Steven Adams came here from Pittsburgh by way of New Zealand by way of, I don’t know, the golden pastures of heaven, and all he’s been trying to do since the day he was drafted is become your favorite player.
Initially considered too much of a project to contribute early on, over the course of a summer league and a pre-season, Adams has swung the narrative of expectations into something like “LET’S GET THIS GUY ON THE FLOOR RIGHT NOW.” The New Zealander is causing rumblings and thunderings from fans in need of a center that can do something, anything, on the offensive end. They’re coming in loud and they’re coming in clear and they’re coming in right behind the rain. This guy should get some burn, and maybe quite a bit of it.
He’s shown himself, thus far, to be a physical guy that plays with great energy and pace. One that can rebound his position and actually catch and finish a shot around the rim. He can actually catch the basketball. One of the more impressive traits that he possesses, when compared to other centers that live in Oklahoma, is the ability to receive a pass from a teammate and hold onto it. He can secure a pass and not drop it. When someone passes him the ball, he doesn’t fumble it. He catches it. He’s shown the ability, thus far, to really do a fantastic job of catching the freaking ball, making sure to not drop it to the ground, travel, double dribble, or let it go out of bounds. I repeat myself because I’m in shock that a center wearing blue and orange is capable of such a thing.
Perk probably gets a bad wrap and the team’s record since his shoes got stained by the red clay is staggering, but there’s no denying or hiding his complete inability to do most anything helpful on the offensive end of the floor has hurt the Thunder badly. The staff’s frequent insistence on getting him involved early in games last season is still one of the more puzzling things I saw and if I never see him miss a chip shot from 2 ft again it’ll be too soon. Perk can certainly still do some great things on the defensive end, there’s just not enough greatness being brought forth consistently to justify that contract.
All signs point to Adams being a genuinely likable guy. In a draft night interview that can be found here, he’s able to make the awkward interaction between Jill Martin and Craig Sager actually pretty pleasant. He’s not wrapped up in his outfit, like a good what seems like 80% of the league is now. He didn’t even pick it out. He made Sager seem downright affable during a pocket square discussion, and those moments are few and far between — the last time probably being here.
In a post game interview with NBA TV after a game against Philly this summer he spoke matter of factly about the ways in which he’s had to adapt to a league that’s much faster and stronger and smarter than the one he came from and he speaks genuinely on focusing on defense and rebounding and running the floor with energy. The answers seem stock until you see him speak the words. He lights up when he talks about working the Thunder’s big man coach, Mark Bryant. He legitimately brushes off a question about whether or not he’s excited to start playing with Westbrook and Durant and talks about how Bryant is teaching him all the veteran tricks.
Talking about Bryant: “Man, it’s crazy. He’s quite creative, eh?”
Then he looks right into the camera: “It’s pretty awesome.”
He goes on to talk about how Bryant is teaching him how to play on the defensive end, how that’s what he has to lock down first, and in the process convinces me that learning how to play defense from Mark Bryant may very well be the funnest thing on the face of the earth.
All he’d done through five preseason games was lead the Thunder in rebounding, hauling in 13.6 per 36 minutes. In their latest game against the Suns he again impressed putting up 10 and 8 in just 26 minutes of play. He’s playing well, and he has people salivating at the idea of him carrying a bit of that production over into the regular season.
Course, it is just pre-season, and he’s certainly got a long way to go. Royce has pointed out, in a fantastic piece, that Adams still gets caught standing around on defense. In another (fantastic) piece, Darnell Mayberry talks about the development of Adams and how, for all his quality production, up until his recent matchup with — and subsequent HANDLING of — Utah’s Enes Kanter, he still hadn’t gone against a truly quality player at his position. There will be growing pains, yes. He’s a rookie that still only played one year at Pitt. He’s raw and untested. But he’s got people excited.
We’ll ride out on a 2013 Draft Media Day Interview. In between the reporters obsession with the possibility of him ending up in Philadelphia you get a pretty calm and comfortable Adams. He seems chill. A real bru. There’s also a Will Perdue shout out so I don’t know what more you could possibly want.