I believe there is an ancient New Zealand folklore story that goes something like this;
There once stood a figure, seven foot tall, believed to be half man, half beast with a perfect side part. That figure sailed across the high seas to compete against men of a foreign land. That figure would launch himself to levels of athleticism far beyond his imagination. He would wind up under the brightest of lights with millions of eyes watching his every move. Some of that figure’s opponents would grow quite tired of the half man, half beast and try to unnerve him. These men would find themselves repeatedly moved from the contest with the beast. The beast remains un-phased by these men and simply went on searching for his next victim.
Correct me if I’m wrong but I’m pretty sure that’s what they teach the youth of New Zealand, word for word.
In a snapshot Steven Adams had another slight decrease in production when comparing his January to December, as was the case when comparing his December to the young kiwi’s first month in the NBA of November.
Just as in December, Adams would play 17 games for the Cinderella City Thunder in January. The OKC basketball club finished with a 13-4 record including a 10 game winning streak in which Kevin “Iceberg Slim” Durant forgot he was a mortal. The rookie centre would see his minutes decrease again but only to 13.0MPG compared to 14.1MPG in the festive season. Although his FG% marginally increased he would witness a drop off in his FT% (71.4% vs 56%), assists, steals, blocks and points per game. Notably all of these were only minor decreases and he did manage to increase his rebounds by close to half a rebound a game whilst also decreasing his turnovers and fouls but we will get to the fouls later.
The former Pittsburgh Panther begun the month welcoming the better New York basketball club to the Cheasapeake Arena and luckily for Adams and his Longley-Marks medal voting, the Nets came away victors. Adams had an efficient shooting night, going 2-from-3 from the field and 3-of-4 at the charity stripe. He would also add two steals and two blocks but could only grab one rebound during his 14 minutes of court time. The young Kiwi put seven points towards the Thunder total but it wasn’t enough to defeat the better New York basketball club. But as good as the Brooklyn Nets are I believe I found the true reasoning behind the Thunder’s loss, there appeared to be some locker room tension which no doubt originated from this photo posted on Hasheem Thabeet’s (Yes, he is still on the roster) Instagram;
As you can see many of the Thunder teammates are hanging out (one can only presume Adams was with Nick Collison at the salon) but one Thunder player did take exception to the photo, you guessed it, Kendrick Lamar Perkins. The emotional centre went on to comment;
@Kendrickp5 “Y’all N***** go do s*** and don’t hit perk up I see. It’s love tho”
Nobody leaves Perk out.
Just finally on The Dream’s photo, Iceberg Slim’s hat is outstanding. Absolutely outstanding.
Two nights later and Adams came within a single rebound of his second career double but what happened to prevent that was evidence that the only creature that can stop Steven Adams is Steven Adams. Late in the third quarter Adams would come down awkwardly on his ankle and would leave the game. He wasn’t able to return to the floor and as such fell one rebound short of a dub dub. Although his final stat line was still nothing to scoff at with the young big playing 15 minutes, 4-of-5 FG, 2-of-2FT, nine rebounds, two blocks and 10 points. Iceberg Slim dropped 48 in the win over the T-Wolves but that couldn’t overshadow the young Kiwi’s performance. Postgame there was little concern over Adam’s ankle as at worst it was believed he may only miss a few games. Well, Lazarus once again proved why he is THE toughest player in the association (I do not care what folks say about Z-BO) and played the next night (not the next game, the next night!) against the Celtics at home. We should have known he would suit up as after the game Adams tweeted out;
@RealStevenAdams “Just a flesh wound. #Thunderup #KiwiBlood”.
And for those on Shabazz watch, Muhammad had a DNP – Coaches desicion in the game and would be sent to Iowa for a four game stint in the D-League following the Thunder matchup (He averaged 24.5 PPG and 9.8 RPG so he can play guys, he can play).
Whilst Adams did manage to adorn the Thunder uniform for the Celtics clash the Thunder went up big and coach Scott Brooks was able to manage without the Big Funaki, only playing him for 4:37 in the 23 point win.
Following the victory over ‘the destination of all the better NY basketball club’s draft picks’ the Thunder went on a two game Northwest division road trip to Utah and Colorado. Both stops would result in double digit losses for the Thunder as Adams averaged close to 15 minutes, five boards and 3.5 points over the Rocky Mountain swing. Despite the losses I think our hero still had a positive road trip if you take into account his twitter posts.
That boy loves to eat.
