Adams should enjoy moment in NBA spotlight

MARC HINTON
Last updated 05:00 28/06/2013

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OPINION: There is no bad destination for Steven Adams in today's NBA draft. The man of the moment in Kiwi sport can relax and enjoy the first day of the rest of his life.

The downside - if indeed there is to be one - to his introduction to the world's greatest basketball league doesn't kick in for weeks, months or maybe even years.

That comes when he has to turn all that promise and potential into something tangible. When he has to take his raw, unpolished game and measure it up alongside the very best on the planet.

What he's going through now, with all the courting and smooching, the glitz and the glamour, is the honeymoon period. Reality lurks just around the corner.

But that's the future. Adams says he goes in with his eyes open; that he'll deal with it when the time comes. In the meantime he should just enjoy the present which is being on centre stage alongside his fellow lottery picks in the draft at Brooklyn's Barclays Center.

The first team that picks the 19-year-old Adams, that drops into his lap a guaranteed two-year multi-million dollar salary, is going to seem like nirvana for a Kiwi kid who just a few years ago could not even afford a pair of kicks to shoot hoops in.

The higher Adams goes, the better for him in today's draft (live on ESPN, from 11.30am, NZT), with the rookie pay scale dependent upon where you're picked. And of course there are clubs with better players, better facilities, better coaching and better prospects than others.

But this is the NBA. There are no dud franchises. No dead-end jobs. They all pay incredibly well, they all offer the chance at fame and fortune.

Sure, the Oklahoma City Thunder, with Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, would be great at the No 12 pick; as would the Dallas Mavericks, with Dirk Nowitzki and all Mark Cuban's millions, at No 13; while who wouldn't want to see a Kiwi chapter in the storied history of the Boston Celtics who pick No 16.

But there's also a chance he could go to the promising Portland Trailblazers (No 10 pick), the pedestrian Philadelphia 76ers (No 11) or even the unsexy but respectable Utah Jazz (No 14) or Milwaukee Bucks (No 15).

Even the Atlanta Hawks, with the No 17 and 18 selections, will have hopes of picking up the 2.13m youngster with the off-the-charts physical dimensions.

Anywhere is good. Just being in this company, afforded this exposure puts Adams a hell of a lot further down the track than any Kiwi has managed.

Sean Marks was picked in the second round and had to work his way up from the bottom rungs with the Toronto Raptors to eventually carve out a respected 11-year career in the NBA.

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Kirk Penney, arguably this country's premier all-round talent of all time, did not even get drafted after a successful college career at Wisconsin and has had just three short-term gigs in the Association, many moons ago.

This is a guy who has been second leading scorer overall at the world championships; yet the NBA door has been pretty universally closed to him.

That's why Adams should savour his moment today, which I'm pretty sure he will.

All indications are he's taking this spectacular ascent in his loping stride.

He has plenty of doubters. One leading analyst as recently as yesterday suggested Adams "is a great example of a player who might get drafted high and be out of the league soon because he's not ready".

But others see his dimensions, his upside, his cool temperament and his apparent willingness to do the work and are pretty sure big things lie in store.

I first met Adams when he had just turned 17 and was sorting his education out so he could take up his scholarship at the University of Pittsburgh. Even then he was charming, ambitious, polite and engaging. He'd come a long way from the miscreant who'd been hauled off the streets of Rotorua by his former hoops-playing brother Warren and deposited in Wellington to sort his life out.

Thanks to two remarkable people - caregiver Blossom Cameron and hoops mentor Kenny McFadden - he was put on the straight and narrow and given the direction and skills to chase his NBA dream.

Back then he told me of his ambitions: "It's doable. I know it's going to be hard, but what is easy in life?"

Precisely.

- Stuff

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