(Todd Jones of NZ Hoops joins us once again, this time to bring you a tournament like no other.)
It is that time of year where many experts around the league sit down and look to predict the outcome of the playoffs. It is an important task, as many folks want to know just whom their beloved basketball club may face on route to the Larry O'Brien trophy. But how important is it really? Is it as important as looking at the Steven Adams rookie season highlight playoff tree and figuring out which Big Funaki highlight sits as king above them all? Which sleeper kiwi highlight could make a run at the championship? These are the most important questions at this time of year and here at WTLC (by way of NZ) we have the answers.
After putting the Steven Adams rookie season highlights into the Steven Adams rookie season highlight playoff seed generator we ended with some interesting match ups.
Just like Steven Adams and a medium rare prime rib, let us dig in.
Scott Brooks on Steven Adams' toughness: "Nothing phases him. All he cares about is eating a lot of food and playing basketball."— Anthony Slater (@anthonyVslater) January 5, 2014
STONE COLD CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS
1) Hook Shot Vs. First Double-Double
Our first matchup in the Steven Adams rookie season highlight playoffs sees his infamous Kareem-esque hook shot (which airballed, but that is a minor detail) face off against his fifth game in the association or in particular, his first double-double in only his fifth game.
Playing against the DEEEEEEETROIT BASKETBALL PISTONS, the young kiwi would finish with 17 points from 7-of-10 shooting, 10 rebounds, three assists, one steal and three blocks in his 30 minutes of action. It would be the first double-double by a Thunder centre since Kendrick Lamar Perkins had 10 points and 12 rebounds in Game three of the 2012 NBA Finals.
Even if the hook shot had of touched the bottom of the net, I don't believe it could have move passed the First Dub-Dub. First Double-Double advances.
2) Larry Sanders Vs. Rising Stars Game
In the second series of the Stone Cold Conference Quarter Finals we have the ejection of Larry Sanders versus Adams appearance at All-Star weekend. During a matchup with the Thunder, the Bucks centre was charged with a flagrant-two foul and ejected from the contest following a stray elbow to Adams' chiseled jaw. This won't be the only time an incident in which an opposition player being ejected for reacting to Stone Cold's hustle appears in the playoffs.
Suiting up for Team Webber in the BBVA Rising Stars game, the young kiwi provided six points on perfect 3-of-3 shooting, two rebounds, two assists and a game high four blocks in a game where defence is as recognizable as a meaningful Hasheem Thabeet minutes (I'm sorry Dream, you did provide one of my favourite photos of the season if only for Kendrick's comment. It was the clear winner in the ‘Hasheem Thabeet I can't believe this is my fifth season highlight playoffs).
Although it was All-Star weekend and it probably should have advanced past the Sanders ejection, the fact that it was the poorest rookie class in recent memory hurt its chances. Of course, Adams earned a spot in the game with his form prior to the All-Star break but he didn't exactly have to battle it out to earn a spot.
Larry Sanders advances but look out for the All-Star weekend to hopefully feature in future Steven Adams season highlight playoffs.
3) Six Steal Game Vs. Kareem Photo
Since steals started to be recorded in 1973, no rookie centre had ever grabbed six or more steals in a single game, enter the Kiwi Robin Hood in Steven Adams. During a big win over the Denver Nuggets at home, Adams was able to swipe an NBA record six steals along with adding 12 points on the night.
Usually an NBA record would lead to a clean sweep in the first round of the Steven Adams rookie season highlight playoffs but the six steal game come up against a photo of Adams and Kareem Abdul-Jabar, a player some would argue is the most successful (when counting championships) basketball player at all levels in history. The Kareem photo quickly turned this into a seven game series but although Adams was sporting the spectacles in the photo, Kareem was without his famous goggles. It is this mistake, although a small one which cost the photo a chance at advancing. Look out for the photo to rebound next year and use this close defeat as motivation.
Six steal game advances.
4) House Hunting Vs. Nate Robinson
Since 2004, there have only been three instances in which there has been two series in the first round of the playoffs that have gone to seven games. Here in the first round of the Steven Adams rookie season highlight playoffs we aren't even out of the Stone Cold Conference and we already have two series that went to seven games. Here we saw Adams and his quest for a clothesline come up against his first experience with an upset opponent.
Some may be asking how the Robinson incident made it into the playoffs as it happened in the pre-season. I will refer you to the clarification I gave the NZhoops readers in regards to how the judging was conducted in the now famous Longley-Marks medal, an award given to the best Australian or New Zealand player in the NBA for the season. To follow the award you can read the monthly reviews here, here and here.
