Gilas Pilipinas will have 1 less headache in the FIBA Olympic Qualifiers after Oklahoma City Thunder’s big man Steven Adams has decided to skip the Manila trip.
The 7-foot Adams cited “the congested and unpredictable nature of the NBA post-season” as his main reason for begging off from joining the Tall Blacks in the Olympic wildcard qualifiers according to New Zealand’s official basketball website.
Adams, the first Kiwi player to be picked in the 1st round (2013, 12th overall) in the NBA made his intention known this early to allow coach Paul Henare and the Tall Blacks to move on with their preparation without him.
“I will not be participating in the Olympic competitions with the Tall Blacks this summer,” Adams said.
“This was a very difficult decision as I take tremendous pride in being a New Zealander. The Tall Blacks organisation has been extremely supportive and we felt it was best to make an announcement now as preparations have already begun for the qualifying tournament and the Games,” he added.
Henare accepted Adams’s decision to skip the Manila trip with a heavy heart but he left the window open for his return.
“Of course, we would have liked to have Steven join the 2016 campaign. I’ve said it before that he is world class and would bring plenty to our group, just as we believe the Tall Blacks environment would offer plenty to Steve,” said Henare.
“Steve and his support team have made it clear that they want to keep in touch about the possibility of future participation. Steve has not ruled anything out in that regard, so perhaps we’ll see him in a black singlet one day. The door is always open and Steve is aware of that. We look forward to continued positive and open dialogue with Steve and his team, something we have enjoyed these past 18 months,” Henare added.
The Tall Blacks will sorely miss Adams, who is averaging 7.2 points and 6.4 rebounds for the Western Conference’s current 3rd-best team Thunder (40-16).
Without Adams, the Tall Blacks will rely more on another young big man Isaac Fotu up front. The 22-year old, 6-foot-8 Fotu has been described by Gilas coach Tab Baldwin as a young, talented and strong big man.
Aside from Fotu, who is playing in Spain, the Tall Blacks will also feature 6-foot-10 Tai Wynward, who is committed to play for the Kentucky Wildcats next season and explosive guard Corey Webster, who averaged 13.7 points in the 2014 FIBA World Cup in Spain.
Gilas will play New Zealand on July 6, a day after opening the Olympic wildcard qualifiers against France at the Mall of Asia Arena.