With each new season comes refreshed hope. The OKC Thunder hit up the 2018-19 season with Paul George having re-signed and dreams of making a run in the playoffs. Fast forward to the end of it and that’s not how things played out but, you know, the journey was its own reward. This was a season in which Steven Adams played so well that he had some minor All Star buzz about him… up until he didn’t any longer and it’s fair to say the last few months of the season were not his best. You can argue that about plenty of other Thunder players too, Russell Westbrook and Paul George not the least of them.
But if you’re wanting an exploration of how Steven Adams’ role did and didn’t suit the way he plays, you can read this bad boy over here. This one’s about that journey and it’s about the most quotable bloke in the NBA. His future is in a pretty precarious place right now and who knows what that might bring? So, in celebration of what we’ve got, here’s the tale of the season that was, as told in delightful, insightful, self-deprecating, and hilarious Steven Adams quotes, for the fourth year in a row. Onwards, dear squires.
“It’s just good to have familiar faces, you know. Especially with the way that we play it just helps to have people who understand the culture of the Thunder and have it translate to the court. We’ll see how we go, mate.”
Continuity is an underrated thing in basketball and getting Paul George back and keeping that core of the team in tact was a positive way to begin things. No Melo though.
“I don’t keep up with that shit mate. I’m fucking terrible. I just show up and whoever’s on the team, cool.”
So, Steve, how’d you find out about Paul George re-signing? Big few days refreshing the twitter feed, perhaps? Staying up to date with all the free agency happenings?
“Yeah not bad, mate. How’s yourself? Pretty good?”
“Wow. This guy. Coming in hot.”
“Sneaky mate, how are ya?”
“Self-awareness is good.”
Big chat from Media Day 2018.
“The main thing was just changing foot position and habits coming off the pick and roll defence. Coz that’s where probably all of them, really, get their shots off just pick and rolls, pick and pops. That’s the biggest adjustment. Treating them like Dirk, like Dirk for instance you’d 100% never take a step back because he’ll launch it, right? It’s always towards him on the perimeter. Painting quite a picture for you, mate, but yes.”
Plenty more big chat from Media Day 2018. This one about the perils of being a big man forced to guard on the perimeter so often in the modern NBA.
“No. No. Absolutely not. Maybe. Preseason? Nah nah nah, I gotta see mate. I don’t wanna lose my job. It’s tough.”
Fancy a crack at some three-pointers this season? True to his word he didn’t attempt a single one that wasn’t a buzzer-beating heave.
“Way to sugar coat that one, mate”
“I’m quite an awkward guy. It’s a weird situation. Especially to ask someone about how they personally act while they’re up on stage. It’s a different sort of thing. Like if me and you go and have a beer it’ll be a different interaction, you know what I mean? I’m just an awkward guy. Let’s leave it at that.”
“Yeah I think so, mate. Normal kiwi guy. Some of the stuff that you guys laugh at, they won’t laugh at. It’s just different mate. Different cultures. You could just say I’m a kiwi guy. Awkward kiwi guy, mate. Keep it simple.”
Yarns about having a distinctive personality, how that personality blends into being an NBA player, and whether that personality is him being weird and awkward or just being a New Zealander in a foreign land.
“My leadership? Nah. Got none. I hope they don’t follow me, jeezus. What a bad leader, aye? Blind leading the blind, mate.”
Steven Adams came into the league getting mentored by senior big fellas Nick Collison and Kendrick Perkins. Now all of a sudden he found as a leader amongst the frontcourt players… well, kinda.
“I GOT LOONEY. DOUBLE DOWN. STAY IN THERE, STAY IN THERE – I GOT YOUR BACK.”
All mic’d up on opening day against the arch enemies. The Thunder lost 108-100, with Adams bagging 17 points and 11 rebounds.
“Yeah I feel fine, mate. Still above ground.”
Sore back slowing you down there, chief?
“Yeah just getting a bit off the body on them. Especially me, I messed up on a couple of them bro. Just trying to help out too much. Gotta restrict that.”
A frustrating defeat to the Boston Celtics meant the Thunder began this season 0-4. Russell Westbrook was out but that didn’t excuse a rough second half of defensive lapses. Lesson here: don’t help so much.
“I miss him. It’s R.I.P. to him — retire in peace.”
