The WTLC & NZhoops connection: Post All-Star Break Q&A

Mark D. Smith-USA TODAY Sports

Here is our 2nd edition of the WTLC-NZhoops connection. Find out how our fellow Thunder fans across the globe break down the Thunder and of course Steven Adams.

I am pretty excited; I’ve earned a second date at WTLC! I see this progressing very steadily but I am still not prepared to tell my parents about it.

What was your favourite Adams highlight from previous week?

My favourite Adams highlight of the week, well, there’s the ‘What could have been a highlight.' During the Clippers game, Adams secured rebound following a Blake Griffin miss (of whom found the going tough when Adams was guarding him in the low post), then him running the floor (like a Gazelle) to receive the ball at full speed in the lane only to have sneaky little Chris Paul step in and ruin the moment by getting Adams called for the charge (I watched that play over and over and over again, wanting, wishing and hoping I could find an angle to which it was a blocking foul on CP3. No matter how much I distorted the video it was still a great play by Paul).

Instead my clear winner for highlight of the week was this photo that appeared on Adams twitter timeline;

I don’t know if Nutella is big in the fifty great states but it is a thing of pure beauty. If you asked the ancient gods of Greece to put what they believed captured the essence of heaven into a jar, there is no doubt in my mind they would create Nutella all over again. Nutella is the nectar of the gods.

Please give us your Thunder impressions of past week, how has the team looked post All-Star break?

The Thunder is in danger of missing the playoffs.

How outlandish is that statement? Well, the reaction from the previous three games is not that far removed from the above statement. Suddenly Russel ‘hustle and bustle’ Westbrook is a poison to the Thunder and Adams is not up to it.

This is pretty much how I felt following the three losses in a row.


It may be possible that the folks slamming Westbrook forget the Thunder went 21-4 with Westbrook in the line up whilst they were 22-8 without their athletic point guard. Yes, they got blown out at home to the two time defending champs, lost to the Clippers by eight and most surprisingly went down to Cav’s by 10, but was it really panic stations? This team is adjusting, they have been without Russell since shortly after Christmas, just lost their starting centre for quite possibly the rest of the regular season and now they are replacing him for the time being with a 20 year old rookie centre.

This is classic NBA fandom, where fans (and writers) only remember what they just saw. It’s the over-exaggeration, It is the moment a player is vaguely under the basket and the dunker comes down, slightly grazing his shoulder with his hand and it results in "RIP (INSERT PLAYER WHO DIDN’T REALLY GET DUNKED ON)". It is the "Oh my god, he just got his ankles broken on a killer crossover!" when in fact the defender got his foot caught on the player setting the screens foot. In my time in basketball there have only been two true players that I actually thought had third party insurance in case they actually fractured their opponent’s ankle, they being Tim Hardaway and A.I.

Taking a deep breath and looking at the standings the Thunder still have the best record in the wild west, even after losing three straight. They still have an MVP favourite and just got back another top 10 player. The Thunder is going to be just fine.

So is Adams for that matter, here’s what we know about Steven;

He is 20 years old

He is a rookie.

He has really only been playing basketball for 6 years.

He has had four different teams in the last four years.

And he takes a good photo.

So once again;

Miami is never going to be a good matchup for Adams, especially after the success the Thunder had against them earlier in the year when they went small ball. So let’s forget this game because Adams saw all of 1:54 against the Heat and the entirety of that court time came in the final 1:54 when they were already down by 18 points. Couple that with the two minutes he played in the first matchup between the 2012 finalists and he is yet to record a stat against Pat Riley’s squad. That is concerning in the thought that the Thunder may have to face Lebron and co. in a seven game series for the Larry O’Brien and Adams would have seen all of four minutes live action.

The young kiwi played 16 minutes against Doc Rivers and his Clippers outfit. We all would have liked to seen a it more production from the rookie, finishing with six boards and one point but it’s his decreased shot attempts in his latest stretch of games that I would like to see a change in. Including that game he had two shot attempts in the seven games beforehand. One thing I know everyone likes about Adams is his unselfishness. He knows his limitations but I think with the amount of attention Durant and Westbrook get when driving to the basket there should be more simple hand offs in the lane that result in an easy two for Adams. He has the hands for it (or at the very least better hands than any thunder centre in recent memory), hopefully we see him ever so slightly increase the field goal attempts.

