Adams’ Tall Blacks promise
It won’t be this year, but Steven Adams has given a strong indication he might be ready to finally end his Tall Blacks exile.
Adams offered the tantalising titbit during a promotional NBA visit to the Philippines when reporters inquired of his future international intentions.
‘‘When the time is right, I will be definitely suiting up. You will see me,’’ Adams said during a media appearance in Manila.
It’s a prospect that can’t come soon enough for New Zealand fans as they continue to await the prospect of the big centre adding size, defensive presence and toughness to a Tall Blacks team that ticks a lot of the other boxes as a growing international force.
It’s a notable commitment from the 23-year-old Oklahoma City Thunder centre, who will embark on a four-year US$100 million (NZ$136m) mega-deal with the club starting next NBA season.
Up till now he has continued to make himself unavailable for international play as he has concentrated on establishing himself in the NBA. Initially Tall Blacks coach Paul Henare had hoped to persuade his lone NBA representative to finally pull on his country’s singlet at next month’s Fiba Asia Cup when the New Zealanders will make their debut in the newly reconfigured Asia zone.
But that prospect went out the window when Henare, somewhat controversially, decided to give all his top players the 2017 international season off and send only a development team to the Asia Cup.
Now Henare is eyeing next year’s June-July international window as being the next opportunity for Adams to slip into the national team.
‘‘One of the things this new Fiba format has done has made it really clear long-term when we’re playing and when certain players will be able to play,’’ Henare said.
‘‘A lot of the windows clash with the NBA season, but for instance next June and July, that 10-day window, fits in pretty good with the NBA season.
‘‘I had a chance to sit with [Steven]. He’s really keen on playing in the Olympics, but obviously we need his help to try to get there. The next conversation is ‘mate, we need you here and here, and if you can do that, great’.’’
To qualify for the Olympics, the Tall Blacks would first have to make it through to the 2019 World Cup in China.
‘‘Then they would need to either finish higher than Australia at the tournament to gain Oceania’s sole automatic spot; or win one of the four qualifying tournaments that will be held in 2020.