Old mate Nick Collison’s hung up the shoes for good now. Steven Adams began the season performing what he labelled as the pair’s “intimate” handshake all by himself in tribute.
“Ghostbusters, here we go!”
“’Arry Pottah! Soft butter no parsnip, squire?”
Everybody loves a trip to the zoo and nobody more than Steven Adams. Trick or treat day for the kids as Halloween rolls around. Get in on it.
“Say thank you? You’re very welcome!”
Always gotta teach that next generation the importance of manners.
“I mean regardless of the strides, it’s just shit that you lose a player. Nothing to do with winning and losing, that’s you boy. That’s the hardest. It’s just shit. Just real shit. Feels bad. Not much fun. Sums it up: feels real bad.”
In that same win over the Pelicans, which was their fifth of a seven-win streak that took them into winning record status the entire rest of the way, Russell Westbrook strained an ankle which would rule him out of the next six games… thankfully not as bad as it first appeared at least.
“It just put them in a bit of a bind. With offensive rebounding, cutters. It’s just different. We’re able to attack them and give them different looks. It started off with me early, and then they started double-switching which puts them back two steps. It’s pretty hard to defend after that, when you’re making those sorts of rotations. The more you get them to rotate, mate, the better off you are.”
A nice looking win over the Rockets kept up the momentum, Adams with 19 points and 10 rebounds along the way – this was him chatting with Nick Gallo from NBA.com afterwards.
“Ooh, a compliment! Sorry, mate, carry on.”
A bit of recognition from the man in charge. Always nice to hear.
“I’m just doing my role, same with every other play. It ain’t just me. All the small things, if you do them at a high level, the team will benefit. All of us doing that kind of contributes to that.”
More of that trademark humility from the big fella after a win over Phoenix.
“Sub him out. He can’t play defence. He can't defend pick-and-roll.”
Midgame yarns to Knicks coach David Fizdale about old mate Enes Kanter. Fizz didn’t just sub him out, he bought him out. Kanter was released midseason and ended up on the Portland Trail Blazers to meet up with Kiwi Steve and the lads once more a little later on…
“ENES! ENES! ENES! I know you can hear me!”
More of the same from that same game – OKC won it 128-106 in New York City by the way.
Of course Steve wasn’t done there. One last jab at his former Stache Bro.
“Bit of bantz, mate. Bit of banter. Always fun. It’s the only time I get to bloody see him, to be honest bro. Builds up, you know, and just… let it out. Whatever that means. Yeah, yeah I was trying to discourage him mate. He’s a bloody good player and it’s best to have him off the field for us. So, mate, if he’d listened to me then that’s great. He didn’t but it’s only because Enes is such a good player and I was trying to get him out so we could get some rotations in.”
It was all in good fun though, naturally. Nothing but love as Enes said.
“It was directed at him, but if he’s not receiving it, guess I was bloody talking to myself. I was telling him we are about to engage, but guess I was talking to myself apparently. It was like, ‘Come on bro, let’s play, let’s bump’. I’ll keep it to myself next time.”
Big dog clash with rookie DeAndre Ayton, who chatted about going up against Steve in the post and how ol’ Funaki would talk to himself going ‘please, please, please’ as the ball rebound began to fall.
“You are better than whatever your situation is. They are capable of getting out of whatever situation they are in. It just takes a lot of encouragement and you’ve gotta nourish them, you know, in order for them to actually do that.”
Thunder getting some lovely community work in at Positive Tomorrows, a school for homeless children, with Stevie laying down some powerful wisdom.
“Ah, I was just shit, honestly. Like there’s no real complicated thing about it. Like, I was trying to finish, it felt good, but it was just lame. I was just shit. Second half I was more aggressive I guess, you could say, I was still trying to do the same thing but they were going in.”
This after coming out of the blocks shooting 0/6 against the Denver Nuggets, a game that OKC went on to lose even despite a much better 2H from Steve.
SA wasn’t having it but Collin Sexton disagreed. Young fella won that battle but the Thunder won the game, moving to 13-7 after starting 0-4.
“Yeah, it’s still there, so. Still can smell hopefully.”
Then another win to close out the month of November, taking care of the Detroit Pistons. Steven Adams scored 21 points and came out of it with a tissue wedged up a bloody nose, no dramas.
“I don't blame her.”
Running back to the locker room on gameday, Adams heard somebody calling his name and ran back out to see the family that had summoned him, hoping he’d take a photo with their three year old daughter on her birthday. He did… but she started crying. Steve didn’t blame her.
