After being traded from the Oklahoma City Thunder to the New Orleans Pelicans, Kiwi NBA star Steven Adams is settling into his new surroundings nicely.
Adams was solid in his NBA debut for the Pelicans on Thursday (NZ time), stuffing the stats sheet and helping his team to a 113-99 win over the Toronto Raptors.
"Steven Adams is a lot more skilled than people think," Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy said after the game.
"I think when people look at Steven, they see the size of him and assume he's just, you know, a big banger, a screener, and a physical guy. But he's a skilled guy; he's got great footwork, very good hands, he can pass the ball, he can finish around the basket and out about six to eight feet with floaters, he's got great touch.
"He's a highly skilled player as Pelicans fans will find out as they watch him play this year."
In 30 minutes of action, Adams posted eight points and as many rebounds, as well as four steals, three assists and two blocks, turning plenty of heads and showing what he will bring to the Pelicans frontcourt.
Reflecting on the game, in which the Pelicans committed an alarming 27 turnovers, Van Gundy praised Adams' work on the defensive end.
"He was great defensively. He saved a couple of plays where our rotations were terrible and people were wide open, he was basically able to defend two guys on his own. He was tremendous."
Adams spent the first seven years of his NBA career in Oklahoma City, one of the NBA's smaller markets, before being dealt to one of the most exciting teams in the league.
The Pelicans are building around a young core of small forward Brandon Ingram and power forward Zion Williamson, who have both flourished since pulling on a New Orleans jersey.
The Pelicans sought Adams' services to provide some much needed support in the middle, as he provided against Toronto, but also to be a veteran presence to the young squad. Still just 27-years-old, Adams is the fourth oldest member of the Pelicans' roster and their third-longest serving NBA player, behind guards JJ Redick (now in his 16th season) and Eric Bledsoe (12th season).
"Probably the most surprising thing is calling a 27-year-old guy like Steven one of the old guys," Van Gundy said.
The Pelicans next match is against the Miami Heat, the reigning Eastern Conference champions, on Boxing Day (NZ time) in the first of five back-to-back NBA games, all of which will be broadcast on ESPN.
text by Christopher Reive, NZ Herald