Far from star-struck, Steven Adams is embracing the daily grind of an NBA player as he aims to make an immediate impact in his rookie season.
The 20-year-old Oklahoma City Thunder centre is in New Zealand for a week-long working holiday and yesterday he ran a coaching clinic in Wellington with All-Star Brook Lopez of the Brooklyn Nets.
Adams, selected No 12 by the Thunder in June's draft, is considered raw and a long-term project but he showed encouraging signs in last month's Orlando Summer League.
The glitz of the draft has been replaced by sweat and hard work and he will return to Oklahoma next week to try and force his way into the Thunder's NBA rotation alongside superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook.
The Thunder open their season against the Utah Jazz on October 30.
"They're cool, Westbrook and KD, they're pretty mean," Adams said.
"I've never been star struck bro, I don't know, I just see them as normal people. Especially if I'm going to be playing with them, it's never really hit me.
"I just see them as players but I definitely have mad respect for them and what they've done and accomplished. [Oklahoma's] quiet but it's good because all you do then is just focus on basketball."
All going well, Adams will soon be tussling in the low-post with Lopez, rather than simply learning from him.
But the two seven footers share the same agent and the 25-year-old Lopez was happy to dish out some advice to New Zealand's great basketball hope.
"It's a great story and an inspirational one," Lopez said of Adams.
"Personally the toughest thing to adapt to [in the NBA] was just the overall speed of the game. Coming out of college, when you watch the game on TV it looks very slow, thought out and methodical but then you get out on court and everything's happening instantaneously and you have to make split second decisions.
"That was a bit of an adjustment for me but I think Steven will be doing great for the most part. He's a coachable guy."
Lopez, who has a four-year NZ$75 million contract with the Nets, visited Weta Workshop yesterday before attending the coaching camp.
It wasn't his first visit to New Zealand, having watched older brother Alex play as an import for the Canterbury Rams in 2000.
"So we were in Christchurch for a little bit and saw a few of his games. I definitely took a liking to the area. I'm a big nerd and geek so I did my best to follow the trail to Mordor and see the Lord of the Rings stuff on site, I really enjoyed that as well."
Meanwhile, Adams declared his intent to play for the Tall Blacks next year after missing the just completed two-game series against Australia.
There had been fears that the Thunder would make him off limits for international action but Adams said that was not the case.
"If they can let me play then they will, like they've got nothing against that at all. It's just that it doesn't fit into the schedule right now. They really want me to play because they feel that's a big honour for me."
The Tall Blacks' focus is next year's World Cup in Spain and Basketball New Zealand have said they are willing to fork out for Adams' insurance costs.
It would have cost BBNZ about $25,000 for Adams to play against Australia.
Regardless of whether he was playing for the Thunder or the Tall Blacks, Adams hoped he was sparking interest in the sport.
"I feel like if I do really well in the NBA then that'll help out all of New Zealand basketball as well. So that's the main thing."
- © Fairfax NZ News