“Words, words, words.”
A common interview closer from the big fella.
“I mean, you wanna make all of them. That’s the goal. But sometimes it just doesn’t do the thing that you want it to do so gotta live with it.”
That’s thing with free throws, aye?
An old favourite still getting rolled out. No matter how many tries, it’s always the first.
“Hehlow my nayme is Steven Adams. Youir wahtching Thuhnder bayseketbawl.”
“Where to, little squire?”
“Excuse us, humans.”
“Nah it was really easy, honestly. He was a smart kid, knew what he wanted. Yeah very simple. Honestly if I was mic’d up that hallway you’d hear it – he was bossing me around the whole way mate, it was unbelievable… coz the main things is, like, most of these kids they tend to be a bit shy. You know because they haven’t really gotten anything in life, really. So you try and bring it out like look it’s okay if you wanna indulge a little bit. Get something that makes you happy. He’s a good kid, man. He’s got a good heart.”
“I guess he knows what he’s gonna get for Christmas so it takes out the surprise, but still, like, today was a special day mate. For him and for me.”
A beloved holiday tradition in OKC is when the Thunder hit up the local Warehouse equivalent to take a few underprivileged local kids on a shopping spree ahead of Christmas. Steven Adams never disappoints.
“… Jokic! I didn’t know his first name, mate. Nikola. Yeah, so, old mate.”
Hey, you don’t need to know a bugger’s first name to fight them for a rebound. (unfortunately old mate there went on to get 24 points, 15 rebounds, and 9 assists in an 11-point Nuggets win).
Bloody refs, aye?
“No couldn’t care less, mate. Honestly it was just one of those nights mate, they did a hell of a job boxing out in certain areas but, shit mate, you just get a shit bounce. But honestly they were just coming my way, the bounces, you know, just one of those things mate. I wasn’t doing anything different than I normally do but they were just bouncing my way.”
A career high 23 rebounds against the Kings helped OKC to another big win and they were now sitting pretty at 20-10 a week out from Christmas. Don’t worry about the stats though, old mate doesn’t.
“What is it called when you bleed a lot? Anemic?”
Hemophilia is the word you’re looking for there, champ. Anemia is when you have a shortage of healthy red blood cells. There’s your medical lesson for the day.
“… I don’t care mate.”
As Kiwi Steve averaged better than 17 points per game in the month of December, the chat got louder that perhaps he was closing in on All Star contention with the voting heating up. That obviously never happened but it didn’t make a difference to our chap.
“Uh, I do like a break. You know what I mean? I do like my All Star break mate, it’s a tough season. But I think a lot of people would like to see me there and I think it’d be really big for the country in New Zealand in that aspect. But if I’m being selfish mate yeah I’d probably like a wee break, you know?”
Adams ended up sixth in All Star fan voting for Western frontcourt players and seventh overall once the media and player ranks were weighted. Didn’t get the nod from the coaches for a reserve spot either so the bloke got his beloved break after all.
“AND OOONE! And one…”
It was only ever a matter of time until the big playas came calling with their advertising money. Funaki’s already making bank on that contract but a few extra Bud bucks don’t go astray.
“It’s this position, mate. I can’t even catch my breath properly.”
“Bit creepy, aye?”
“Oh it’s that type of commercial is it?”
“Can you guys understand my English?”
“Steven Adams approves? What do I approve of?”
Outtakes. Always a laugh.
“Every kid wants to grow up to be an All Black. That’s the whole country, mate.”
“It’s a beating. You can’t see it all on TV, but guys are just going at it down in the trenches. If you watch the professionals, a dude will go in completely clean and come out with a broken nose.”
“The Pacific Islanders are big boys. I’m half-Poly, but you’ve got some full-blooded Polys out there who are built like crazy. An 8-year-old can be built like an 18-year-old with man strength. I learned very early that rugby wasn’t my sport.”
“The motto that sums up New Zealand is the ‘No Dickhead’ policy. Just don’t be a dickhead about anything. If the coach asks you to do something, do it. If you come home with a broken nose, thank you for your services. You did your job. I grew up [knowing the importance] of how hustle plays and gritty details make a successful outcome.”
Ben Golliver of the Washington Post did a little piece about Adams and how he’s channelled New Zealand’s rugby culture into his basketball… which is obvious to us but a novelty to Americans.
