Adams: Why I had to say no to the Tall Blacks

SAM WORTHINGTON
Last updated 05:00 04/06/2014
Steven Adams
Getty Images
HIGH JUMP: Steven Adams of the Oklahoma City Thunder drives to the basket against Tim Duncan of the San Antonio Spurs.

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Steven Adams did his best to twist his boss's arm.

But even at 2.13m and 116kg, New Zealand sport's man of the moment didn't quite have the powers of persuasion required to free him for national duties.

Adams yesterday explained why he won't be suiting up for the Tall Blacks at the August-September World Cup in Spain, an outcome that has burst the bubble of an otherwise feelgood story.

The 20-year-old had pushed his case with his Oklahoma City employers, but the answer was "no" as highly regarded Thunder general manager Sam Presti instead placed the centre on the post-rookie season plan that has helped Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook and Serge Ibaka develop into NBA superstars.

"I did all I can, man," Adams told Stuff.

"I do want to play and it doesn't rule it out forever. I still want to play for the Tall Blacks down the track. But you could have the best rookie season in history, Sam's still going to do the same thing. He treats everyone the same.

"Russ went through this, Serge has been through this, KD's been through this. It's been working. This is a formula for him so he doesn't want to change. There's always a reason why things are done. Sam's a smart man."

While Durant, Westbrook (both USA) and Ibaka (Spain) are all likely to play at the World Cup, it is simply bad timing for the Tall Blacks.

Thunder development policy dictates Adams and fellow rookies Andre Roberson and Grant Jerrett will instead be working out in Oklahoma and playing in the July 5-11 Summer League in Orlando.

If the World Cup was next year, he would probably be allowed to play.

But instead Adams will have to wait for the next one in 2019.

Despite an impressive season in which he was selected in the NBA's All-Rookie second team, Adams was down in the dumps as he reflected on coming within two wins of a date with LeBron James and the Miami Heat in the NBA Finals.

The Thunder bowed out of the Western Conference Finals on Sunday with a 4-2 series loss to San Antonio.

"I was just so close, man, and then not achieving what our goal was ... heartbreaking, bro. No-one likes losing and that's the sort of buzz I'm on right now. I'm going to use the anger to fuel me, to work out more and try and get better. I really do want to help OKC get a championship."

Adams has one more guaranteed year on his rookie contract and then two option years which the Thunder will almost certainly pick up. He earned $2.6 million in his rookie season, a figure that will rise slightly in 2014-15.

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Adams has bought a house in Oklahoma City which he shares with mentor Kenny McFadden and a personal chef.

He still does his own washing.

After some prodding, Adams admitted he could be quietly proud of his achievements.

"I mean, I guess so, man. I still haven't actually looked back on it. It's weird, I never have. I don't know if it's like a Kiwi attitude, I'm not sure, I've just never really got into it. Nothing really big to buzz about because we didn't win."

As for highlights, Adams opted for the Thunder's March comeback win in Toronto, when Durant dropped 51 points and hit a game-winning three.

"There has been memorable moments, where you're just amazed. But everything's a highlight, man, it's crazy."

Adams will holiday briefly in New Zealand before returning to the grind in Oklahoma.

"I'll just chill and rest bro, try and recover the body after the season. It's going to be mean. I heard it's cold, though."

- The Dominion Post

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