The Tall Blacks look set to head to the Fiba Basketball World Cup in Spain without the brightest star in the Kiwi game after Steven Adams admitted he is "unlikely" to play for New Zealand in the tournament in August.
After being drafted by the Oklahoma City Thunder last June, Adams has been one of the most impressive rookies in his first season in the NBA.
The Rotorua-born 20-year-old could even be in the NBA finals after the Thunder sealed a spot against the San Antonio Spurs in the Western Conference finals by eliminating the Los Angeles Clippers in the sixth game of their seven-match playoff on Friday.
It was long hoped Adams would be freed to play for the Tall Blacks.
However, the young Kiwi admits his chances are not looking good.
"That's a hard one, man," Adams said, when asked whether he would be available. "I'm not sure. It's not looking like I am, unfortunately. I really wanted to, but I've still got a long way to go - and a lot of work to do."
As recently as last week, Basketball New Zealand still held out hope of Adams being available.
"I hope the Thunder take the view that it's five years until the next World Cup, and it would be great for him to play," BBNZ boss Iain Potter told the Dominion Post.
Adams said his likely decision to not play for New Zealand in Spain was a combination of his commitments with Oklahoma City - and a personal focus to keep improving his game.
"I feel that I will really get a lot better if I just stayed the time in OKC with the coaches, and what not.
“That's mainly it, as well as OKC. They want to kind of meet me halfway when I told them where I want to go [as a player]. It doesn't mean that I won't do it in the future.”
Thunder teammates Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are set to play for the USA.
- Sunday Star Times
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