It was announced today that Steven Adams will not be playing for New Zealand in a two game series against Australia this August. The series will determine a qualifying spot for the Olympics next summer.
Losing Adams will be a major blow for the Tall Blacks. Australia is a team laden with NBA stars, including Andrew Bogut, Dante Exum, Matthew Dellavadova and Cameron Bairstow. New Zealand's only NBA player would have been Steven Adams. Without Adams to anchor down the middle, the Tall Blacks will have no player over 6'9".
Adams reportedly took the decision very seriously. Here's part of the statement released by Steven's representatives:
"Due to scheduling conflicts over the coming months and Steven's focus on being ready for the start of the 2015-16 regular season, Steven would not have been able to join the national team until very late in their tour … Because he does not think it is the right thing to join the team so late in the process he will not be participating with the New Zealand national team in the Oceania series ... While he won't he playing this year, Steven remains very keen to be part of the team in future competitions."
Originally, it looked like Adams might have joined the Tall Blacks for those final two games. Tall Blacks' coach Paul Henare seemed very hopeful about Adams ability to join the team at the time. But Henare accepted Adams' pulling out, saying, "we also understand his position and the changes that have occurred at OKC in recent months - changes that have meant he must pay closer attention to what is happening in the States."
To be sure, this is a very important season for Adams career. Despite Adams bursting onto the scene during his rookie season, a hand injury definitely hampered his Sophomore development. Furthermore, this will be the first season where Adams has to compete with Enes Kanter for minutes. Kanter has much more potential than Perkins did for a good game, and is getting paid a much bigger contract. Lastly, it's important to consider that the Thunder's last season was largely a disappointment. Expectations this year are sky high, and Adams needs to do all he can to be ready.
At the end of the day, Steven Adams is committed to making himself a better player and doing all he can to help his team win. It could be important for Adams to eventually go to the Tall Blacks and assume a leadership role. But for the time being, the Thunder need Adams to continue his development and play a very specific role on this championship-level team. In any case, the Tall Blacks will still have a shot at the Olympics next summer.