Despite kind words from his teammates and coach, Steven Adams has given a brutally honest review of his first season at the New Orleans Pelicans, labelling himself a “dead weight”.
After being traded by the rebuilding Oklahoma City Thunder in the offseason, Adams’ stat line took a hit this year with his new club as they failed to make the playoffs with a record of 31 wins and 41 losses – two games behind the lowest-seeded Western Conference playoff team, the San Antonio Spurs.
On a more personal level, Adams played a career-low 58 games for the Pelicans this season, averaging 7.6 points, 8.9 rebounds and 1.9 assists while shooting 61.4 per cent.
In contrast, in his final season with the Thunder last year Adams played 63 games where he averaged 10.9 points, 9.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists with a field goal percentage of 59.2 per cent.
Adams’ numbers could, in part, be linked to the numerous injury issues he faced this season, which saw young Pelicans Jaxson Hayes and Willy Hernangomez cover him at the centre role where both showed improvement.
The Kiwi big man was asked in his end-of-season interview what he thought of the pair’s development this season when he gave a rough review of himself as part of his answer.
“They were amazing, dude,” Adams said.
“It turns out I was just dead weight – these dudes are amazing,” he added with a smile.
The Pelicans are looking to return to title contention talks in the near future after securing emerging superstars Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram for at least the next two seasons.
As part of that push, the Pelicans also extended Adams’ old contract with the Thunder they received from the trade, adding $48 million to his deal for a two-year extension.
That money was seen to be paying for Adams solid numbers of recent years, although coach Stan Van Gundy notably spoke about everything but the Kiwi’s on-court performances in his own end-of-season interview.
“Steven’s a guy who cares very much about his teammates and is always talking to them, and particularly those two guys [Hayes and Hernangomez],” Van Gundy said.
“It’s every practice, before and after, they’re talking about something.
“I just think him constantly thinking about the game and talking about the game was tremendously beneficial to those guys. And then he’s one of the most supportive teammates I’ve ever been around … He was a great source of confidence for both of them.”
Adams said he’s comfortable playing the mentor role.
“I’ve always talked quite a lot … [not] so much the big speech: ‘Hey everyone, calm down and listen to what I have to say.' It’s more one-on-one type stuff with Billy and Jax, trying to help them the best I can,” Adams said.
“Just words, mate, make it up, claim it if they do anything good, deny it if they do anything bad. You know how it goes.”
The mentoring appeared to have an impact, too, with Hernangomez praising Adams for his support.
“Since my rookie year I always want to be like Steven Adams, a guy who knows his role, a beast on the boards and in the game … Everyone is scared to play against him as he’s one of the strongest guys in the league.
“I would put him as one of my top three teammates ever, and I would say teachers too. The way he dedicated his time to teach me and Jaxson all season is something — you know we appreciate that.
“You don’t have many teammates in your career like that.”