Kiwi Steve in the NBA #10: Getting Back Up To Scratch

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It’s been a couple weeks since the last Kiwi Steve update, a couple weeks too many to go through with all them game recaps or whatever. You don’t need to read what happened in games that happened three weeks ago and I damn sure don’t have time to write all that. So instead, to catch up on what’s been missed, we’re going to do things a little different this time by focussing on a few of them bigger picture happenings instead… starting with a long list of box scores for the scrapbook and moving on from there.


BOX SCORES

at UTAH JAZZ (W 107-106):

39 MIN | 15 PTS (7/12 FG, 1/4 FT) | 10 REB (4 OFF) | 1 BLK | 1 STL | 2 TO | 1 PF

vs MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (L 114-112):

28 MIN | 12 PTS (6/10 FG, 0/1 FT) | 4 REB (3 OFF) | 1 TO | 4 PF

at HOUSTON ROCKETS (L 113-109):

37 MIN | 17 PTS (8/11 FG, 1/2 FT) | 7 REB (3 OFF) | 3 AST | 1 STL | 1 TO | 2 PF

at PHOENIX SUNS (W 118-102):

35 MINS | 12 PTS (5/10 FG, 2/3 FT) | 13 REB (4 OFF) | 3 AST | 3 STL | 1 TO | 3 PF

at DALLAS MAVERICKS (L 105-103):

38 MIN | 8 PTS (4/5 FT 0/2 FT) | 9 REB (2 OFF) | 2 AST | 2 STL | 5 PF

vs DALLAS MAVERICKS (W 122-102):

33 MIN | 12 PTS (5/8 FG, 2/8 FT) | 13 REB (6 OFF) | 4 AST | 1 STL | 1 TO | 3 PF

at LOS ANGELES LAKERS (W 107-100):

36 MIN | 14 PTS (5/10 FG, 4/6 FT) | 15 REB (8 OFF) | 3 AST | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 3 PF

at PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS (W 111-109):

34 MIN | 6 PTS (3/7 FG) | 12 REB (5 OFF) | 3 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 4 PF

vs WASHINGTON WIZARDS (L 116-98):

31 MIN | 12 PTS (5/6 FG, 2/4 FT) | 8 REB (0 OFF) | 1 AST | 2 STL | 1 TO | 3 PF

vs MINNESOTA TIMBERWOLVES (L 119-117):

37 MIN | 20 PTS (8/9 FG, 4/6 FT) | 12 REB (3 OFF) | 1 AST | 2 STL | 5 TO | 4 PF

at SAN ANTONIO SPURS (L 154-147 2OT):

38 MIN | 19 PTS (8/13 FG, 3/4 FT) | 7 REB (4 OFF) | 1 AST | 2 STL | 2 BLK | 2 TO | 5 PF

vs SAN ANTONIO SPURS (W 122-112):

35 MIN | 12 PTS (3/5 FG, 6/8 FT) | 9 REB (2 OFF) | 2 AST | 2 STL | 1 BLK | 3 PF


NEXT WEEK

at ATLANTA HAWKS, Wednesday at 1.30pm (NZT)

vs LOS ANGELES LAKERS, Friday at 3.30pm (NZT)

at PHILADELPHIA 76ers, Sunday at 9.30am (NZT)

at NEW YORK KNICKS, Tuesday at 6.30am (NZT)

vs PORTLAND TRAIL BLAZERS, Wednesday at 2pm (NZT)


All-Star Voting

If you didn’t know that the All Star voting is heating up then you probably shouldn’t be reading this because you are a bad New Zealander. Kiwi Steve needs your votes, mate. The first round of results came in a few weeks back and he was looking okay. The second came in last week and he was looking excellent – sixth in the West for frontcourt players. Ahead of Nikola Jokic, Kyle Kuzma and Draymond Green. I’ve already written a bit about this and the actual reality of his All Star chances, suffice to say that even if we do get him up in the top three then it’s still unlikely the media votes keep him there ahead of dudes like LeBron, Durant, PG and Davis (let alone the rookie sensation Luka Doncic)… but the closer he gets, the more legit he appears and the more justified the coaches will feel in giving him a reserves gig.