Then there was the Cleveland game. This is the one loss that had the thunder fans saying, "he’s not up to it" and "who would have thought Byron Mullens 2.0 would be an NBA starter" (I may or may not have included that second one just to include the video below).


Yep, still as funny as the first time I saw it. And if you are after a much better player comparison piece than simply saying he is Byron Mullens 2.0 check out Niall Anderson's piece at NZhoops.co.nz.

Looking at the judges scorecard from the Cavaliers fight, in my heavily biased opinion Adams was coping some unwarranted heat (as was Westbrook for that matter, he missed close to two months and people expect him and the Thunder squad to get right back on the absolute tear they were on during December). Firstly, Adams scored on the first play of the game following a dump off from Westbrook, exactly how we drew it up. He finished the game 2-5 FG with 4-of-5 attempts being a result of Durant or Westbrook double teams. Although there were some poor misses including his final attempt in which he missed the rim completely, it was good to see Adams have more attempts.

Defensively, Adams came up against the sort of player that causes him issues in that of Spencer Hawes. Adams was on the floor for all three of Hawes’s makes from beyond the arc. On two of them, Adams gave Hawes just a little too much room and he knocked down the attempt. The rookie has no problems with inside players, of course they are still going to get their shots up but his defence at the rim is at the least above average (Opponents making 50.5% of their attempts at the rim against Adams). Where Adams finds trouble is with the big men that can step out beyond the arc. We’ve seen it with Hawes and we’ve also seen it when he faced Donatas Montiejunas of the Rockets, in which both players made three 3FG against the seven footer.

But in light of the Hawes point total (18), the 2-of-5 from the field, only grabbing four rebounds and providing four points it was unfair to say Adams is not up to it or even worse, he is Byron Mullens 2.0. I don’t usually look at the +/- totals but there were only two players who finished with +/- totals in the black, Adams and Westbrook. The two players receiving the most heat from this performance.

But more importantly to remember from this game was the fact that with 4:42 left in the third quarter the Thunder were up by six points. It was at that point Adams left the game. He came back into the game with 3:05 left in the fourth quarter, the Thunder then down by six. Once again, in my heavily biased opinion I’m finding it difficult to put that 12-point turn around on Adams.

Rounding out the week, Adams and the Thunder Squad welcomed both the Vancouver Grizzlies and Charlotte Hornets to Chesapeake Arena. Pre-Grizzlies game there was some doubt that Adams would make the start, suffering from "flu-like symptoms". If you seriously thought Adams was in danger of missing this game with ‘flu like symptoms" then you need to check yourself. Robots don’t get sick. Robots do not feel pain.

With the Thunder pulling out the six point win over the Grizzlies it seems to have put a halt to the panic both surrounding Adams and the team as a whole. In fact, the feel on social media went from Byron Mullens 2.0 to Adams must be third in the rookie of the year voting. I can understand why, considering just this play alone.

I watched that play over and over again so many times that the advertisements playing before the footage had to loop back around and start again. I love everything about this play. Once again, it is exactly how we drew it up with the double coming for Westbrook, it is the easy two for Adams, it is the flagrant one (or not your regular garden variety foul) on Z-Bo and finally, it is the slap on the rear from Durant. His teammates love him, we love Adams and it feels like he is finding is way into Brook’s closed off heart with comments like this coming from the old ball coach post game "I love that he works, I love that he's tough, I love that his teammates respect him." We all love him. Did I use the word "love' enough? Probably not.

