Daniel Richardson

Daniel Richardson is a Wellington-based sports journalist for NZME. News Service.

Basketball: Lopez impressed with Adams

Kiwi NBA rookie Steven Adams wants to suit up for the Tall Blacks in future, providing it works in with his busy schedule.

The 20-year-old was drafted 12th overall by the Oklahoma City Thunder this year but wasn't available to play for New Zealand on their recent tour to China or their ongoing series against Australia.

Adams has been busy with the NBA's summer league and various training camps as he looks to get up to speed with the professional game after he played only one year of college hoops at the University of Pittsburgh before he declared for the draft.

Adams said the Thunder wouldn't stand in the way of him representing New Zealand.

"If they can let me play then they will, they've got nothing against that at all,'' Adams said. ``It just doesn't fit in to the schedule right now. They really want me to play because they feel that it's a big honour for me to. So they're really supportive of it. It's just that it didn't really work out with the schedule [this year].''

New Zealand have qualified for next year's World Cup that will be held in Spain in August and September and the global tournament would be an ideal stage for Adams to pull on the black singlet.

Adams was in Wellington today (sun), where he was helping run a basketball camp for 250 eager youngsters at the ASB Sports Centre in Kilbirnie, alongside Brooklyn Nets All-Star centre Brook Lopez.

Adams and Lopez share the same agent and are in New Zealand for a flying visit before returning to the States as the NBA season slowly approaches.

Adams said he had been busy working out in Oklahoma recently and had met his big-name team-mates, Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant.

"They're cool, Westbrook and KD, they're pretty mean. I've never been star struck, bro, I don't know, I just see them as normal people,'' Adams said. ``Especially if I'm going to be playing with them, it's never really hit me. I just see them as players but I definitely have mad respect for them and what they've done and accomplished.''

Meanwhile, Lopez said he had followed Adams' rise to the NBA and had some useful advice for the 2.13m Kiwi.

"Coming out of college, when you watch the game on TV it looks very slow, thought out and methodical but then you get out on court and everything's happening instantaneously and you have to make split second decisions,'' Lopez said.

"That was a bit of an adjustment for me but I think Steven will be doing great for the most part. He's a coachable guy, he'll get out there and work hard, do what's asked of him and do a lot of the small things at first, that will make him stand out from the pack. And from there build on his role.''

Lopez, 25, also believed Adams had the ability to make a name for himself in the world's best basketball league.

"I definitely think he has the tools ... A lot of people are definitely drafted on their potential and I think in a lot of cases it's all up to the players to take advantage of their opportunity and take advantage of their skillset. Steven definitely has all the tools, all the potential and what I've noticed about him is he really has the mindset and willpower to want to be one of the best players in the league.''

This weekend's camp marks the second time Lopez has travelled to New Zealand after he came here in 2000 to watch his brother, Alex, play for the Canterbury Rams in the NBL.

"So we were in Christchurch for a little bit and saw a few of his games. I definitely took a liking to the area. I'm a big nerd and geek so I did my best to follow the trail to Mordor and see the Lord of the Rings stuff on site, I really enjoyed that as well. We were here for about three weeks.''

Lopez has also travelled to Africa during the off-season with the Clinton Foundation and visited Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia and Rwanda with former US president Bill Clinton and his daughter, Chelsea.

- APNZ

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