Tall Blacks coach Nenad Vucinic has no hard feelings about Steven Adams' decision to prioritise club over country.
While the national team opens its World Cup campaign with trials in Auckland today, Adams is in Orlando with the Oklahoma City Thunder's NBA summer league team.
"I don't have any problems with Steve not being available," Vucinic said. "I think it's very obvious that Steve is a good-hearted Kiwi boy and he will want to play for New Zealand in the future.
"I see Steve being one of the main players in the Tall Blacks in the years to come. My personal feel is that everything came a little bit too quick for him. Three years ago he was just a junior player here and now he's playing in the semifinals of the NBA.
"He probably needs a little bit of time to absorb that and then I'm sure he'll make himself available in the future. I would love to have him in the team . . . but they felt it's best for him not to play in the international programme this year. I respect that."
Vucinic will run the rule over 23 hopefuls at a two-day camp before selecting a 16-man squad on Thursday for the three-game series against Korea, starting in Wellington next Tuesday.
It is the first step in the Tall Blacks' preparations for the World Cup, to be held in Spain in August-September.
"It would have been nice if Steve was there but there's still a lot of great players that the New Zealand public is dying to see," Vucinic said.
"Even guys like Kirk [Penney], they haven't seen him for quite a while, he hasn't played the last two years for different reasons . . . obviously it would have been good to have somebody like Steve with the height and his athletic ability. And now experience as well, playing one year at such a high level. But we are used to playing a little bit shorter."
Forward/centre Rob Loe will also miss the Korea series after being named in the Golden State Warriors' NBA summer league team, tipping off on Saturday in Las Vegas.
"The last two years he played well for the Tall Blacks and he had a very good last season at St Louis [University]," Vucinic said. "We expect a lot from him and are very happy he's going to NBA summer league. We hope he's going to come back in very good form, to continue with us."
The other setback for Vucinic is the unavailability of Southland Sharks forwards Reuben Te Rangi and Leon Henry, who are facing assault charges and were not considered following their involvement in a New Plymouth bar brawl.
"A bit of a blow really," Vucinic said. "We're left a little bit light but there is a good opportunity for a lot of up-and-coming small forwards like Duane Bailey, Richie Edwards and Jordan Ngatai that can maybe make that extended squad."
Another of Vucinic's big decisions is the choice between Nick Horvath and Casey Frank as his one naturalised player.
- The Dominion Post
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