• Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare says he's not at liberty to make comments on Steven Adams because the NBA basketballer lives in a different world.
• Oklahoma City Thunder star Adams has reignited another rousing public debate on will he or won't he ever represent his birth country of New Zealand after pulling out of a preliminary Tall Blacks squad preparing for the basketball World Cup in China later this year.
Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare says he doesn't put much energy or thought into whether Steven Adams will or won't slip on a singlet or three-quarter shorts for his country.
"To be honest it's a pointless exercise because if he's in we'll then worry about it, but if he's not then I just focus on what's on hand," says Henare after Adams was named in a New Zealand men's preliminary squad but withdrew before the muster was trimmed to 12 for the men's Fiba World Cup to be staged in China from August 31 to September 15.
The Oklahoma City Thunder star has reignited another rousing public debate on whether he is doing the right thing to lock in his professional career in the United States or he's destined to become a lesser Kiwi if he doesn't soon make a commitment to representing New Zealand on the global stage owing to grudges against Basketball New Zealand tracking back to his childhood.
While Henare has played professionally here and abroad and also went on to captain the Tall Blacks at the height of his playing career, he is reluctant to enter a realm of basketball most people in this part of the world can only dream of.
"I can't comment on his thought processes or what he's done because I've never made $50 million a year or played in the NBA, so that's a different world he lives in," says the 40-year-old Napier-born Wellington Saints coach who lives in Central Hawke's Bay with his family.
"He's got his reasons and [for us] to really understand what those reasons are only he can say," he says before the Saints tip off against the second-placed Taylor Corporation Hawks in the top-of-the-table round 11 encounter of the National Basketball League (NBL) at the Pettigrew-Green Arena, Taradale, at 7pm tomorrow.
No doubt he wants Adams, who is reportedly on a US$100m four-year contract with OKC, in the mix but considering he's never played for the Tall Blacks it is something he's had to deal with and simply move on to celebrating and focusing on the players he can work with.
Saints assistant coach Kenny McFadden had mentored Adams through his age-group years and helped raise funds to put him and his peers through tournaments and trips.
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In his 270-page autobiography, My Life, My Fight — Steven Adams, Adams offers some insight on his reluctance to jump into the patriotic gravy train and instead trying to comprehend realism as he sees it.
"In New Zealand I'm part of a brown minority. In the NBA I'm a white minority. And in Oklahoma City I'm somehow both. No matter where I go I don't seem to fit neatly into a box," he writes. "Usually it doesn't matter too much and being in the NBA and earning millions of dollars means I don't have to deal with the discrimination some of my family have had to deal with back home."
Adams, who co-wrote the book with a friend, Madeleine Chapman, takes the readers from the giddy heights of an NBA ecosystem to his humble upbringing in his hometown of Rotorua and to the capital city where his affinity with his provincial age-group team has become a template on how he presents himself on the elite stage nowadays.
"It's been a learning curve going from poor and brown to rich and white [according to the NBA and its fans] but I'm doing my best to use my privilege for good," he writes.
The 25-year-old centre, who was the only brown boy attending Scot's College in Wellington in his time, has established a scholarship for a promising basketball player. He also has no qualms reaching for his wallet when a youngster can't afford a pair of shoes, stationery or basketball trip in New Zealand.
Public expectation remains on Adams possibly having a change of heart in representing his country at the Tokyo Olympics next year although the country seems to be divided on whether he should do what's best for his career rather than be swept away in a tide of patriotism because he already does more as a global billboard through his pursuits on the NBA platform.
However, some critics on the digital platforms are suggesting Adams is using his New Zealand persona to advance his own career.
Henare says his crop of national prospects, including Hawks captain Jarrod Kenny and swingman Ethan Rusbatch, offers multiple positions of cup savvy talent and those who are knocking on the door.
"The depth is outstanding and that's probably one of the most exciting things about our team and our game, especially in the bigs, although we're probably a little short in the wing positions.
"We're crying out for world-class shooters and scorers," he says. "We do have them but very limited in numbers with the depth we have in numbers in the squad so, barring that, it's a very exciting group."
Henare says Rusbatch is having an outstanding NBL season and his consistency has definitely elevated him into the discussions around the selection table, something that is a product of having him as part of the Tall Blacks programme for the past couple of years.
"Every single person on that list, and I'm not just saying it to generalise things, have made an impression so that's why they are there."
Henare is itching to roll them all out on the floor on August 1-4 in Auckland selection camp before they are trimmed to 14 and finally to a 12-member squad.
TALL BLACKS LONG LIST
• Guards: Shea Ili (Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers), Tai Webster (Galatasaray), Jarrod Kenny (Hawks/Cairns Taipans), Corey Webster (NZ Breakers), Ethan Rusbatch (Hawks), Taylor Britt (Canterbury Rams), Kruz Perrott-Hunt (Nelson Giants), Taine Murray (Rosmini College).
• Small forwards: Tom Abercrombie (Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers), Jordan Ngatai (Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers), Reuben Te Rangi (Wellington Saints/Brisbane Bullets), Dan Fotu (St Mary's College of California).
• Power forwards: Mika Vukona (Nelson Giants/Brisbane Bullets), Finn Delany (FMP Belgrade/NZ Breakers), Isaac Fotu (Ratiopharm Ulm), Max Darling (Vrijednosnice Osijek), Tom Vodanovich (Southland Sharks), Yanni Wetzell (Vanderbilt University), Tohi Smith-Milner (Melbourne United).
• Centres: Rob Loe (Wellington Saints/NZ Breakers), Alex Pledger (Southland Sharks/Melbourne United), Tyrell Harrison (Nelson Giants/Brisbane Bullets), Yuat Alok (University of Central Florida), Sam Timmins (University of Washington).