“I personally don’t. I think it’s a bunch of bullshit. But ah, you know, it’s good like if someone else in the team, like – again, like, were bloody professionals we should be coming out every night and not just relying on the fans to do so. We’ve got a job to do.”
Paul George was rumoured with the Lakers, Paul George re-signed with the Thunder. The Laker fans weren’t happy but a true professional like Steve doesn’t pay attention to the noise.
“Mate, I eat beef all the time, like I smash steaks. All the bloody time, mate. I just smash them because they taste really good.”
Not content with selling water to beer drinkers, Steve-o then moved on to an ambassadorial role with Oklahoma Steaks, a deal through which he
“I mean… no, honestly? Umm, it probably was but again my mindset wasn’t like ‘oh my god be careful of my ankle’, it’s like, shit it still works. It hurts really bad but pain is fine.”
A rolled ankle against the Spurs in early January began a pretty rough stretch of playing through injuries for Adams, whose numbers fluctuated substantially the rest of the way. Never one for making excuses though.
“Blood guards. It’s never the big’s fault!”
No explanation necessary.
“The research behind it, mate, you can bloody ask one of those guys who's got a degree. Bloody science, whatever mate. I'm a big fan of science, but whoever searched that up, cool man, because I'm a fan of the sauna.”
There’s nothing quite like a Steven Adams profile/feature. ESPN’s Thunder scribe Royce Young brought the goods with this one. Also, he pronounces sauna as “sow-nah”.
“One of the reasons I've found a little bit of success down low is no one plays low-post defence anymore. It's so much easier in the post. It's so tough to score against [Marcin] Gortat, Nene [Hilario], the older guys. They've played it so many times, over and over again. They have their own little tricks, they know the balance, they know what to force you to. Back in the day, mate, you take one dribble -- I couldn't even back down Derek Fisher. You know, it was just that old school, like, 'Boom! You ain't moving' type of thing.”
“Most of the guys would smoke me in the weight room. Like Serge [Ibaka], Serge in the weight room, mate, he was like getting it in every day, just killing it. But on the court I could just move him around. You can be as strong as you bloody want, mate, but if you're on one leg, it goes down the drain.”
Adams has a reputation as the strongest man in the NBA, which is something he always plays down and it’s probably not true anyway. Nah, this fella’s about those fundamentals. Another one from old mate Royce here.
“I've always just wanted to bloody pass the ball. It's why I get fucking pissed at people. It's just like, 'Bro! Just fucking cut!' It's a bit lazy and selfish, but I could use energy and back this guy down and take a contested hook, or you could do the work and we could get a layup. I'll drop one to you and we'll get a layup. Layups are good. Layups are fucking awesome in my book, mate. Huge fan of layups.”
Still going with that same ESPN chat, now it’s the loveliness of layups that’s in the spotlight. Huge fan.
“It's whatever the team bloody wants, mate.”
Pretty much his whole life philosophy here.
“Hold on mate. Okay mate, hold on a second. Yeah. Cheers mate… greedy bastard.”
OKC got a nice win over Philly and it was off to the fights, a bunch of the fellas showing up at UFC fight night in Brooklyn. Russ couldn’t wait that long to hear Steve-o’s pick, however.
“The big run was basically just stops and scoring, bro. we’re pretty good in that sense. The pace was good, a lot of fast breaks and all that sort of stuff. Now it kind of got away from us, bro, we got a bit eh at the end in terms of discipline with our pick and roll. Just the help side they were hitting the pocket a lot and it was just one of those things, mate. Just gotta be locked in, trust the load. Not get caught up in the smokescreen stuff that they were running.”
20 points and 13 rebounds in a win over the Pellies, not too shabby. Time for a spot of post-game media.
“Had to redeem myself, mate. Redemption. Nah honestly I didn’t even bloody think of it mate, I was just like: don’t look like a dick. Just take two steps this time. Not three. Worked out well.”
Kiwi Steve got chewed out on social media after buggering up an attempted eurostep earlier in the month but he got his redemption a few games later.
“It’s really good to give the offence different looks always. If you run the same thing over and over again, they’re smart laying everyone, top of the league. They’ll pick you apart eventually it’s good to give different looks, just to throw a little spanner in the works.”
Mix it up, folks. Conformity is boring.