Also there’s a very important sub-factor at play here and it’s one we cannot risk under any circumstances, which requires your daily voting on as many platforms as possible…

  1. Steven Adams (Aotearoa) – 1,034,014

  2. Ben Simmons (Australia) – 695,032

Naturally Adams himself is on record as saying that he doesn’t really care about All Stars, he’d rather the rest and the accolade means nothing… but he did acknowledge how much it would mean to his country. And dammit he’s right! For those of us so used to All Blacks victories that it doesn’t even feel worth it getting up in the middle of the night to catch those away games anymore, watching Steven Adams represent New Zealand in the NBA, amidst all those yankee jokers, is a rare source of unfiltered patriotism and there’s one way to express that best of all: Vote Him In.

(Voting finishes in less than a week - 5.59pm on Tuesday 22 January in NZT… no time to waste!)


The All-Star Campaign

But yes, realistically Steve’s got a very minimal chance of getting into the top three of Western Frontcourt voting despite his impressive numbers so far, even if he does get a big boost from the player and media votes. Yet, alternatively, he could get in there as a reserve which would mean earning the ultimate respect from the coaches of the West who pick those fellas. And the campaign is going strong to get them chatting about him, taking Steven Adams’ All Star case proper seriously.

Gregg Popovich is too classy to go commenting on All Stars and causing trouble and headlines but old mate doesn’t give out this kind of word easy either…

Scott Brooks has some happy memories and some not so happy memories of coaching Steven Adams and then cheekily coaching against him…

Not to mention Mike Malone getting in on the act back in November:

NewsOK: “I get the question all the time, ‘Is Steven Adams a forgotten man in Oklahoma City? If you ask 29 opposing coaches, they'd all say. ‘No.' The impact he has with his screening, with his rebounding, with his improved post play.”

Coaches have been on that Steven Adams buzz for ages since they best appreciate what it is that he does, players too now that he’s got enough of a track record to have earned their respect… of course, his teammates were on that buzz from day one. What up, Russ?

E tu, Paul?

Even the bloody mayor is on the wagon!


HALFWAY HOME

The first game of the back to back against the Spurs took OKC to 41 games out of 82, exactly halfway through their regular season. With a win in the second contest that takes OKC to 26-16 through 42 games and they’re sitting pretty in third in the Western Conference, trailing the Nuggets and Warriors. If the playoffs ended today then they’d be up against the Houston Rockets.

Oh and would you look at this, Steven Adams is averaging career highs damn near across the board too! 15.4 points per game would be a personal best. 10.1 rebounds would be too. Same with 1.7 assists and 1.5 steals. 34 minutes per game better jump in there as well.  

NewsOK Cranking the Stats:

4: Thunder starters averaging a career high in points — Paul George 26.7, Steven Adams 15.4, Jerami Grant 12.6 and Terrance Ferguson 5.3.

18: Double-doubles for Adams (points, rebounds). The Thunder is 9-9 in those games.

What should be said is that OKC have had most of the better side of their draw in the first half and over the rest of the campaign they have the toughest strength of schedule in the league. Things will get tougher and based on recent results they already have. But here are a few more things to know:

  • OKC are 8-2 when Steven Adams has at least 3 assists

  • OKC are 5-5 when Steven Adams scored 20+ points

  • OKC are 18-6 when Steven Adams plays fewer than 35 mins and 7-10 when he plays more than 35 mins (which is above his average, therefore above the usual rotation, therefore meaning something else is going wrong, probably with the bench unit)

  • OKC are 12-5 when Steven Adams attempts at least 12 shots

  • OKC are 22-3 when Steven Adams has a positive on-court +/- and 3-13 when he’s in the negatives

  • OKC are 0-1 when Steven Adams attempts a three-pointer (to be fair it was a 78-foot heave)


COMMERCIAL HYDRATION!

A bit of personality goes a long way in sports, especially when it comes time to promote a few products. Steven Adams is a pretty solid bloke who isn’t about to sell something he doesn’t believe in but even then it’s been a little surprising not to see his talents for elucidation utilised more by the advertising fraternity… maybe just too many other NBA options out there. But he’s been busy lately, popping up alongside Kyle Kuzma and Tim Hardaway Jr in an elf suit yelling “hydrate!” at some poor/lucky woman at a bar.

