Steven Adams continues basketball education
Steven Adams may have been denied his international hoops education for now, but the big New Zealander continues to evolve his game in the NBA's Orlando Summer League.
The 20-year-old is coming off a standout rookie NBA campaign for the Oklahoma City Thunder and the club has prioritised his offensive development over the off-season as they eye a potential promotion to starting duties for the 2014-15 season.
That saw the Thunder withdraw Adams from any involvement with the Tall Blacks at the World Cup in Spain, preferring to have him work on his game under the eagle eye of their coaching staff in Oklahoma.
While it's hard to see how a full international campaign under the astute guidance of New Zealand men's coach Nenad Vucinic would not have benefited Adams' development, the Thunder are clearly playing it safe with a player they see as a key part of their future.
OKC were noticeably looking to get their 2.13m Kiwi centre more involved through the first four games of the Orlando league, used primarily by teams to develop and assess young talent over the off-season.
The Thunder dropped three of their first four outings in Orlando, but Adams posted double-figure contributions in two of the three games he played in as he saw significantly more offensive opportunities than he did through his rookie campaign.
Adams contributed just seven points (2/4 FG, 3/5 FT), two rebounds and two blocks in 17 minutes in the Thunder's opening 84-63 defeat to the Memphis Grizzlies, but then made more notable contributions either side of a DNP in OKC's 98-84 win over the Brooklyn Nets.
The Kiwi had 12 points (4/5 FG, 4/8 FT) and four boards in 29 minutes of action in an 84-73 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers and then added 10 points (3/6 FG, 4/10 FT), eight rebounds and five turnovers in 34 minutes as the Thunder went down 94-71 to the Indiana Pacers.
Adams averaged 3.3 points and 4.1 rebounds in 18.4 minutes a night during his rookie season with the Thunder, but summer league coach Darko Rajakovic told reports in Orlando they were looking to add some offensive layers to their young big man's game.
"That's something that we want to add to Steven's game," he said.
"He's a great defender, a great rim protector. But we want to have more possessions and more touches for Steven in the low post. That's what he needs to work on and continue to develop to add to his game."
Adams has said he understands the need to evolve his game, but remains convinced defence is where he can best make his mark.
"Last year I just had to really adapt to the system and figure out how I could really help the team," Adams told reporters in Orlando.
"That was really defence, and it still stands. So I still need to really work on my defense. That's the No. 1 goal. But also working on the offensive end."
Vucinic would certainly have relished the chance to help Adams with that development in the Tall Blacks programme, but for now the Thunder are not willing to take that chance with their increasingly valuable young commodity.
The Thunder are pursuing free agent LA Lakers big man Pau Gasol, though the Chicago Bulls are considered favourites to land the prized signature of the classy Spaniard.
What did you make of the Tall Blacks' World Cup campaign?