Adams has early shot to impress

MARC HINTON
Last updated 10:53 30/06/2013

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New Kiwi NBA recruit Steven Adams - the Thunder from Down Under - will not have to wait long to start the process of impressing his new coaches at Oklahoma City.

Adams will feature in the Thunder's Orlando summer league team that will play six games in six days in Florida from July 7-12. It will be his first chance to prove he has the skills to play at the NBA level, rather than be confined to the D-League where many are predicting he will spend at least his first year.

After heading straight to OKC following Friday's draft in New York, the Rotorua-born 19-year- old will spend a week familiarising himself with his new team-mates at the Thunder - or at least those who are around over the summer off-season.

Thunder general manager Sam Presti confirmed Adams and fellow draftees Andre Roberson and Grant Jerrett will take part in the Orlando summer league - the platform NBA teams use to assess young and fringe players.

"We will have a good week leading up before summer league," said Presti, who said he was "thrilled" to land the New Zealander with the 12th overall pick in the draft.

"It's very, very hard to find guys who can protect the basket and are physical," Presti said of his chief recruit. "This is a young player, but this is a physical player. He understands that he has a long way to go."

The Thunder GM didn't go as far as dismissing suggestions that Adams' game is not yet ready for the NBA level, but he did offer the raw New Zealander some hope.

"When you go back and study the film based on different points in the season, you can really see the progression in his game. He has some attributes that are hard to find," said Presti.

"There are a lot of people who say the draft is about bigs and point guards. That's why you see a lot of them. We are hoping that Steven will continue to grow moving forward."

Adams, who travelled to Oklahoma yesterday with his brothers Sid and Moses Beckham, pledged to do whatever was required as he set on this new chapter in his hoops career.

He goes in with his eyes wide open in terms of the development needed in his own game, and understands that is likely to involve logging time with the Thunder's D-League affiliate the Tulsa 66ers.

"All I'm trying to work on right now is rebounding, blocking shots, defence and running the lanes," Adams said at the draft. "All the base sort of stuff. I'll start from there and I'll try to branch off. Whatever the coaches want."

Adams will be jostling with a handful of centre options over the summer. Starting big man Kendrick Perkins still has two years left on his contract and is considered the most suitable mentor for the young Kiwi. The Thunder also have Hasheem Thabeet and Daniel Orton (both on non-guaranteed contracts) in the position, as well as last year's draftee Perry Jones III and starting power forward Serge Ibaka who are capable of playing the position.

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The Thunder will pay Adams over $5 million over the next two years because they believe he can evolve into a player capable of performing at a similar level to stars like Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Ibaka. The first step in that direction will take place in Orlando in just over a week.

- Sunday Star Times

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