Against Big Al 'Pump Fake' Jefferson I don't think it was in Adams best interest to collect two fouls in the first five minutes of action. Up until that point in his stint as the starter, I think it was a credit to his growth that he hadn't been in foul trouble. Jefferson had his way with Adams but that isn't to say the commentary surrounding Adams should return to the 'not up to it' narrative. Big Al has averaged 20 and 10 this season, his best point and rebounding totals since his second last season in Shabazz Muhammad's Minnesota (That's right, one of my boys in Shabazz runs Minney!!). Adams also wasn't alone on the foul trouble train, half brother Collison and Thabeet joined him with five fouls each with nine minutes still to play in the fourth.

My two takeaways from the matchup with the Cats:

1) At last check, my Eastbay white arm sleeve left the warehouse and is on it's way to the international airport. Should be here within the week.

2) Adams earned himself another hashtag #putbackcity

What is your prediction for the Thunder in the coming week?

Playing in the Cinderella City’s favour is their next three opponents. They are at home to Danny Granger’s my boy Tony Wroten's 76ers squad before finishing the week away in the Arizona desert to coach of the year candidate Jeff Hornaceck’s Suns. They then get the chance to play in the purple and gold at Staples next Monday.

The Thunder won all three previous meetings with their respective opponents by and average of 7.6 points last time they met. Looking a bit deeper into the coming week for Adams I think its important to look at his personal matchups but also how the player he is replacing in Kendrick Lamar Perkins faired in the previous bouts with the opposition.

When the Big Funaki and the Thunder face the 76ers, Suns and Lakers it will be an opportunity for the young rookie to play against some lesser competition than what he has seen since he stepped into the starter role. Against the 76ers he will spend time on old mate Byron Mullens and a player I legitimately had to look up in that of Henry Sims (turns out he was apart of the Hawes trade). This will be Adams opportunity to shrug the Mullens 2.0 tag. The last time these two teams met Perkins had seven rebounds and three points in 21 minutes.

The last time the Thunder faced the Suns, they ran out seven point winners but it was only the third game of the season. I’m excited about the potential matchup between the 5th and 12th picks in the 2013 draft, Alex Len and Adams. Len didn’t play in the first meeting between the two teams and he hasn’t been receiving all that many minutes with Channing Frye and the poorer Plumlee absorbing most of the court time. Perkins provided three points and one rebound (Adams had four rebounds, two points and one block in half the court time) during the last meeting between these two teams.

Both Perk and Adams were non factors the last time OKC played the purple and gold. Adams finished with only two rebounds in his eight minutes whilst Perk didn't cause too much worry for the stat takers. It is still an interesting matchup as Adams will face Chris Kaman and Jordan Hill. I am certain the product of Pitt Panthers will have no worries filling the void left by Perk here. In fact, if you look back through what Perkins provided in both of the previous meetings with the 76ers and Suns, I don’t understand what everyone is so nervous about.

And it is at this point I just realised that in the previous two questions you didn't ask anything about Adams Individually but rather the Thunder as a whole. Somehow I still managed to spend close to 2000 words discussing the young kiwi though!

Following up on the great new word and phrases we gained from ‘The Sweet as Thunder-Kiwi lexicon of power"could you please give us three things that we need to take from the New Zealand culture and adapt into our lives?

Firstly I think it important for me to point out that I am actually Australian. You are probably asking yourself "Why is this muppet such a big fan of Stone Cold Steven Adams then?". To be honest in my first piece for NZHoops I wrote about how I didn’t even know Steven Adams was a real person until the 2013 NBA Draft. I thought he was a fictional created player in my downloaded NBA 2k13 draft class.

I was assigned to the Adams case, seeing what I could find out about the young kiwi. I was much like Rust Cohle (MAN I LOVE TRUE DETECTIVE! I thought about relating an entire article about how much I love Rust Cohle and how alike Adams and Cohle are). The more I found out about the former Pitt Panther, the more I watched him, the more I fell in love with Adams. Much the same way Scott Brooks is now.

So I went about trying to claim him as an Australian. You see Australians and New Zealanders have a funny relationship. We grew up together in World War I as we fought alongside each other and faced some great adversity, we will always have a brotherhood through that time in history. But as Australians, we see New Zealand as our little brother. We are the only ones allowed to bully our little brother, you mess with him and you mess with us. But that doesn’t mean we wont try and destroy our little brother every chance we get in the sporting arena and take whatever we like that they have.

