Steven Adams happy to have 'good guy' Paul George on board as a Thunder buddy

MARC HINTON
Last updated 16:19 29/08/2017
CHRIS McKEEN/Stuff.co.nz

Steven Adams' coaching clinics are being run across New Zealand.

CHRIS MCKEEN/FAIRFAX NZ
Steven Adams: 'The front office does a good job of bringing in really good people.'

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The hoops world looks at Paul George and recognises mad talent and athleticism that can lift the Oklahoma City Thunder from pretenders to contenders. Steven Adams just sees a "good dude" who has what it takes to fit into his new home.

It all depends on your perspective, of course.

George is the major addition to Adams' Thunder side for the 2017-18 NBA campaign which tips off mid-October, an acquisition critically rated the league's prime off-season pickup (at least until a certain Cavs-Celtics trade goes through), and a vital piece in the puzzle that could take OKC back to the promised land of, at least, the Western Conference finals.

Right now it looks like no one is catching up with the champion Golden State Warriors any time soon ... but that's another story.

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The Thunder at least now appear equipped to take a shot, with the pairing of George, a four-time All-Star and one of the best two-way players in the entire NBA, with reigning MVP and triple-double machine Russell Westbrook as good as any one-two punch in the entire league.

George isn't the only new face to the Thunder from the group that finished last season – the first of the post-Kevin Durant era – with a first-round playoff exit at the hands of the Houston Rockets. Power forward Patrick Patterson, backup point guard Ray Felton and draft pick Terrance Ferguson have also come on board, while Taj Gibson, Victor Oladipo and Domantas Sabonis have gone.

But he is the most significant.

Adams, back in New Zealand for his just completed kids' coaching camps and a looming Friday charity golf event in his name, was asked about the curious George addition (OKC have him for a year before he becomes a free agent), and his response was pure Steven Adams.

"It should be good, man," he told the assembled media at his Auckland coaching camp. "The front office does a good job of not bringing in ... (a less than complimentary term beginning with D is proffered) ... I'm not going to use that word. But along the lines of that.

"They bring in really good people who fit well into the locker-room because all that matters, because you could bring in a really good player, but if they screw up the locker-room you'll still lose games. And the whole point is winning games.

"The front office does a great job of analysing them as a person and then bringing them in. We're just lucky that Paul George is really, really good [as well]."

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The theory is that Adams, who is about to get seriously paid (US$22.5m next year) as he embarks on his first post-rookie contract, could be a prime beneficiary of George's addition. With he and Westbrook occupying all sorts of attention on the perimeter, the thinking is that could open up the sort of room in the paint that Adams began to enjoy at the end of Durant's tenure, but which was much harder to find last season.

The giant Kiwi just grins, and throws out one of those delightfully whimsical, non-committal answers he so specialises in.

"Sure. Love theories, eh. I've seen some theories about me shooting threes as well ... but won't happen."

Adams has never been guilty of over-thinking his role. He knows his job will be to continue to set the sort of screens that slashers like Westbrook and George thrive off, to crash the boards, to protect the paint and to switch out and guard the ball-handling wizards whenever the occasion demands it.

But he doesn't live to drop 30, or even 20, points on an unsuspecting defence. He exists only to please his coach, and to help his team win. All the other stuff is just external noise.

It's why he was vague when asked what he'd been working on this off-season. "All the same stuff, bro, the main big man stuff ... I ain't going to go into details because it's pretty boring."

And on whether he now slides into a more natural third-wheel role behind George and Westbrook, rather than last season's scenario when he often found himself the secondary offensive option:

"Sure. I have no idea. The coach will put us in positions that work to our strengths. It depends on what the defence is doing. I'll still be doing the same things.

"It's just some more challenges, man, I've got to learn and get better at."

It's fair to say Adams' pal, team-mate and travelling companion Andre Roberson was a little more forthcoming about the possibilities of playing alongside George.

The defensive potential of Roberson and George operating together, with their long arms and natural athleticism, is enough to have Thunder fans in somewhat of a lather.

"I'm real excited," says Roberson. "A player of his type of calibre can help this team out a lot achieving the things we want to before the end of the season.

"He's an all-round great player, and it's hard to stop a guy like that. The things we hear are he's a great guy on the court who can do everything. It will be easy for him to fit in with us, as we have a lot of great guys who welcome players. I think it will work out."

Good dude. Great player. Perfect combination.

- Stuff

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