Thunder locker room. I’m convinced that Adams didn’t need to sit on the ground after the injury and was only doing what Reggie Jackson (James Harden 2.0 when the Thunder won’t can’t resign the emerging star) was telling him to do and “sit down, sit down, sit down”. Adams never needs to sit. Ever.

The fear was Adams would have to miss a multiple games with the sprain including a matchup against the Lakers at home two nights later. But Adams doesn’t feel pain. Adams doesn’t miss games. He would suit up in the 25 point win over the Lakers and prove why he will be THE toughest player in the NBA in the coming years. Not one of, THE toughest.

The next game Adams and the Thunder would play the Orlando Magic and the rookie managed over 20 minutes in the three point win. But it was this block on fourth highest scoring guard in the NBA Arron Afflalo that was Adams’s highlight in the game.

Following the Magic matchup the Thunder would travel to the mile high city Denver to face off against the Nuggets. Adams would add another name to the list of players he has had ejected. Jordan Hamilton would get tossed for throwing a light punch at the big kiwi. Following a rebound Adams would look to block Hamilton’s chance at getting back on defence as he held his ground under the basket. Hamilton would take exception to the young Kiwi’s solid screen and retaliate. Below is the video

Hamilton now joins ‘only won the dunk contest because of his height’ Nate Robinson and the ghost of Vince Carter as players to be ejected for retaliating to something Adams has done.

After playing decent minutes in wins over the Bulls and away to the Spurs, Adams and the Thunder would suffer a loss to Drake’s (don’t sleep on his latest album “Nothing was the same”, excellent album) Toronto Raptors at home. It was supposed to be an Adams vs. Tyler Hansbrough battle all night but in 2:06 minutes on court late in the first quarter he picked up three fast fouls and had to sit. In the short period they faced off against each other there was a lot of banging but we would be robbed of a true battle.

Early on I was critical of Adams’ consistent foul trouble but I let the rookie centre off for his youthful exuberance. Now I just believe he gets fouls called upon him for being too strong. Always frustrates me in sport that an athlete who is bigger and stronger gets penalised simply for being bigger and stronger. Have to reward these guys.

Three nights later Adams would get the chance to play in what should have been a Christmas Day special.  Rather it turned into a 29 point rout of the other New York basketball club. Adams would play 12 minutes in the blowout, scoring five points in his first trip to the Garden including this after a pretty pass from Collison.

As the year drew to a close, the Thunder faced off against the Harden, Howard and the rest of Houston. This matchup hurts Adams as the Rockets are going the route of playing Howard at centre and surrounding him with outside guys (mostly due to the fact they have no other choice). So with the small line-up Adams cannot get a decent matchup, and the Thunder play small ball aswell, therefore restricting his minutes. Adams still managed to drop six points in six minutes during garbage time including a 14 foot jumper. Mid-range game!

The Thunder closed out 2013 at home against the Blazers on New Year’s Eve, failing to avenge their loss earlier, going down 98-94, Adams’ getting 20 minutes for four points and three rebounds, but also three turnovers.

So although our hero the big Funaki has suffered a small decrease in production during the month of December it’s not all doom and gloom. The Thunder is rolling (yeah you like what I did there didn’t you) and Adams is still getting minutes.  How they play in the New Year with Westbrook out we will wait and see but a 25-5 record is a great start to their 2013/14 campaign.

But here’s my favourite indication of Adams true production, his per 36 numbers. When adjusting Adam’s stats to per 36 minutes he is averaging 8+ PPG, 10+ RPG and 2+ BPG.

2013 has been a great journey for the young Kiwi; I look forward to following his progress into 2014 and beyond. I hope you will join me.

In the meantime;

Steven Adams #NBAballot

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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