Crucial season awaits larger than life Steven Adams
Steven Adams runs his hands through his hair. It's a bit scraggly and unkempt maybe the result of a long, two hour practice, or maybe because it's at the point where even the sharpest teeth on a comb would be powerless to make a difference."This?" Adams asks as if he's being asked to explain his wardrobe at a posh, Hollywood movie premier. "Oh, this is just me messing around. Honestly, it's just me being lazy. I can't be paying people to cut my hair anymore, so, yeah, I'm just letting it go."Adams has always been quick with a joke, but now entering his third season with the Thunder and a team with superstars Kevin Durant and Russell Westbrook, we're about to find out if Adams is on his way to becoming known for his game, too.I've never met anyone from New Zealand before. I guess that's how they are there. I'm sure he's normal to everyone in New Zealand.NBA star Kevin DurantHe played 81 games as a rookie, averaging 3.3 points and 4.7 rebounds. Last season, Adams played in 70 games, starting 67 and improving to 7.7 points and 7.5 rebounds per game. Still, though, especially around these parts, Adams is known as a larger than life (2.13m, 116kg) personality, covered up by tattoos, long hair and a large, thick moustache which comes and goes."I've never met anyone from New Zealand before," Kevin Durant says. "I guess that's how they are there. I'm sure he's normal to everyone in New Zealand."He's a free spirit and I love being around him. He brings that energy every day. Some days I got to get on his ass, but you know he does the same with me. He's a cool guy."Cool, free spirited and great ink make for a quirky personality and great headlines, but in Oklahoma City, heading into the 2015 season which starts next Thursday against San Antonio, those things which Adams has in abundance aren't going to be enough. Photo / AP"He likes trying and doing different things," says Talib Zanna, a team mate of Adams at Pittsburgh University and now in Oklahoma City. "He's a lot different, if you haven't noticed. Yeah, he's the funniest guy in the locker room, but if you get close to him, you know he's a serious guy. He comes and gets his job done every day."What he's been asked to do so far is hard to figure out. Despite Adams having improved his skills, both offensively and defensively, he's been used primarily as a physical presence while also being a facilitator for Durant and Westbrook. His presence has not been taken lightly, either.In his rookie season, Adams was responsible for five players getting ejected, including Memphis forward Zach Randolph who missed a playoff game due to fighting with Adams. Adams was called a "sneaky, dirty player" by Los Angeles Lakers guard Nick Young.Check that out here.And here's a video montage of all the different skirmishes Adams has been involved with.All of this only enhances Adams' image as a personality, a character, but is that all he's meant to be? This season should tell us a lot."I just am kind of figuring myself out," Adams says. "Yes, I've definitely matured on the court as well as off the court. I'm more aware of a lot of things that are going on."That much has been obvious in just the amount of games Adams has played. His minutes played have gone from 14.8 per game to 25.3 last year. That should increase this season as his production is on the rise, too. Adams was a 50 per cent shooter in his rookie season and improved that to 54 per cent last term.Off the court, Adams admitted the Thunder organisation has asked a lot of him and it's taken effort on his part to understand."To be a leader and adopting the values of the Thunder," Adams says, "you have to go through it. They tell you them and teach you them, but there's some rough areas. Following through is tough, but keeping with that and doing that stuff is where I feel like I've matured the most."Community service and things like the bombing of a federal building in 1995 and the massive tornadoes which have ripped through the area are historically important to the organisation.So, even while Adams pins his hair up into a remarkably ridiculous 'man bun', he says he knows and understands the people, culture and responsibility of being on this team in Oklahoma City."On the court, it's understanding the responsibility I have," he said. "If people think I'm goofy, I don't mind that. On the court, it's absolute commander and everything. Off the court, it's different."Oklahoma City today exercised their fourth year contract option for the Kiwi, meaning Adams will have to wait until the end of the 2016 17 season to court big money from free agency. But, before then, he is also going to be asked to do more for his current team."The one thing I would say is he's a great guy, a team first guy," Thunder coach Billy Donovan says. "He'll do whatever you ask him to do. His best years are ahead of him. He's a hard worker."