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NBA Elfs on the Shelf, obviously. The ad is for Budweiser and they want you to be able to drink more beer by drinking more water in between them and combatting the dehydrating effects of alcohol which leave you so wrecked the next morning. All for a good cause then (even if Buds are pretty watery to start with). Here’s the sucker in full:

                   

I mean, that’s good… but the bloopers are even better…

Classic.

(By the way, inspired by the totemic image of Steven Adams in an elf suit, I tried this hydrate tactic on Christmas Day, walking around with a beverage in one hand and a pump bottle in the other and gulping on that water in between drinks… it did wonders for the hangover – or lack thereof – but probably because it made me feel all bloated and put me to sleep by 10pm. Might have gotten the measurements wrong on that one)

And then we had this one, Kiwi Steve as the new spokesperson for Oklahoma Beef. Vegan crew look away, but Adams is a farmboy at heart so he’ll be smashing those steaks with due respect and reverence for the animals which gave their lives for his sustenance. Mate and he smashes those steaks. He smashes them because they TASTE. SO. GOOD.

Aside from the slightly seedy nature of the ad which comes off a bit like one of those low-key political messages that you get over in the States, there are some absolute stunner memes that’ll grow outta this one. Plus Stevie will probably be getting free steaks for life so… swish.


No Dickheads

That’s what they say, no dickheads.

Ben Golliver/Washington Post: “Wherever and whenever there’s contact on the basketball court, Steven Adams is somehow in the middle of it. The Oklahoma City Thunder’s massive, scraggly-haired center ranks third in the NBA in offensive rebounds per game, often muscling through two or three defenders to claim a second-chance opportunity. He ranks in the top 12 for loose balls recovered, never hesitating to throw his 7-foot frame to the hardwood. And he ranks in the top 20 for “screen assists” per game (via NBA.com), as his sturdy, broad-shouldered picks continually free up his teammates for drives and jumpers. This willingness to deliver and receive punishment has been a lifetime endeavor. The 25-year-old Adams is a native of New Zealand, where rugby is a brutal national pastime and the powerhouse national team, known as the All Blacks, reigns supreme.”

The article is well worth a read for how it places Steven Adams, and New Zealand’s, sporting landscape in focus and how that landscape shapes so many of our athletes, well beyond rugby. It’s a kiwi thing as much as a rugby thing, that heads-down attitude towards getting the job done. No complaints, no tolerating negative egos. Sometimes we take that too far and we end up with tall poppy syndrome where no egos are tolerated at all because we’re insecure about others’ success… but at its best this is the element that allows folks like Steven Adams, Lydia Ko, Chris Wood, Scott Dixon and so many others to achieve what they have and continue to do.

It’s also worth a read for that time-honoured hilarious tradition of Americans not understanding rugby…

“His rugby position, as in basketball, was unglamorous: He served as a lock, the rough equivalent of offensive lineman in American football. Locks form human walls to push as a unit during scrums, the sport’s central conflicts which pit players without helmets against each other in violent struggles.”

“The best part of the lock’s job comes during line-outs, rugby’s version of sideline inbounds plays. Adams’s teammates would lift him multiple feet off the ground, utilizing his height to secure possession. Picture Russell Westbrook and Paul George boosting Adams into the air with their shoulders to complete an alley-oop.”

But yeah, great read. Brilliant insight. And there’s never been a Steven Adams interview feature in which he didn’t drop some golden lines along the way. We literally have a Best Quotes of the Season annual thing on TNC he’s that good.


Highlight Reels

The test of a great performance in the modern NBA is whether or not you cracked the daily highlight train. All those dedicated fellows combining the individual highlights of a couple players per game, getting them out there within an hour of the final buzzer… those people do The Lord’s work.

Funny thing is that Steve hasn’t really had any big games over the last three weeks. Just those steady third-man kind of roles, no big starring flashes since his 20p/23r game against the Kings which got the treatment in the previous Kiwi Steve in the NBA column. He did score 20 against the Timberwolves a couple games ago however Paul George and Russell Westbrook both topped him in the loss while Andrew Wiggins, with 40 points, topped the both of them in turn.