“The New Zealand culture, they’re a hardworking bunch, bit rough around the edges, that type of thing but my family in particular, were a bit more, rougher than normal... With my genetics, getting rough and playing big is just natural.”
Just quietly, Steven Adams averaged a career high 1.6 assists per game this season, dishing them out, but his screen assists are at an elite level because, you know: hard yakka.
“I mean I see it every now and then. Not throughout the day, this is after that I think I’m like real cool and I’m like oh look what happened and they’re like: that was yesterday. Sorry guys. I don’t check my phone often. I should… I might get traded. A day later, that’s gonna be awkward.”
Trade deadlines come and go, not bothered.
“I think I punched [Anthony Morrow] in the head by accident. Yeah, it was really bad because, you know, it’s a swing. And I guess I wasn’t thinking and I went too far down. The angle wasn’t ideal for the execution of it. I felt really bad. It was kind of funny afterwards. Obviously during it, it was just like, ‘Aw that sucks’. But then, you know, all in all we just stuck to the same routine, just better technique. You live and you learn. All handshakes, they’re very trial and error. You’ve got to figure them out. Some of them you get some pretty bad errors.”
The Steven Adams Swing, they call it. Where he hooks his arm with a teammate, elbow to elbow, sliding up with the hand as he does so. You’ve seen it plenty, you know the drill. Whenever he runs out as the lineups are named pregame he whips it out of the bag… but it hasn’t always worked.
“I’m doing it in the terms of just banter, you know what I mean? But his one’s just like… not at all. Not even the nicest look or whatever. So I did learn that. But then spending a lot of time with him, when he’s getting to know me, I did, like say… Thabo. There’s an exception there. Maybe Serge. There’s certain ones that you can kinda go over and… maybe hug? I’m still feeling this out. So I might be told off here and there. Honestly, I always just like play him off, look him off, see where Russell’s looking and then quickly go and put in a quick hug. ‘Nah, I wasn’t doing anything bro! It’s okay!’”
Gotta keep the leader happy, mate. Russell Westbrook: not a fan of cross team fraternisation.
“I usually try to reach out to most of the athletes from New Zealand because it’s a tough transition, you know? Going from New Zealand, being such an awesome country, way better than America, to then stepping down, coming to America. It’s tough. It’s tough.”
This was in the context of putting a nice word in for kiwi college baller Matt Freeman, who was just across town at Oklahoma State at the time.
“For some reason I have this weird idea that the amount of noise will help my voice travel further than it actually will.”
Steven Adams likes to jump on the exercise bike to keep warmed up while he’s on the bench during games. But Steven Adams still likes to bark instructions and encouragement at his buddies on the court.
“If you’re going down bloody memory lane then just start looking at old photos and realise how good you were before you turned into a piece of shit.”
Thiiiiink he’s trying to tell us to live in the moment? Keep it all zen? Be at one with the present?
“Growing up I spent a lot of time on the farm in New Zealand and it gave me a unique perspective. Greetings, my name is Steven Adams and I play professional basketball… but today I am a raaancher.”
Getting back on the farm wagon and selling those steaks.
“Just not disciplined stuff. That’s why they were getting a bunch of paint touches. A couple of miscommunications. They’ll hit that pass, get downhill, and it’s pretty much shit from there. It’s that and small things. The small things lead to layups and paint points. We’ve got to clean them up. It’s not like we’ve got no chance to clean it up. It’s fixable.”
This after a defeat to the Miami Heat in the middle of a five-game losing streak in March. OKC were 6-10 for the month of March overall. Adams was fouled out playing just 25 minutes of the Heat defeat.
“For me it’s just a friendship, you know? Being away from home, having a bloody… another lad. Yeah he was good. He was old but he was good. Still good. Age difference but it doesn’t matter. Young at heart.”
More tributes for Nick Collison, aka Mr Thunder, ahead of his jersey retirement for OKC.
“Oh it was beautiful, mate. It was really, really good. Really good from the organisation too to retire his jersey, says a lot about them. But yeah, it was a really good moment for him. Miss the old bastard. The old bastard. Miss him. But it was a beautiful moment.”
See above, except this time after the ceremony.
“Nah I mean just run down, mate, if I get the ball bloody try and score it, aye? And then if not, pass it out to one of these shooters.”
