November — beautiful weather, Thanksgiving and the beginning of the NBA season.
I’ll do my best not to gush about my Oklahoma City Thunder on here all season long, but something happened last night that was worth taking note of.
With about 4:00 left in the third quarter of a game that had stayed pretty competitive between the Oklahoma City Thunder and the Dallas Mavericks, veteran shooting guard Vince Carter lodged a retaliation elbow to the face of rookie center, Steven Adams. Adams was given a technical foul and Cater was hit with a flagrant 2 and ejected from the game.
Those are the facts. Now watch the video:
There are a few things we can take from this altercation. Let me break it down for you:
- Steven Adams is the man.
An NBA player threw an elbow in his jaw and he didn’t even flinch! Like a flippin’ boss. Zero cares given. Remember the Harden/World Peace Elbow Heard Round the World incident from 2012? Adams makes Harden look like a pansy. The argument remains open about if the Harden hit was a flop, but it is clear that that will never be an issue with Steven.
- If I were ever to get in a fight, Russell would be my first choice as backup.
After the elbow, Adams jumps for the rebound and looks a little confused when the play is whistled. Westbrook, on the other hand, is quick to yell out, “You can’t do that s*!t!” He walks over to Adams and puts his hand on his chest, as if to say, “Back up, big fella, before you jump off and get yourself in to trouble.” But the thing is that Steven wasn’t angry. According to a quote from Russell, he wasn’t even exactly sure what was going on. Watch it again though and you can see that had Adams responded differently, Russ was ready to throw down. I love that about him.
- Steven Adams is the most even keeled player on the Thunder.
I know he’s a rookie so that’s a pretty bold statement to make, but I’ve done my research on the guy. (Since before the draft, but that’s another story for another time.) First, you need to understand the culture of his home, New Zealand. (Another subject that I’ve done my homework on.) They’re an incredibly laid back culture compared to Americans. They just don’t get worked up. Add to that the fact that he’s the youngest of 18 children. I’m sure he took his share of ribbing growing up. Oh, and he played rugby. Hits to the jaw no longer register. God help the first guy to get Adams upset. He might literally Hulk out.
- Steven Adams may or may not be a robot.
Watch the way this kid plays – not just on this play, but all of them. It’s as though he has been programmed to accomplish a task and no one and nothing around him will stop him from completing that task. Make a rebound, pass out to another player, make another rebound, set picks, finish around the rim. Anything that happens surrounding those functions does not concern him, even an elbow to the jaw. That’s what you want in a player and that’s one of the reasons why Adams has the potential, in my mind, to be a top 10 center in the NBA.
- The non-reaction lead reporters to question a couple of Adams’ teammates about his toughness.
Their responses are pretty great:
Jeremy Lamb was asked about the play and said he asked Adams if the elbow hurt and Adams’ response was just “What?”
Westbrook on it: “Yeah that stuff he just laughs about. He gets hit and just walks around. First he came up to me and said, ‘What happened?’ He didn’t know what happened. That’s just how he plays.”
- That elbow began a love affair between the citizens of Oklahoma City and Steven Adams.
I’ve been obsessed with Adams since May, but with one elbow to the face and two made free throws, the rest of my city is officially on the bandwagon. When the play happened, the arena remained pretty silent. Because Steven didn’t make a big deal out of it, we didn’t know anything was wrong. It wasn’t until the replay that 18,203 fans immediately backed the kiwi. Seeing that he kept his cool, the doubters or uninformed onlookers gained respect for the man. When he made his way to the line, he got KD level cheers. After nailing both shots, the fans were smitten. Soak it in, Thunderheads. Having a talented rookie to be excited about helps ease the pain of Harden trade. Shooters can be replaced. Solid centers are much more difficult to come by. Perhaps we ended up doing alright for ourselves.
One last thing to remember, all this happened on national TV. So while the game as a whole was super exciting to Thunder fans mostly because of things like this and this, this one will go in the book for me as Steven’s coming out party. This is just the beginning of a very long, impressive career.