Dana Johannsen 's Opinion

Dana Johannsen is a NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Dana Johannsen: Proud Kiwi should play for NZ

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Adams’ decision to train with the OKC Thunder rather than hold court at champs is puzzling

Basketballer Steven Adams shows All Black wing Julian Savea how it's done at the training clinic in Auckland yesterday. Picture / Brett Phibbs
Basketballer Steven Adams shows All Black wing Julian Savea how it's done at the training clinic in Auckland yesterday. Picture / Brett Phibbs

Watching Steven Adams interact with some of New Zealand's top young athletes in Auckland yesterday, the esteem the Kiwi NBA star is held in by the group was evident.

As much as the talented young sportspeople lucky enough to train with Adams appeared to lap up every wee nugget of information he passed on, there's a place he'd be even more appreciated right now - alongside the Tall Blacks in Korea as they continue their build-up to the world champs.

A bruising, confrontational and unflappable 2.13m centre with NBA playoffs experience would come in quite handy for the New Zealand side right now with Alex Pledger considered only an outside shot of being fit for the tournament beginning August 30. The NZ Breakers' big man received a painful foot injury in the recent home series against Korea.

Without a pure centre the Tall Blacks have been forced to alter their gameplan for the world champs - a prospect that must be all the more frustrating for team management when the best basketballer this country has ever produced has chosen not to make himself available for national duties.

Adams' decision to forgo the world champs in favour of spending the off-season developing his game for his second year with the Oklahoma City Thunder seems to have passed by with little comment from Kiwi sports fans. Considering there is uproar in New Zealand every time an English Premier League player bypasses even a friendly international, there was surprisingly little backlash over a player scratched from one of the pinnacle events in world basketball in order to work on his game.

One would have thought the challenge of taking on the best players in the world would be a pretty useful development opportunity.

Tall Blacks coach Nenad Vucinic remains hopeful of having Adams involved in the national set-up in the future, but if he prioritises his off-season training above turning out for his country at a major tournament, you have to wonder if the right time will ever present itself for Adams.

With only meagre funding from High Performance Sport NZ, Basketball NZ do not have the money to run a full international programme. Their programme is largely campaign-based, with test series only scheduled ahead of big international tournaments such as the worlds and Olympics.

You can sympathise with Adams and the situation he finds himself in. His giant frame is stuck between a rock and a hard place. On the court Adams does not allow himself to be pushed around by anyone. Off the court, he is easygoing and deferential. If OKC recommend that he remains in the US and work on his game, it's hard to imagine Adams disagreeing with his bosses, particularly so early in his career.

But he has not forgotten the many people back home who nurtured and guided him when as a teenager he threatened to go off the rails, making sure he reached his full potential.

Now he is back here helping other young kids reach their potential. Adams is even promising to bring some OKC Thunder buddies back to Wellington next month to help run a training camp.

You can't question his affection for New Zealand - as he says in his Twitter bio, he is a "proud as Kiwi". It is a shame this proud as Kiwi won't be representing his home country.


Adams shoots from the lip

On being 21 and a role model for young athletes:
"It is really weird, a couple of the dudes are actually older than me."

On words of wisdom he has to impart:
"Most of the stuff ... I picked up along the way from veterans and more experienced players that have given me their time and helped me out. So it's all their words, really, I'm just the messenger boy."

On the key message he hopes to get across:
"Don't waste energy getting mad about things you can't control. When my dad passed away (Adams was 13) I went through a phase when I got really mad at myself and other people, when it was something I couldn't control."

On his sister Valerie Adams competing in Glasgow:
"It's always great watching Valerie throw, she's always entertaining - she brings so much energy."

On why his own shot put career never took off:
"I made it to the nationals in high school and got smoked by Jacko Gill ... I thought, 'This sport sucks'."

- NZ Herald

Dana Johannsen

Dana Johannsen is a NZ Herald’s chief sports reporter

Dana has over a decade’s experience in sports journalism, joining the Herald in 2007 following stints with TVNZ and RadioSport. Over that time Dana has covered several major events including the 2011 Netball World Cup in Singapore, 2011 Rugby World Cup, 2012-13 Volvo Ocean Race, and the 34th America’s Cup in San Francisco. A multi-award winning journalist, Dana was named New Zealand Sports Journalist of the Year in 2012 after scooping both the news and feature categories at the TP McLean Awards. The previous year she picked up the prize for best news break. She was also an inaugural recipient of the Sir John Wells scholarship at the 2009 NZSJA awards. Dana also writes a weekly sports column for the NZ Herald.

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