Returning home to Cindy City the Thunder would welcome the saveourbucks.com to town. In particular Adams would extend a warm welcome to Larry Sanders . Lost little Larry Sanders who has not been without issues after signing his four year, $44 million rookie contract extension. Adams would grab five rebounds for the third game in a row along with adding one assist and a single point from the charity stripe. But it was the ejection of Sanders which proved to be the best production of Adams night. The Thunder were up by nine with seven minutes remaining in the second before Sanders was tossed from the game after a flagrant two foul on Adams. Larry Letdown was not proving to be the player that the Bucks put so much of their faith in last August as at the time of being ejected, he had zero points and four rebounds in seven minutes.
The Thunder would then set off of a Southwest swing as they faced off against the Grizzlies and James Harden’s Rockets. In the first of the two games Memphis would welcome the return of Marc Gasol from a 23 game lay off and although the Thunder would out-rebound the Griz they would lose by three points. Adams got some quality minutes, playing his first game over 20 minutes in 13 outings. He would spend some time on both Gasol and Z-Bo, scoring five points and rebounding well for a tied team high of nine (tied with Serge Ibaka). Newsok OKC beat reporter Darnell Mayberry reported Adams played quite well defensively, not requiring many double teams and being smart enough to not bite on the pump fake. The young Kiwi would not get the nod down the stretch though as coach Brooks went with Nick Collison on Z-Bo which turned out to be a talking point postgame.
OKC’s second game in the Southwest swing would be a memorable one and not for the right reasons for Harden’s Houston squad. The Rockets would set an NBA record for largest difference in first half to second half points scored as they lost to the Thunder by 12. H-Town started hot scoring 73 points in the first but once Thunder got off the team bus they stifled the Rockets to a measly 19 second half points. Coach Scott Brooks said “I know most of you didn’t go to UC-Irvine, but that’s 54 points different”. Thanks Coach.
The big Funaki struggled guarding seven foot Lithuanian Donatas Motiejunas. The 23-year-old center had his best game of the season, going 6-for-9 from the field and 3-of-4 from beyond the arc for 15 points. Adams is athletic but even he battled with a big who can drain the three. Donatas did have an outlier game though as he is averaging a touch under 18% from three point land as of writing. This game would also be the start of a stretch in which Adams experienced foul trouble. He picked up three fouls in his first seven minutes and would finally foul out with 8:40 left in the game after spending some time defending Dwight Howard. He would leave the game with four rebounds and five points in just over 10 minutes of court time.
Adams final act of the night was this double foul with Dwight, which was Adams sixth foul;
Golden State would jet into town to play in the third bout of the season’s best series and it would be the second game in a Thunder back to back. I can’t help but feel that every team does this before they face the Warriors;
Anyways it wouldn’t be as tight a finish as the previous two meetings between what I truly hope is the two Western Conference finals contenders. Stone Cold would play double digit minutes again as he took the bragging rights in the Australia vs New Zealand bout with Andrew Bogut. He added five rebounds, one steal and six points in eleven minutes but fouled out for the second straight game.
(And Iceberg Slim had a career high 54 point night, but that was clearly just a side show to the main act in Adams)
I’m sensing a strong negative feel towards “Ozzie’s” from the young kiwi, his twitter page following the win over Bogut’s Warrior outfit reaffirms my beliefs;
Why can’t we just be friends Steven?
Could the rookie foul out in a third stra BOOOOOOOOGIIIIEEEEE!!!!!! Man I couldn’t even finish the opening sentence to the matchup with the Kings before I had to blurt out Boogie’s name. Let’s look at a Boogie photomontage.
Back to it and could the rookie centre foul out in a third straight game? Yes, yes he could but Adams fouling out wouldn’t effect the final result as the OKC squad ran out 15 point victors of Sac-Town. In the rookie’s close to 20 minutes on court he was able to secure seven rebounds, one assist and two steals. Returning to the foul trouble, looking at the three game stretch against the Rockets, Warriors and Kings he played 40:38 seconds and tallied 18 fouls. That means he fouled out three times in 40 minutes or a foul every 2:15 when on court during the stretch. The most concerning foul of the stretch was this one;
Do not touch BOOOOGGGIIIIEEEEE!
But Coach Brooks does not seem overly concerned about Adams foul trouble saying “I tell him, don’t worry about your fouls, play the brand of basketball we need you to to play: tough, physical, protector of the pain and rim”. For an excellent breakdown of Adams foul issues see Kevin Yueng’s piece over at Welcome to Loud City.
