Sporting Achievement of the Year 2013: Steven Adams

By Kris Shannon

In 16 NBA games Steven Adams took the league by storm, playing like a seasoned professional. Photo / AP
In 16 NBA games Steven Adams took the league by storm, playing like a seasoned professional. Photo / AP

Steven Adams needed only four games to make an impact on the NBA world.

Although, to be clear, it was All Star Vince Carter's elbow which made an impact - on Adams' jaw.

Carter, 27th all-time in scoring, threw the cheap shot - and was subsequently thrown from the game - during last month's encounter between his Dallas Mavericks and the rookie's Oklahoma City Thunder.

Adams barely blinked. Social media erupted. And the Kiwi's phenomenal rise in the world's best basketball league hit new heights.

Adams was selected at No 12 overall during June's NBA draft, the consensus describing Adams as a project; he would need to learn how to play professional basketball in the NBA's development league before, all going well, making an impact in the future.

Some analysts saw him spending the whole season at the Tulsa 66ers - the Thunder's D-League affiliate - while others predicted Adams would see limited time at the big league club before the campaign concluded.

No one guessed what the 20-year-old from Rotorua would achieve.

Not only did Adams break preseason camp with the Thunder, he quickly won the back-up centre job and played major minutes in the first month of the season.

Through 16 games, the seven-footer played 17.1 minutes per game while accruing an average of 4.3 points and 5.0 rebounds. The latter two figures exceeded Oklahoma City's starting centre Kendrick Perkins, who managed just a minute more on average.

Adams even joined the starting five on a couple of occasions, taking the floor from the top beside Kevin Durant, widely regarded as the sport's second-best player, and fellow All Star Russell Westbrook.

Two nights after Carter gave the rookie a not-so-subtle welcome to the league, Adams had Thunder fans clamouring for him to start on a permanent basis when he posted a double-double of 17 points and 10 boards in a win over Detroit.

It remains to be seen if coach Scott Brooks heeds those calls by season's end, but it's clear Adams will continue to play a major role on a team rated third-favourites for the Larry O'Brien Championship Trophy come June.

- APNZ

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