Below is a summary of my explanation;
This is not a democracy. This is a dictatorship and an unruly one at that. I am judge, jury and executioner and I make the final call. I am like Big Brother. No, better yet I am like Simon Cowell. No, wait, better than that I am former commissioner David Stern. Yes, I am the stylin', profiln', limousine riding, jet flying, kiss-stealing, wheelin' n' dealin' son of a gun David Stern! Whooooo!
With this development in the judging process some may ask "Who made this hobbit who only writes about Steven Adams from his Steven Adams bat cave in charge?" This is a fair question and it demands a fair answer. Well basically it was my idea so I am in charge. If you are battling this concept I implore you recall back to your childhood when your mother was demanding you come inside from ballin' out on the backyard hoop, which always did have that slight bow in it. You thought your mother was looking out for you, not wanting to see her favourite child injured because it was pitch black and you couldn't see the basket anymore. But in reality she was sick of the look the neighbour gave her the next morning because it was her child that was the one annoying the entire street with the consistent sound of Spalding connecting with concrete. You would ask your mother why you had to come inside and without hesitation your mother would return fire with "Because I'm you mother and I said so". In this instance I am your mother. I am David Stern and your mother.
So if I want to put the Nate Robinson episode into the Steven Adams rookie season highlight playoffs, I am going to put the Nate Robinson episode into the Steven Adams rookie season highlight playoffs. In saying that, the winner of this intense seven game series was Adams and his house hunting.
Most would think that anytime Nate Robinson gets ejected and fined 10,000 jellybeans that it would mean an easy advance to round two. But when it comes to Adams peaking over fences, looking to live on a farm and knowing his wood types, it's didn't stand a chance.
House Hunting advances.
BEAVER CONFERENCE QUARTERFINALS
1) Foul Out Vs. Sweaty Hibbert
As we have already seen with the Larry Sanders and Nate Robinson incidents, Adams enjoys the physical play. So much so he encouraged his teammates to take their frustration out on him during pre-season training because he likes to get down and dirty in the paint. So it was no surprise that more than once throughout the season Adams would find himself in foul trouble. In fact, Adams fouled out three times and finished with five fouls seven times during his rookie year. Those three times he fouled out, well they all came in a row. That feat earned an individual entry into the Steven Adams rookie season highlight playoffs. During the three game stretch, the big Funaki actually fouled out three times in 40 minutes.
The three game streak faced off against a moment late in the season in which Adams looks to wipe some of his forehead sweat off on to Roy Hibbert's arm sleeve. Most enjoyable is the absolute focus Adams does it with; stone cold in the face, he just persists to wipe his sweat. Help a brother out Roy.
As fun as it is to mess with Roy Hibbert though, the former Hoya and his club are in a giant slump. If this episode have had happened at the start of the season it probably would have advanced but Roy is battling a lot of demons at the moment, we can't reward Adams rubbing sweat into the wound that is the Pacers debacle.
Foul Out advances.
2) Dunk City Vs. Vinsanity
As a rookie, it is sometimes tough to know your limits as a basketball player, Adams does not fall into that category. He knows exactly where his bread is buttered, just have a look at his season shot chart:
It comes as no surprise then that the young Kiwi threw down a few dunks throughout the year but this double up against the Lob City Clippers stood tall above them all.
The two slams came up against the third entry via way of a player's retaliation to Adams and his physical play. The incident involving Adams and the ghost of Vinsanity was the most notable though because of Carter's standing in history.
After the game, Carter was suspended for one game without pay and he apologised for losing his cool:
"I just want to apologize to the fans of both sides, there's no need for it. They're trying to clean up the game and make it fun for fans to watch. It was one of those things where I got caught in the moment and reacted. My intentions have never been that way. It's just one of those things."
"I definitely felt it. It's an elbow to the head. I don't know, just reacting to it is...It was unfortunate that it happened, really. But it's just part of the game, I guess". When furious styles point guard and underwear designer Russell Westbrook was asked about the elbow he replied "That stuff, he just laughs about when he gets hit and he just walks around. The first thing he came up to me and said was ‘What happened?' Like, he don't know what happened. That's just how he plays."
The fact that Adams got a Dallas Maverick ejected was enough for me, you could have made the entry "Adams gets Maverick ejected" and it would have advanced without seeing who it was playing. Thus the phrase "Kiwi Tech" is created.