We’re talking about a run of twelve games here, so hardly the most definitive sample size. Also it was a pretty tough run of games with seven of them on the road and an overall record of 6-6. Adams averaged 13.3 points and 9.9 rebounds in that spell, the points held down by a couple dud ones (like a 6 pointer against Portland and an 8 pointer against Dallas) but fairly steady compared with his season averages, just lacking a big one to pad it out.

Over a two game stretch against Dallas to end 2018 he managed to miss eight out of ten free throws which did some damage to that number… however since then he’s made 19/28 at 67.9% - not exactly Steve Nash but much better than his usual mark in the low 50s. There was also the rare occurrence in a blowout loss to Washington in which he was held without an offensive board for the only time this season and the first time overall since November 2017 in a regular season clash, 102 games ago (there was an 0-for in O-Boards in the playoffs when he got in foul trouble against the Jazz).

Adams had 10 points on four shots in the first quarter of that game against the Wizards and only got two more shot attempts in the next three combined. That’s always an infuriating trend when it happens but we also have to accept it’s part of the scheme to get him going early and then let the guards take over with the platform laid out. Plus obviously he tends to play his most minutes in the first quarter.

NewsOK: “Much of the Thunder going away from Adams late in games is a product of the Thunder having three players in George, Russell Westbrook and Dennis Schroder who can create offense on their own as ballhandlers. Other times, it's teams scheming to stop Adams, doubling down on him when he receives post passes, dropping centers deep into the paint on Adams' runs to the rim to prevent lobs, or fouling him quickly and sending him to the line in which case shot attempts don't register unless he makes the basket. Adams' personal fouls drawn hit a game-high 1.4 in the third quarter. “They tried to trap him a few times last night to get the ball out of his hands,” Donovan said. “There will be times that teams will do different things to not allow him just to stay down there and play one-on-one from the post.””


The Ankle

The Thunder played out a bit of a seasonal classic last week against the San Antonio Spurs, eventually going down 154-147 in double overtime. But watching from these humble shores the 2OT was almost overshadowed by a rolled ankle from Steve, who doesn’t often carry his pain so blatantly. He went straight down to the locker room.

The injury occurred with 5:30 remaining in the fourth quarter with the score locked at 114-114. Adams would eventually return because he’s impervious to pain, but with Nerlens Noel out with a horrible concussion from the Minnesota game it left Jerami Grant as the only thing resembling a centre in the team. Grant was having a blinder on his way to his career high of 25 points (with 12 rebounds and 3 blocks in 44 minutes), playing a huge part in the Thunder’s comeback after the Spurs had made their first FOURTEEN three-pointers in a row.

But Grant had no answer to LaMarcus Aldridge. LMA went mad after Adams went out, immediately scoring San Antonio’s next ten points. He’d score 24 in the last six minutes pf the fourth and the two overtime periods, finishing up with 56 points for a personal best. Adams came back a minute into the first overtime and added four more points, then sat for most of the second OT for tactical reasons until Grant fouled out. Pretty crazy to think he carried on after looking at him struggling to his feet following the injury, although we’ve sorta come to expect this from him. The worry was how he’d recover… but he ended up playing 35 mins a few days later against the same opposition, with OKC riding a 71-point second half to victory.

Daily Thunder: “Though he ultimately returned, Steven Adams went directly to the locker room after injuring his ankle midway through the fourth. He played all of the first overtime and the tail end of the second — only checking in after Grant fouled out. The ESPN broadcast said he had already been diagnosed with a sprained ankle, so his status for Saturday’s rematch is worth monitoring.”

NewsOK: “Gritting out injuries is a common practice for Adams. Earlier this week, when Scott Brooks and the Wizards were in Oklahoma City, the former Thunder coach revisited the story of when Adams took a punch to the jaw from Zach Randolph in Game 6 of the 2014 first-round series between the Thunder and the Grizzlies. “He didn't even realize he got hit until the next morning when he couldn't chew his waffles,” Brooks said.”


Kiwi Ingenuity


Important Journalism


An Oldie But A Goodie


SLAM DUNKS

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