Steven Adams will play for NZ - Thunder boss
Oklahoma City boss Sam Presti says he will encourage, not block, Steven Adams playing for the Tall Blacks in the future.
The unlikely duo spoke to media before Adams' camp for close to 400 kids in Wellington today, with Thunder general manager Presti making time in his busy schedule to visit the city where his centre of the future learnt his craft.
Presti, who in 2007 became the NBA's youngest GM at age 30, is well aware of the sudden popularity of his franchise in New Zealand and the disappointment felt when Adams was scrubbed out of the World Cup, tipping off on August 30 in Spain.
It was a mutual decision between player and franchise, as Adams looks to build on a highly successful rookie season, but one that left Kiwi fans scratching their heads given the Thunder's willingness to allow other players to participate in the international game.
Without giving a timeline on when Adams might pull on a black singlet, Presti made it clear that day would come.
''Physically, mentally, taking a step back and realising that he needs to stagger his development work in the off-season, was I know a very tough choice for him and something we certainly support,'' Presti said.
''But at the same time that by no means doesn't mean he's not going to be playing for the national team in the future. The hope would be that the national team benefits from the work he's putting in currently, when he does play for them... I think it will be case by case... We know it's important to him and we're going to support him as he goes through that. But it would be premature I think for any of us to say: 'this is what's going to happen a year from now'.''
Adams, who jets out to Taiwan for another camp tomorrow, was vague about his Tall Blacks future.
''I'll definitely be watching them, still supporting them,'' Adams said.
''I always support the New Zealand teams. Did you see the All Blacks last night? God, man, a draw!''
Whatever the case, Presti said his trip was an indication of his commitment to the 21-year-old from Rotorua, who looms as the Thunder's starting centre for potentially the next decade.
ASB Stadium resembled a religious rally yesterday as kids kitted out in Thunder T-shirts swarmed their giant hero and the New Zealand Basketball Academy camps are set to grow bigger and better in coming years.
''I can assure you he is constantly carrying the flag of the country and telling us all the things that he's excited about and proud of,'' Presti said.
''Seeing this facility, seeing what [Adams' mentor] Kenny [McFadden] and Steven have done at the youth level here, is remarkable and as an organisation, makes our wheels turn a little bit as to what's the next step of this for us, how can we help provide Steven support for what he wants to do in terms of helping the youth of the city, youth of the country, experience basketball at a great level... Our hope is that Steven is going to be a part of our organisation for an extremely long period of time.''
Adams exceeded external expectations in his rookie season, after becoming the first New Zealander to be selected in the first round of the draft.
He provided a physical and energetic defensive presence before taking his game to another level in the playoffs, averaging 24 minutes in the Western Conference Finals against the eventual champion San Antonio Spurs.
He may well be handed starter's duties ahead of veteran Kendrick Perkins when the 2014-15 season tips off against the Portland Trail Blazers on October 30.
''One of the reasons we're so confident in him as a person is his humility,'' Presti said.
''And I think a big part of that is how he came up, how he grew up, the situations he's been encountered with, how he's reacted to those adversities. Those are things we really looked at strongly when we made the decision to draft him. It wasn't just 'this is a big guy, he's got great hands, he's really quick in small spaces, he's incredibly strong.'
"All of that's great but the part for us that really did it for us was his story and his make-up, his mentality. I think everyone from Wellington and the rest of the country should be incredibly proud because he's representative of a lot of the values and qualities that people speak about from New Zealanders. We were really attracted to those and that's a big reason why he's part of the Thunder.''