What’s your role in this offence, mate? This after a 25p/12r night in a win over Indiana (and following a 2 point effort shooting 1/7 in a loss on the road to Memphis).
“Yeah, tactical mate. You’re welcome. You’re welcome, mate. Nah yeah, just say I did. I know how to miss free throws.”
Adams was kinda mud against the Lakers, missing six out of seven free throws, but OKC won it easy on the back of a 20-20-20 night from Russell Westbrook… throwing up sixty in honour of Nipsey Hussle. One of those final free throws actually came from a missed Steve-o FT. This win was the first of five in a row to close out the regular season.
“Galvanise? You’ll have to bloody… don’t know what that means, mate… Mr Galvanise. Oxford Dictionary over there, mate. Wordsing.”
Always an advocate for continuing education over here.
“They put these things in rubbing alcohol, mate. They’re clean as shit.”
And now for something much more delightful, it’s an Athletic feature on Steven Adams combining two separate interviews with Sam Amick in which Steve-o was in prime form. ‘They’ in this case refers to Thunder staffers and ‘they’re’ refers to his feet. Naturally.
“I didn’t even know that that was even a thing – the James Harden trade – before because I don’t watch NBA. I don’t keep up with any of it. I was in America, in college and stuff. But it just wasn’t – I just didn’t pay attention really. I didn’t give a shit. But I felt it afterwards. My number was actually 13. That has always been like the family number. So when I came in, I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll just grab 13 and they’re like, ‘Ah, we don’t think you should because of…’ because they traded him, and I was like, ‘Oh, fair enough mate. Whatever. I’ll just go with No. 12.’ I was just chilling. I never paid attention to the NBA anyway. Growing up, I’d hear about the super big names, LeBron, or Kobe, but I just wasn’t a part of it.”
Funny story, James Harden robbed Kiwi Steve of his favourite number (thirteen, of course).
“I wouldn’t say changed, I guess I just – yeah, maybe not changed but maybe just understand people a bit better, American people. How they come off, what their mannerisms are. It was tough when I first got here, because oh man it’s just night and day difference between New Zealand and America. It’s very – it’s just different. That’s all. I think people back home have got a bit more resistance to like some offensive stuff. They laugh at a lot of shit. You could just say some really offensive things, and they’ll just laugh it off. Whereas people I’ve come across here, they take it quite personally. And I get it if it’s a personal attack, but I don’t know. It’s like this whole lighthearted thing, like ‘Oh, it’s not that big of a deal,’ because that’s how New Zealand is mate. It’s just like this big – ‘Ah, everything is going to be alright mate, just calm down. You’ve alive,’ sort of thing.”
Americans are too sensitive. We all know that.
“Yeah, we get after it. I usually have a pint of Guinness after every workout, to be honest, just because I have this weird thing. After every weightlifting session; Guinness is actually very high in iron, so I literally go to the same pub on the corner back in Wellington after I workout with a sweaty ass, and I go in there. The lady knows me. She has it ready at like 12 o’clock, always. So I show up there, and then just like, ‘Get a pint, bang, smash it in like two seconds and then go have lunch. Just one. Go have lunch, then go to practice.”
“Uh, Chris Stapleton, Tennessee Whiskey. He’s the man. He’s a very big deal in New Zealand. Any sort of good music comes down there. He’s top dog. Anything you can kind of sing along with.”
Gonna call him out on this one, not sure if Chris Stapleton is actually crazy popular in Aotearoa. But he should be, that bloke’s amazing.
“I’ve only been in one fight ever in my life. The rest is just that I’ve been beaten up by my brothers and sisters. Those don’t count, because they’re very one-sided (laughs). It’s not even a fight. The one fight was in middle school, and somebody took my lunch. I was probably like 11, 12 (years old), and I’m pretty tall – taller than the rest of them. So anyway, dude stole my lunch, hit him up and said, ‘Hey let’s fight after school,’ and then I never really knew the rules of a fight, so like what ended up happening was, I hit him, and then he was like ‘Oh…’ He started putting his guard up, and then I stopped hitting him, and I just waited because I thought that you just go hit for hit and whoever drops first they win. So then I hit him once and then I stopped, and I was waiting for him to hit me. So he got out his guard and was like, ‘What the hell?’ So then he hit me once, and was like, ‘Boom,’ and then I went back ‘Booommm,’ (laughs), hit him (again), and then he hit me twice the next one, and went bang-bang, and I thought he was cheating. So then I started going like, ‘Raaarr, if you’re going to throw two I’ll throw all of them,’ just started going HAM. So it ended up there, and broke apart. So I ended up winning the fight. I’m 1-0, but that was honestly the only fight I’ve been in.”
