Basketball NZ in dark over Steven Adams
Basketball New Zealand boss Iain Potter says his organisation is in the dark about NBA superstar Steven Adams' apparent decision to snub the Tall Blacks at the upcoming World Cup in Spain.
The 20-year-old New Zealander was asked at his exit interview with the Oklahoma City Thunder today whether he would be playing at the World Cup. His reply: "No."
He was also asked whether he would be playing summer league again with the Thunder in Orlando in July. His response: "Hell, yeah."
Adams had earlier said he would be prioritising his off-season development with the Thunder, and would play again in the NBA summer league instead of heading to Spain with the Tall Blacks.
Potter, however, said BBNZ had yet to receive official confirmation Adams would not be available for the Tall Blacks, although he is resigned to that being the case.
"I have seen the reports of Steven's comments about playing for the Tall Blacks and have seen his exit interview with the Thunder in which he gave an off the cuff answer to a question as he was leaving the press conference but have not yet had any official communication from Steven or his management to this effect," Potter said.
"We have understood the need for patience while Steven was involved in the NBA play-offs and the importance on focusing 100 percent on that role with the OKC. We have made every attempt to keep in regular contact with him and his management team, expecting that post the play-offs we would be able to talk directly to him about the Tall Blacks' programme.
"Clearly we want a player of Steven's ability involved with the Tall Blacks and at the World Cup but we appreciate that he has other priorities at the moment. We are endeavouring to get a meeting with Steven and his management team on his return to New Zealand in the coming weeks to fully understand his plans and how we can best communicate in the future.
"He has a long and potentially successful NBA career ahead of him, from our point of view it is important that we know where the Tall Blacks stand in those plans so we can all work together."
Although it is almost certain Adams will not be heading to Spain, Potter remains upbeat that a very strong Tall Blacks squad will be selected.
"Steven will be a welcome member of this squad, but it is important that people don't get hung up on the fact he may not be there and appreciate the quality of the players that will be wearing black this year," he said.
Tall Blacks coach Nenad Vucinic will name his first roster at the conclusion of the NBL Finals in Wellington in early July. The World Cup will take place in Spain from August 30 to September 14.
Adams and the Thunder were eliminated in the Western Conference finals on Sunday by the San Antonio Spurs who won the series 4-2 to advance to a NBA finals rematch with the Miami Heat.
Adams will clearly become a special project with the Thunder over the off-season as they look to improve his offensive arsenal, further develop his promising defensive capabilities and tidy up some of the basics in his game.
The 2.13m backup centre and No 12 draft pick had a largely outstanding first season for the Thunder, earning second team All-Rookie selection and emerging as a regular part of coach Scott Brooks' rotation.
After a slow start, he also became a key cog for the Thunder in the post-season and played regular quality minutes as backup centre. He shot a standout 68.9 per cent from the floor in the playoffs and played solid defence against a host of star big men.
There is plenty of conjecture around the Thunder that Adams would replace Kendrick Perkins as the franchise's starting centre next season, though the Kiwi said his focus was simply on making the improvements he had to.
"It's just sticking to the same routine and just kind of intensifying that more," Adams told reporters in Oklahoma.
"I reached a pretty good platform right now. It's time to really solidify that and build on it and try to make an even bigger step.
"That's the goal for me personally, just really trying to do stuff a lot more intensely, work even harder now that I have a year and am familiar with the whole season."
Adams said he felt he still had "a ton more to learn" and that was clearly a major factor in electing to stick close to the Thunder and bypass the World Cup with Nenad Vucinic's Tall Blacks.
"I think I made a good step this year," he added.
"It's nowhere what I think I need to learn and get into good habits and be as smart as going and working out on my own. I'm definitely going to stick around them (Thunder coaches) as much as I can and try to get as much knowledge and try to learn the game."
Adams' staunch stance will disappoint Kiwi sports fans keen to see him in the black singlet of his country.
But given that the Thunder pay him about US$2.5 million (NZ$2.9m) a year in salary, that they clearly want to closely monitor his development and that they view him as an important figure in their ongoing development, it was perhaps understandable.
The disappointing part: It's hard to see how a fortnight playing against the best players on the planet could not have achieved a heck of a lot more than a few extra workouts in a practice facility somewhere in suburban Oklahoma.
What did you make of the Tall Blacks' World Cup campaign?