3) Missed Minny Dub-Dub Vs. Kings Tag
In early January, Adams came within a single rebound of his second career double-double, the reason he didn't get the feat: Steven Adams. The game against the Timberwolves proved that the only man who can stop Steven Adams is Steven Adams. Late in the third quarter Adams would come down awkwardly on his ankle and would leave the game. He wasn't able to return to the floor and as such fell one rebound short of a dub-dub. His final stat line read 15 minutes, 4-of-5 FG, 2-of-2 FT, nine rebounds, two blocks and 10 points. Yes, Iceberg Slim was in his lights out, "I am nobody's number two" mode, dropping 48 in the win over the T-Wolves but that couldn't overshadow the young Kiwi's performance. Of course there was concern that Adams may miss a few games with the ankle that forced him from the game BUT Adams suited up for the next game against the Celtics. In particular, the Celtics match-up was not only the next game on the schedule, it was the very next night!
We should have known he would suit up, after the T-Wolves game Adams tweeted out;
Facing off against the Adams resurrection that was worthy of it's own Easter miracle is the Kings Tag highlight. If you thought the young big coming back from the dead was a true representation of the young Kiwi then you would have Pavlova all over your face. During a match-up with Boogie Cousins and the Kings, the purple people eaters were looking to intentionally foul Adams but the young kiwi would have none of it as he tried to run away from Jared Cunningham and his wandering hands.
The fact that Adams then went on to sink the free throw with confidence makes it tough to beat.
Kings Tag wins it in six games.
4) Jordan Hamilton Vs. The Handshake
Our last matchup of the first round in the Steven Adams rookie season highlight playoffs sees the final entry via way of a player's retaliation to Adams physical play. it is matching up against an Adams moment that coming into these playoffs, many bookies had as a favourite, if not the favourite in that of ‘The Handshake." I have managed to slip the handshake into every article I have wrote about the young kiwi and there was no chance I was going to miss this opportunity. The handshake or lack thereof put Adams personality on the map. He was already creating a stir with his early season form but the lack of reciprocation from Byron Mullens on a handshake offered by Adams and the rookie centre's reaction gave the NBA universe a glimpse of his lovable personality.
The Hamilton incident that saw him suspended for one game without pay and reportedly cost him $10,600. He was the third opposition player to be sent to the showers early as a result of taking an exception to Adams physical play.
I tried to come up with a way to write this as though it was an actual battle, but it wasn't. Not even close. This series was never going to go any other way than a clean sweep in favour of The Handshake. They can rest up and look forward to a massive conference semi-final.
STONE COLD CONFERENCE SEMI'S
1) First Dub-Dub Vs. Larry Sanders
The first match-up in the Stone Cold conference semi-finals sees one of our favourites face off against the Larry Sanders ejection. After making light work of the hook shot in round one and only dropping the one game, it was the First Dub-Dub again flexing its muscles in this match-up. As we get deeper into the playoffs the intensity lifts and although having an opposition player ejected from the game for taking a swipe at you is always a positive, the fact it was Larry Sanders makes this series a cake walk for the Dub-Dub. You see, as most of you already know, Larry Sanders was not exactly the most stable player this season.
Here's a timeline of the Sanders saga In August 2013 Sanders signed a four-year, $44 million extension with thesaveourbucks.com. Two months later his former agent is suing his current representation for alleged client poaching. In November there is reported tension between Coach Larry Drew and Sanders. Then Sanders was involved in a nightclub brawl which saw him tear a ligament in his thumb. As he was cited for this incident by local law enforcement, his record was brought up including animal cruelty charges. Sanders had surgery on the thumb and returned 25 games later when Gary Neal and Sanders are seen arguing post game, Neal telling Sanders to earn his money. Sanders then has the run in with Adams and most recently he was suspended for five games for his third violation of the leagues substance policy.
After reviewing his season, the ejection for taking a swipe at Adams is very minor, for that and the fact that Adams recorded the first double-double by a New Zealander in the NBA since Sean Marks grabbed 13 rebounds and scored 16 points for the Suns on April 16, 2008, the Dub-Dub advances.
2) Six Steal Game Vs. House Hunting
The NBA record for rookie centres coming up against the hunt for a clothesline. On paper this match-up is all but over. But the Steven Adams rookie season highlight playoffs aren't played on paper.
Not to downplay six steals but some of them were not so much steals but rather "hey, the ball is coming to me, I'll pick it up." Also looking at the time of some of those steals, they came in the garbage time of garbage time. Six steals is still a great accomplishment, but is it the same level of accomplishment as getting a double oven?? I don't think so.
House Hunting advances.
