Steven Adams has tallied up 439 blocks in his professional career, but none have been quite as convincing as his rejection of the Tall Blacks.

The Oklahoma City Thunder big man has made himself unavailable for the Tall Blacks' 20-man extended squad announced today for two World Cup qualifiers against Hong Kong and China, continuing his absence from the national team.

There was misguided optimism in some circles that this round of qualifiers would see Adams pull on the black singlet for the first time. The games fall in the NBA offseason, Adams is in New Zealand hosting basketball camps and golf tournaments, and the Hong Kong clash is being played in his home town of Rotorua.

Instead, Adams' self-imposed international exile continues - a decision that may disappoint the Tall Blacks, but was hardly unexpected.


Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare says Adams' absence is unfortunate.

"I stayed in touch with Steve throughout the season and towards the end of the season he let me know that he most likely wasn't going to be available for this window. I tried to twist his arm and get him to change his mind but unfortunately that didn't happen.

"He's always said that he wants to play and will play. It's unfortunate that it's not this time around – from our point of view the timing seemed to be really good. We just have to wait and see when that time might be."

Adams' decision is one that is completely his prerogative, and absolutely defensible. Adams can do whatever he wants, and shouldn't be beholden to a misguided call of patriotism if it clashes with his individual objectives.

Short term, Adams' absence is no loss - the Tall Blacks have an abundance of big men, and are odds-on to qualify for the World Cup. Henare's side will at worst go 1-1 in this window - they beat Hong Kong by 59 points in November, plus won in China in February - and have already qualified for the second round.

There, they will meet three teams who the Tall Blacks' youth brigade finished ahead of at the Asia Cup - Jordan, Lebanon and most likely Syria - and despite points carrying over, it's hard to see the Tall Blacks being particularly troubled in their path to the World Cup.

It is at that 2019 World Cup where Adams would be a pivotal addition; the player who could push the Tall Blacks from their usual role of potent underdogs to a side more capable of pulling off a deep run.

But, while Adams said he'd be keen to play for New Zealand "when the time is right", with each passing opportunity it feels that time may be non-existent.

Even though some may prefer more clarity about his reasoning for snubbing the national team - Henare hasn't even received a reason - he is under no obligation to provide it, and while the Tall Blacks may be disappointed, they have created an experienced core in his absence.

Not all of that core is available for the upcoming window, however. Tai Webster is chasing his NBA dream, Alex Pledger is also missing, while the Tall Blacks are in negotiations with Corey Webster's Chinese team for him to be released for the games. Shea Ili is not named in the squad due to his NBA camp with the Dallas Mavericks, but will return in time for the qualifiers.

As usual with these Tall Blacks camps, there are a bunch of young players in the mix too. Jack Salt is back from college and will likely make the final 12, while players such as Tobias Cameron, Isaac Letoa and Jackson Stent also have put their hands up for selection on their breaks from collegiate play. 17-year-old Max Darling gets a chance after his superb NBL form with the Canterbury Rams, while the coaching staff will take a look at Brisbane Bullets development player Tyrell Harrison, a promising seven footer who plays in the Australian state leagues and has dual eligibility.

All up, there could be a few notable absentees in the final 12, but for now, there is no absence more notable than that of Adams.

Tall Blacks squad: Jarrod Kenny, Derone Raukawa, Dion Prewster, Isaac Letoa, Ethan Rusbatch, Jordan Ngatai, Tobias Cameron, Alonzo Burton, Kruz Perrot-Hunt, Reuben Te Rangi, Tom Abercrombie, Mika Vukona, Finn Delany, Tohi Smith-Milner, Jackson Stent, Isaac Fotu, Max Darling, Jack Salt, Rob Loe, Tyrell Harrison