I don’t know if Steven Adams is going to crack the regular rotation or even see sporadic minutes this season. But I am pretty sure about one thing already: This should be the last night he spends in Tulsa this year.
In 34 minutes, Adams did something Kendrick Perkins didn’t accomplish once last season in 78 games. He recorded a double-double.
OK, OK. It’s preseason. And that’s not an entirely fair stat because Perk reached double-figure rebounds nine times last season (with a 15-rebound game himself), but just never got the points and rebounds put together. Point is, Adams played a really good game and looked solid. Six of his 15 rebounds came on the offensive end and his activity keeping misses alive was outstanding. It was a glimpse of what executives were so encouraged by at the draft combine and had Adams skyrocketing up big boards. The guy is a huge body that moves well with good hands and an ability to finish. Already his improvement from Summer League to now is noticeable and if he can keep getting time, he’s only going to get better and better. He’s one of those raw, blank canvas kind of players.
And it only took a couple of offensive rebounds and a finished dunk or two for people to already start extrapolating. Forget backup. Should he be starting over Perk? I don’t think there’s any question that that’s the plan, or at least, the hope at some point in the future. But again, preseason. Second, producing and playing this way over an 82-game schedule for a rookie at 25-35 minutes a game isn’t easy. Doing half of that would be really good. Adams has been solid defensively, but he’s still a bit of a foul machine as he adapts to the speed of the NBA game and I’m not sold on him as a communicator. Perk has his issues and deficiencies but you can’t argue against some of the numbers. And until Adams can have that kind of consistent positive defensive impact, it’s probably not wise to go there. Yet.
Plus, and I hate to say it, there’s something to be said for the influence of Perk as a team leader. Making that change could hurt some feelings and make things awkward in an otherwise tight locker room. I know. I know. But that’s reality.
Let’s just take Adams’ performance for what it was — a very good one. It’s obvious he can play a little and the positive signs are growing. As a player filling a role and doing his job, it’s not hard to see him playing 25 effective minutes a game. He moves well, screens wonderfully, finishes and uses his size terrifically. He just swallows rebounds.
It was pretty much all good and something to build on. But it’s Oct. 17 and Adams has never played in an actual NBA game that counts. What I take away is that soon, he will.
Other notes and thoughts:
- After Thunder players combined to go 13-of-68 from 3 in the three previous preseason games, they went 12-of-23 tonight. Players not named Kevin Durant were just 5-of-41 coming in. Tonight, they went 9-of-17, including 8-of-9 in the first half.
- Jeremy Lamb was much, much better. He hit his first shot — a 3 set up nicely from KD — and didn’t really force anything. His final line — 12 points on 4-10 shooting, 2-5 from 3 — is a bit skewed by a halfcourt heave at the end of the first quarter and his force buzzer-beater at the end of the game that was blocked. All in all, an encouraging game and pretty much exactly what the Thunder need from him this season.
- Point of emphasis, I understand, but the moving screen calls tonight were out of control.
- Haven’t talked much about Thabo, but he seems to be improved as an offensive player. He had five assists and looked like a much more confident ball-handler and creator. Plus, is it just me or is his release a tad bit quicker?
- Via the Thunder’s broadcast crew, the NBA’s outlawed players touching the ball between free throws. Ibaka got rejected tonight asking for it.
- Nickname for Adams? Kid Kiwi, Kiwi Giant, Kiwi Monster? OK, I’m trying way too hard.
- I thought Reggie Jackson didn’t play all that great, but he finished with 12 points and nine assists to four turnovers. He did have a few bad possessions late running the offense in a close game and his runner on the baseline was a poor decision, but really, it was a solid game.
- Hey Ryan Gomes. Walked on the floor in the first half and hit 3-3 from deep to finish with 11 points in 12 minutes.
- On the Thunder’s first play, Al-Farouq Aminu caught KD’s left thumb and Durant was holding it the next few minutes. Just a reminder of how terrifying it would be if he got hurt.
- Durant was Durant. Twenty-five on 8-20 shooting in 32 minutes. He really got it going with 13 in the third. He’s good.
- “He really needs a faux hawk.” — my wife on Steven Adams. I tend to agree.
- Brian Davis Line of the Night: “Anderson put on the brakes, Adams must’ve been texting while driving.”
Next up: Home against the Jazz on Sunday