Iceberg Slim decided to welcome Portland to town with 46 points which allowed OKC to take a one game lead over the Trailblazers in Kanye and Kim’s daughter’s division. The Big Funaki was able to add six rebounds, one assist, one block and four points whilst more importantly staying out of foul trouble in his 17 minutes on court.
Remember the New Zealand folklore story that I told in the opening to this piece, well it appears during the month of January another line was added;
“Some men would simply touch the beast and would find their finger become broken”.
One man in particular discovered this first hand (yeah, you see what I did there, didn’t you). Late in the first half of the Thunders visit to San Antonio, the Spurs top defensive stopper in Kawhi Leonard would discover just how strong Stone Cold is and just how powerful those big biceps are as he broke his finger on the big kiwi’s upper arm.
Some might say Adams won this game all by himself, carrying the team to the promise land on those broad shoulders. Durant only had 11 points before Leonard had to leave the game with three minutes to go in the first half. Durant does not go on to score another 25 points and win the game if Adams doesn’t help Iceberg shake Leonard’s tight defence. Adams guiding the Thunder home along with his seven rebounds will sure give the Longley-Marks voting panel something to consider when they review the month.
Steven Funaki Paea He Ofa Ki Loa Adams (speaking of Steven’s lengthy name tree and leaf clothing have made the sensational t-shirt below and have put a neat little price tag on it) and the Thunder would finish January with five straight games against the Eastern conference as they looked to extend their five game win streak.
In the first two games against the East Adams would play close to 20 minutes and eight minutes against the Celtics and 76ers respectively. Both games would be double digit wins for the Thunder as they extended the streak as Adams was able to grab six boards, two assists, two blocks and four points across the two games.
To extend the streak to eight games the Thunder would have to beat the Hawks at home on Grammy night. Before the Oscars Adams would tweet out to new Australian Lorde;
@RealStevenAdams “Good luck @Lordemusic Take out the @theGRAMMYs #HugeFan”
Two of Australia’s newest icons would get wins on Grammy night as Adams and the Thunder beat the Hawks by two points with the rookie adding four rebounds and two points in just under 10 minutes of action.
For the Thunder to extend the streak even further to nine games they would have to beat both Miami and Brooklyn away from Chesapeake Arena. In a replay of the 2012 NBA Finals the Thunder would reap revenge on Lebron and the Heat, finishing the game 17 points ahead of the Heat. This was not Adams game though, he would only play 1:46 as coach Brooks went small ball, even Perry Jones III was on court in place of Kendrick Lamar as the Thunder felt like they had found the recipe to beat the two time defending champs. This would be Adams lowest minutes in his 47 game NBA career and he also failed to record a stat in his limited time on court.
Once again returning to our folklore story there was one last part to be added to this tale from January;
“Finally, the creature would be hand picked among dozens of young mythical prospects to go head to head, best against the best in a rising mythical creatures battle”.
I’m certain Adams would not have been too down on his lowly minutes in the Heat clash as the same night he was selected to play in the BBVA Rising Stars game on All-Star Weekend (As was the GREEK FREAK GIANNIS ANTETOKOUNMPO). It puts a nice little feather in Adams rookie cap and with the new fantasy draft format it’s sure to be a great game.
Thunder won, Nets lost is all I’m prepared to write about the Thunders final game in January.
To finish the January review of Adams rookie year I would like to highlight two stats;
55.9% and 50.6%.
Not exactly the most exciting figures but let’s run through them;
55.9% of Steven Adams rebounds are contested. That puts him only second in the league behind JaVale McGee in players who have over six rebound opportunities per game. But Adams grabs 4.1% more of his total chances compared to McGee. What does this mean? Nobody bangs bodies like the Funaki.
50.6% of the shots opponents make against Adams at the rim score points. Adams can at times be picked apart for his defence and rightfully so because lets not forget, he is a 20 year old rookie playing for his fourth team in four years. But in comparison to Nick Collison, opponents only make 1.7% more of their shots against Adams. The young kiwi will also give you 0.3 more blocks a game over Collison. This is not supposed to be a case for how good Steven Adams is because some of these numbers are almost statistically insignificant but that’s the point, Adams is not that bad on defence when compared to Collison who gets more of the crunch time minutes on defence. For as bad as Kendrick Lamar Perkins can be on offence it should be noted that when adjusting the data as to only include players whose opponents attempt three or more field goals at the rim, Perkins ranks eighth in the league.
Oh and we almost got through an entire review without seeing this;