That one time he got into a real fight instead of breaking it up.
“Yeah, they’re pretty good, aye? A dude gave them to me for free. Free always feels good. These are my gross toes. See the fungus?”
You’ve seen those orange slip-ons the bloke wears with the cartoon picture of his own face? Yeah.
“I don’t give a shit. I’m not going to read it anyways.”
Don’t read your own press. They always say that, don’t they?
“Obviously very confident. I feel like we made some good leaps in the right areas, all the boys are confident. We are just eager to get to the playoffs. We're looking pretty good. Expectations being our ones, I think [we met them], yes. I think we did a pretty good job in that sense. Obviously, you could argue that you could always do better. You ask any one of these guys and they'll say, 'oh, we should have bloody won every game,' you know, it's just one of those things but for the most part, mate, we took advantage of those games and learned from them and grew from them.”
End of the regular season with 49 wins, breaking things down. For a while there the Thunder were looking likely to end up against the Warriors, Nuggets, or Rockets but it all aligned for them at the end and they drew the Portland Trail Blazers… which seemed like a great draw at the time…
“Yeah, absolutely yeah, absolutely I would. Obviously, I want the country to succeed. It's a great country. One of the biggest goals is to beat Australia to be honest with you mate, because we always lose!”
Yo, Stevie! You wanna play for the Tall Blacks one day?
“Oh yeah, they chime in bro, they chime in because we'll check out the NBL because we have the New Zealand Breakers so [Joe] Ingles will chirp up and say, ‘hey you see the score mate?’ and it's like, ‘yeah, carry on with the game, wanker’. Just little banter, obviously when you are home it's like this brotherly hate, but over here obviously I'm cool with all the Aussies. It's a weird thing, it's like you go overseas to another country and you're like, oh yeah, you are one of the boys, but then you go back home and you're like, ‘oh, wankers, get out of here.’”
“Are you alright, mate? You need some water or something? Are you okay, you a bit sick? Sorry bro. Coz I got a cold too, I thought we were gonna share something, I was gonna go get you some water!”
Always thinking of the human being behind the reporter.
“Here we go, boy!”
Steven Adams, via text message, to Enes Kanter after finding out that OKC and Portland would be meeting in the playoffs.
“Nah he’s a bit of a psychopath that guy. He’s just a nutcase, you can tell aye? But anyway, that’s for me personally. It’s a friendship type thing. Why because we’re both the same? Pack of idiots, aye?”
Game one of the playoffs and Enes reckons Steve wouldn’t even look at him. But Steve had already said it was all business, no reason trying to trash talk a man who wouldn’t feel it.
“We haven’t really thought much of it. Still gotta go to the drawing board, still gotta look at the film. What type of shots we’re getting. It ain’t just… you know, you get the numbers, you can’t really take them for face value. Obviously they do speak their piece but it’s not like, oh well that’s the reason. It’s a whole lot of other shit that’s involved. In terms of confidence mate, I think it’s fine – although I wasn’t shooting mate, didn’t affect me! Ask one of those other fellas.”
Buuut yeah, Enes had a brilliant first game scoring 20 points with 18 rebounds as OKC lost 104-99. The Thunder shot five outta 33 from deep which, if you didn’t know, is absolutely terrible.
“I mean, yeah there’s time. But I don’t want to. So yeah.”
Business is business, no desire to chill with the homie while the series is still alive.
“That was just a weird situation mate. It might have hurt, not my problem really. It’s his big man to let him know that there’s a screen there. But he got upset with me, he should have got upset with his big. That’s all I was telling him and he knew I was right as well, I wasn’t doing anything illegal.”
We’ve been here before. NBA big men, gotta call out those screens or else this’ll keep happening.
“Yeah we had a gameplan but again, like, depending on how the game goes because when I say deviate, you’ve gotta know the time, the feel of the game. You can still deviate from the plan but it’s gotta be the right timing, the feel of it. If you see something, it’s still technically deviating but it’s still the right play. It’s just a time and place thing as opposed to, like, always do this. That’s not really how the game goes.”