BEAVER CONFERENCE SEMI'S
1) Foul Out Vs. Vinsanity
Our first game in the Beaver conference semi-finals sees the three game streak of fouling out come up against the standout episode in which an opposition player was ejected after retaliating to Adams toughness in Vince Carter's brain snap. It's the "foul or be fouled" battle in the Beaver conference. Carter had played 16-years in the NBA and 1,132 games coming into the November 7th matchup with Adams and the Thunder. He had never been ejected. That is the level at which Adams operates, he has the ability to even get under the skin of a ghost in the ghost of Vinsanity. Ring up another "Kiwi Tech." Not much more to say about this, Vinsanity advances.
2) Kings Tag Vs. The Handshake
By far the marquee matchup of the Conference semi-finals sees Kings Tag play The Handshake. It is very surprising to see these two face off in round two of the playoffs; this has the makings of a conference final if not a finals series. Who are we to be disappointed that we are being treated to a huge series this early in the playoffs? The Kings Tag didn't receive as much attention as I thought it should have got whereas the Handshake featured on every review show around the league. The fact that Adams felt the need to tweet about being burnt by Byron demonstrates just how much of an impact it had on the rookie;
How do you recover from a denied hand shake? Hahaha— Steven Adams (@RealStevenAdams) November 22, 2013
For that, The Handshake advances.
STONE COLD CONFERENCE FINALS
First Dub-Dub Vs. House Hunting
A huge series here, The Dub-Dub matches up very well against House Hunting. Ultimately it was the fact that the Dub-Dub was against the Pistons, who although at the time this game was played we didn't realise how great of a mess that Joe Dumars had created, they still had Greg Monroe and Andre Drummond roaming around the paint. They were still a quality opposition and the fact Adams had a standout performance against those two along with a filthy block on Jonas Jerabko will give it the edge over House Hunting. House Hunting had a deep playoff run but ultimately it felt like it fell one video short of completion. Would we have liked to see which house Adams settled for? Yes. Would we have liked to see Adams decorate his new home? Yes. Would we have liked to meet his new neighbours? Yes. Pretty much give him a TV series is what we are asking. But the fact we didn't see the result hurt House Hunting at the business end of the Steven Adams rookie season highlight playoffs and thus fell to the juggernaut that is the Dub-Dub in a seven game series.
The First Dub-Dub advances to the Big Funaki Finals.
BEAVER CONFERENCE FINALS
Vinsanity Vs. The Handshake
Whilst one conference final series was a game for game war right down to game seven, we had a polar opposite in the Beaver conference final. We had the ghost of Vinsanity being sent to the locker room early trying to match it with the force that is The Handshake. After being pushed to six games by Kings Tag, the Handshake was keen to dispose of Vinsanity early as they looked to prepare for The Big Funaki Finals. The Handshake advances unchallenged.
THE BIG FUNAKI FINALS
First Dub-Dub Vs. The Handshake
We made it to the big dance. The Big Funaki. By this stage of the Steven Adams rookie season highlight playoffs it is merely a war of attrition. The Big Funaki Finals was always going to be a seven game series and these two powerhouses meeting in the first ever Steven Adams rookie season highlights playoff feels right. To get here, The Handshake had disposed of Jordan Hamilton, Kings Tag and Vinsanity. Coming out of the Stone Cold conferenceThe First Dub-Dub put the Hook Shot, Larry Sanders and House Hunting to the sword. They both deserve their place at the big boys table but only one can take home the Easter chocolates. Adams was one of the first rookies in the class of 2013 to achieve a double-double and although he may have taken a back seat to Michael Carter-Williams opening week antics, nobody would have predicted when the young kiwi was drafted that he would have been one of the first to get a double-double. Let's watch it again!
But then there is the handshake. One of my heavily biased favourite NBA highlights of all-time. I've watched it time and time again and it still isn't old. For whatever reason Mullens wanted no part of Adams advances, it could have been the fact Adams finished with six points (2-of-5 shooting) and seven rebounds in 24 minutes whereas the Clipper didn't score a point or grab a rebound in his five minutes on court, missing the only shot he took. But Adams proved once again that folks from Down under are a one man army, we don't need anyone.
How tight was this match-up? It took me four days to award a winner and I only committed to it at the last moment. Ultimately it was the hope in me that awarded the Steven Adams Rookie Season Highlight Playoffs to The First Dub-Dub. We haven't seen a performance of that level from Adams since his fifth game in the man's league but I truly hope we see much more of it. So for that fact that I hope it was a sign of things to come in a long career and I don't want this to be the only year we have The Steven Adams season highlight playoffs.
Therefore, we award the Big Funaki trophy to:
The First Dub-Dub!
To Steven Adams' first career Dub-Dub, we award the Big Funaki trophy.