We like Keith Urban, thanks New Zealand, we’ll have him. We enjoy Russel Crowe, no worries kiwis; we’ll take it from here. But it was safe to say they were not prepared to give up the young rookie so easily. And Adams himself doesn’t forget the Australia vs. New Zealand rivalry so easily either.

Whenever Adams faces off against Andrew Bogut and the Warriors he often refers to an incident that occurred between the two nations on the cricket field in 1981, "The Chappell underarm incident". To help you understand the significance of what happened out on that cricket field I must first let you know that cricket is very similar to baseball but the ball has to bounce once before it reaches the batter. The rules state it must stay under the batters shoulder height and roughly within two to three foot either side of the batsmen when it reachers the batter. What happened that day in '81 was similar to it being the last out in the 9th; Big Papi is in the batters box and the new Yankees closer David Robertson is trying to close out the game. But it occurs to young Robertson that there is nothing in the rules that states he cannot roll the ball to the batter as long as it somehow bounces up and enters the strike zone. There is no way Big Papi can get wood on the ball, a strike is called and the game ends. That is pretty much what happened to New Zealand as a result of the Aussies understanding there was nothing in the rules at the time stating the bowler couldn’t roll the ball to the batsmen, thus not allowing the kiwi’s to make the required runs off the last bowl and ultimately the kiwi's lost the game. The bowlers' name was Trevor Chappell. The rules were changed shortly after this game.

Secondly, I cannot help but feel this could go down the same way my Christmas’s do, where I thought I’d done enough in the present column but then upon opening the present my partner bought me, I realize just how far I have under done it. I get that sinking feeling and all I want to do is call a 60 second time out and get back down to the mall to max out my credit card on her. New Zealand and my native Australia have provided the rest of the world with some great things throughout the ages but the US of A has supplied the world with so much more. Hopefully you guys understand it is the thought that counts (and hopefully my partner understands that too!).

Carrying on and in light of how good we are as Australians at picking the best things about New Zealand and attempting to claim them as our own, I will provide you with the three kiwi things you simply must incorporate into your daily lives.

1. Pavlova

I mentioned Pavlova in my first piece but it is worth another mention. Want to know why New Zealand is the third fattest country in the world? Pavlova holds the answer (Yes, we also tried to steal this as an Australian invention).

2. The All Blacks

The All-Blacks have a saying "Better people make better All-Blacks". Those who represent the New Zealand national rugby union side are bestowed the highest honour in New Zealand. Being the captain of the All-Blacks is more important than being prime minister. But it is not so much the fact people should watch the All-Blacks more, it is that fact we should all live like the All-Blacks more. For example, these are elite athletes but even the captain will "sweep the sheds" after a game, meaning they will completely clean up after themselves, not leaving the mess to the team staff to handle. It demonstrates a cardinal value to the All-Blacks, personal humility. They all push forward as one group in life and each player is determined to leave the jersey in a better place once they call curtains on their career. Imagine hearing of J.R Smith cleaning the Knicks locker room after the game or Andrew Bynum speaking about how it is important for him to leave the Pacers organization in a better place than when he entered it?

3. Crowded House

As Drake would say, you can thank me later.

Bonus New Zealand thing to adapt: Seriously get some clotheslines down there in OKC. Once of life's great little pleasures is putting on freshly washed clothes that have been drying in the afternoon breeze. Although I really did enjoy ‘Broncho’, one of the readers comments from my first piece on WTLC (I really love readers comments and e-mails, good and bad);

"The house I lived in as a small child had a clothesline that we didn’t use. It was in one of the oldest neighborhoods in the city. The weather is no good for clotheslines anyway."

Come on guys, you live in the heart of ‘Tornado Alley’, that is PERFECT clothesline weather!

Thanks for having me again WTLC, I feel there is something special growing between us. I hope the feeling is mutual... or this just got really awkward.

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