After dropping the first two, OKC bounced back with a win at home in game three, able to take control of the big moments, but it would prove to be a minor reprieve as the shooting of Damian Lillard and CJ McCollum continued to bust things open.
“I think it’s just more discipline at both ends and just communicating. Especially from our bigs, especially from me. It’s just communicating and making sure everyone’s in coverage and what not. Because it’s hard enough to win a game, but you’ve still got to understand the situation. Still a similar approach. Don’t do anything too crazy but obviously we’re gonna come in ready.”
Facing a closeout game five on the road, OKC were fired up to at least take this thing back to Oklahoma one more time. Spoiler alert: it didn’t happen. Portland won on a cold-blooder 37-footer from Dame Lillard and the Thunder were bounced in the first round… again.
“Any of the small details that you can think of it probably, more than likely, affected the team in one way or another. Butterfly effect almost, sort of thing. Again, it’s still one of those things, obviously it ain’t an excuse: if you say you’re good enough to play then you’ve still gotta come out and play. That’s just rule of thumb across the board, mate. Even for you guys, if you say you’re good enough to work, mate, you’ve gotta show up to meet the standard of what you you’re gonna work at. You know, that’s just reality of it. Regardless.”
As always, it’s only right to close with the exit yarns. Beginning with what effect Paul George playing through injury had for the OKC Thunder during those playoffs and there’s plenty more where that nugget came from.
“It’s still my role to do what I’m doing. If that makes sense. Mid-range and three pointers aren’t in that. I could develop it, great. But then that’s just for individual gain or whatever it is. Again, for the team I still have to just focus on what my role is and it’s really just try and lock down on those things. Mate if I get the word and they’re like, hey mate, jack a couple threes… no worries mate. Get in the gym.”
This bit on his potential to shoot threes one day.
“Nah it’s not easy. That’s just the way it is. I mean, with our defence, I’ve done it since rookie season. It’ll be a bit more so now because as you said a lot of people are hunting for threes, you don’t really see the point guards who are straight downhill. Constantly downhill. So I mean I’m doing more reps and I guess the workload is more tough but strategy remains the same. Did good aye? Thanks mate. Get a treat, mate.”
Defending point guards on switches, can’t be easy right?
“I guess I do but I like to just have a successful play, that’s just the bottom line of it. Sometimes it is me scoring but then a lot of times it’s kicking it out to whoever, guards kicking or whatever it is, that’s all I’m trying to push myself to do is what is the right play as opposed to: I need to score this ball. You know what I mean don’t think it’s a confidence thing it’s just my obsession with trying to get a successful play for that possession.”
Mate, you’re a selfless fella. Do you have to remind yourself to go out there and get yours, sometimes? Jeez this bloke is enlightening.
“No I don’t think so. I mean, going up, even though I missed them there’s still the huge benefit of getting fouled. Team fouls and what not. Even if you shoot it bad. I mean, you can probably look at analytics too, it’s still points per possession probably works out relatively well. You see a lot of teams not actually fouling, doing that whole foul thing anymore. Well I’m not sure I’m just going by what I’m seeing when I’m playing. They don’t seem to be like targeting a player and just fouling them, hacking them. I’m not sure if it’s to do with that or not but I mean with me, mate, I’m just trying to go up regardless of the free throws. Because again it’s still a huge benefit… be even more of a benefit if I made it. That’s like the best thing. Now if I’m not aggressive, that’s a bad thing. But I don’t think I wasn’t.”
On the benefits of being fouled and missing free throws.
“Yeah I’m the only one. I’m a genius. I’m a genius. Nah nah nah everyone bloody does it, mate, honestly, it’s just like, it really depends on just if you guys are looking for it, mate. It looked like you had a keen eye for it. You spotted it. But if you watched some other team you’d probably see a bunch of them do it to. I’ll still take credit for it though, mate.”
Steve-o is a common one for talking to coaches during games and getting advice. But he’s not the only one, it’s more regular than you’d think… apparently.
“The whole objective right from the get go is to win a championship. Anything short of that is kinda hard to be like: oh, yeah we did okay. But that’s just for me personally. You set out, this is the objective, you didn’t get the objective done, like that’s how I see it. I get that people can be different, mate. I’m not speaking on their behalf. That’s just me.”
Season didn’t end the way they wanted it to. What’s the narrative within the team?
“That’ll do mate. That’ll do.”
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