Kiwi rookie Steven Adams is already winning plaudits from his coach and teammates a month into his NBA career.
His Oklahoma City Thunder coach Scott Brooks, who is his sixth year as head coach, says Adams is developing well.
"We love what he brings - great energy and enthusiasm for the game," Brooks said.
"He's had some good moments this year, and had some moments where he has to continue to learn the game. Those experiences he has had early in the season is going to continue to improve his game later in the season."
"He brings a very physical, workmanlike approach to practice and games."
Adams' 17 minutes per game average has allowed him to grasp learning opportunities and make valuable contributions. The Thunder are currently on a seven-game winning streak and are third in the Western Conference with a 12-3 record.
Adams, 20, frequently plays with the bench unit where he shares the hardwood with two other young players, third year point guard Reggie Jackson and second year shooting guard Jeremy Lamb.
Both guards have benefited greatly from Adams physical play, where he assists them by setting screens on their defenders, freeing them up for shots, and also converting dump-offs on their drives to the hoop.
They have added depth to the Oklahoma City lineup, picking up the scoring slack when star players Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook are resting on the bench.
Jackson, 23, has grown quickly into the sixth man role, doubling his scoring average to 11 points per contest from last season, including 48 per cent from the field, from nearly 24 minutes per game.
When asked about Adams, Jackson, is appreciative of the big man from Rotorua.
"He's a great teammate. Just the little stuff, like if you fall on the ground he comes and picks you up," Jackson said.
"He makes you laugh and has a good personality. People like that you want to have [him] on your team."
Lamb, 21, has already scored more points than his rookie tally, having spent most of last season with the Thunder feeder team, the NBDL Tulsa 66ers. He is scoring at a 9.2 clip and taking court for 20 minutes per encounter.
Lamb has been happy that Adams is on his team given the high number of strong and experienced forwards and centres in the competitive Western Conference.
"He's learned quickly on the fly, helping us out," said Lamb.
"He's helping us offensively by setting screens, finishing plays and offensive rebounding. He's also helping taking opposition bigs out of the game for us."
Adams enjoys playing with these guards and all of this team-mates. He noted he has been mentored especially by fellow front-court players Nick Collison, Kendrick Perkins and Serge Ibaka about the daily grind of the NBA and player tendencies.
"Everyone always helps out, but those are the main guys. They play the same position so they are the ones I talk with the most," Adams said.
"The guards give you tips like where to set screens, because I have to know their game."
Despite the gruelling NBA schedule, Adams proudly follows New Zealand sports teams. He finds time to watch his beloved All Blacks and tracks the fortunes of the Kiwis and Breakers teams through stuff.co.nz.
Adams wore a Maori All Blacks jersey in the locker-room after the Thunder defeated the Warriors in overtime.
He was ecstatic to see the Breakers had won their last game against the Melbourne Tigers and singled out how much he apprciated Mika Vukona's always consistent performances.
Adams had made a splash with his personality in a recent house hunting video that the NBA has produced. He was trying to find a house with a clothesline - which was foreign to many Oklahoma City locals who exclusively used dryers instead.
Adams is also well liked by the local Oklahoma City media and the Thunder front office.
The Thunder merchandise currently does not stock any specific Adams apparel, but according to staff they are arriving soon and is anticipated to sell well.
- Piet Van Hasselt is a freelance basketball writer and coach from Christchurch
- © Fairfax NZ News