Thunder rookie Adams gaining trust

By Jeff Caplan,

Rookie Steven Adams has given OKC a solid presence in the paint. (Richard Rowe/NBAE via Getty Images)

Rookie Steven Adams has given OKC a solid presence in the paint. (Richard Rowe/NBAE via Getty Images)

OKLAHOMA CITY — Lost in the Game 3 hoopla of Serge Ibaka‘s return was a solid performance from another Oklahoma City big man raised in a faraway land, who overcame a challenging childhood and has enough siblings to field three basketball teams.

New Zealand native and rookie 7-foot center Steven Adams has that much in common with the Congo’s Ibaka. Their games share few similarities beyond an ability to disrupt an opponent’s activity in the paint. Adams matched Ibaka’s four blocks in the Thunder’s Game 3 win and also added seven points and nine rebounds in 28 minutes.

The Thunder’s No. 12 overall pick last summer started the postseason with a small role in the first round against Memphis, garnering 19 total minutes in the first four games. Since, he’s logged at least 19 minutes in seven of the last 11 games, and he played at least 28 minutes in three of the last four.

In those three games, he’s provided 26 points on 11-for-15 shooting, mostly going up for dunks after his man leaves him to help, plus 28 rebounds and six blocks.

“Steven’s impact was good [in Game 3],” Brooks said. “I thought he did a good job of scoring around the basket. He got fouled, so he can obviously do a better job of making free throws (he was 3-for-7). I thought his defense was good. He has a hard job, like we all do. You have to be able to contain all their pick‑and‑roll players, and also get your body back to get the rebounds. But he’s an improving player.”

Adams plays with a fierceness that irritates opponents, sometimes so much that he induces them to make poor decisions. The Memphis Grizzlies still believe they would have won the first-round series if they had Zach Randolph for Game 7. But Randolph was suspended for that game after balling his fist and hitting Adams in the jaw as the two ran down the floor during Game 6.

He’s also an option the Thunder haven’t had in the past as a backup to the more sedentary Kendrick Perkins. The 255-pound Adams is far more athletic and can play with big and small Thunder lineups. He possesses soft hands, making him a trusted receiver of tough bounce passes from Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

In Game 3, he took over early when Perkins got into foul trouble. He played a significant role in limiting the Spurs to just 40 points in the paint after they averaged 60 in the first two games.

A repeat performance will go a long way to helping tie the series before heading back to San Antonio.


  1. J4CK Nicholson says:

    A future Dennis Rodman in the making. He has all the potential and the tools needed, now just add a good mentor to polish him. He doesn’t have to be flashy like Olajuwon or Shaq or Webber or Malone, but stick to the basic fundamentals like Rodman, solid picks, work on his timing (rebounds, pick and rolls, free throws) and he’ll be a commodity.

  2. B Rad says:

    Adams, Ibaka and Durant are a scary frontcourt trio. Hoping win it all!!

  3. jake s. says:

    Besides the Center, Thunder still have one void to fill. They still need a young-ish 2 guard to fill the spot when Jackson&Co. is on the floor. I say young-ish because Fisher and Butler look like they are on the way out… along with other veterans Sefolosha and Perkins. Jackson, Jlamb, PJ, and who?

  4. Whitlaw says:

    Pretty cool for us here in NZ to have the big fella up there making waves and doing us proud – we see alot of ourselves as kiwis in him (tough, fair and able to hold our own anywhere in the world). Roll on game 5,6 (& 7 ?)

  5. David Cree says:

    Defense is great, but nobody previous to the Thunder (I don’t think?) has worked with this guy on offense because he
    has seems he has the ability score in the paint . Long term project still..

  6. tony says:

    There are not many players out there that are willing to sacrifice their body for their team. Steven is one of them. It will take him a few years to become an offensive player. He’s already more productive than Andrew Bynum….

  7. GH says:

    It’s amusing to see Steven referred to as a ‘white guy’. Where he comes from, he’s a Pacific Islander – even if only half (or less). I’ve played rugby and basketball against Islanders and Maoris – and nearly all of them are on the tougher side of average. I’ve watched Adams pretty closely and I haven’t seen any cheap shots. He just seems to have hard edges. I remember playing (basketball) against a Maori guy who was also a Rugby League international – it seemed like you lost skin every time you got a rebound. Not dirty – just a tough guy.

    Shut up and play Tony Allen, Zac Randolph, et al.

  8. OKC says:

    adams is the final piece okc needs to win a championship, given more time. he is like having perkins and ibaka combined on defense. tough interior post defense and shot-blocking ability. Now if only he could hit his free throws…

  9. okc2014 says:

    I agree. Steven Adams was a great 1st round pick, and will get better every year. I don’t think he’s a dirty player. I like the way he wraps his hand around the ball after rebounds. It’s mine and you’re not getting it from me! Lol

  10. SG says:

    Let’s talk about Steven Adams:

    He holds and wraps his arms around almost every rebound, when he sets a pick, his legs are wide apart (and he still bumps and moves when people when they go around.), he punches and pushes and hardly ever gets called for fouls.

    He should be called for a foul on almost every single possession he’s out there for.

    Props to the rookie that he plays on an OKC team that gets the most fouls awarded, and the least against. Anywhere else, he would be riding the pine.

    • SG says:

      Oh ya, and he has ZERO offensive game and can’t hit free throws.

      • Axe says:

        Whoa, you must be a MEM fan 😀 Steven Adams plays just extremely hard and in my opinion it’s really refreshing to see some good old-school battling under the rim. He’s not too tough, the other bigs are just too soft.

    • Cam says:

      Punches?? Come on, try and keep comments in the real world. No one, even a rookie playing for OKC, gets away with punching. Ask Zach Randolph.

      Hardly ever gets called for fouls? He had more fouls than shots taken in the regular season. He doesn’t play dirty, he just plays hard. And basketball is a contact sport after all. And as a big man, and a rookie, if he isn’t physically aggressive then he will get walked all over then all you irrational haters would be giving him grief about being terrible at defense. Give the guy some credit, he’s 20 and only been playing against top competition for less than two years!

    • okckd35 says:

      Hater. Must be mad. Actually the spurs are at the top of the nba for being one of the least penalized teams yet spurs fans are constantly crying about the refs. Its pathetic.

  11. Chuck says:

    Exactly, but if OKC gets knocked out in this series, it will mercifully be under a good head coach.

  12. Chuck says:

    Jeff, Perkins isn’t sedentary. He is plodding, bad hands, almost everything Adams at still 20 isn’t. SA is proof that the most important non-player is the GM, meaning Sam Presti. Imagine in this series he has three under 25s starting and who were drafted past 10th in the draft. Almost no one who watches Adams realizes what a great talent he is and destined to be. He has played against top competition for only two years, and really this year. Everyone raves about Marc Gasol but SA, who is very similar, will be better in less than two years.

  13. atlantico says:

    My comments are not posted here.

  14. Atlantico says:

    I think the key for spurs to win is tha Parker comes from the bench or even better doesn’t play.

  15. amitpal says:

    Steven adams is a very good young player. I think he’ll be that final piece for the thunder to win championships whether that this year or next couple years.