ORLANDO, Fla. — Three summer league games have shown Steven Adams exactly how he needs to spend the remainder of his off-season.
“Free throws, bro. Straight free throws,” he said. “Just working on that, bro.”
In the Thunder’s disappointing 94-71 loss to Indiana on Wednesday, the second-year center missed another six foul shots on 10 attempts.
It dropped his summer league free-throw percentage to 47.8 percent.
He connected on 58.1 percent at the stripe as a rookie.
“We had a two-week break, and I got advice to do nothing,” Adams said, explaining that he hasn’t been practicing his shooting. “At the end of the season I was kind of, like, ‘Oh, he sucks at free throws.’ But now it’s like, ‘Oh my God. This guy’s rubbish.’ You know what I mean? So I got to get back to being, like, sucky at free throws and we’ll go from there.”
But between trips to the foul line, Adams also will spend ample time down on the low block.
The Thunder throughout this week in Orlando has been working on Adams’ back-to-the-basket game, and if for whatever reason Pau Gasol passes up the Thunder, the team could turn to Adams to solve its longtime search for a low-post scoring threat.
“That’s exactly what we’re working on,” said Thunder assistant/summer league coach Darko Rajakovic. “We want to see Steven be able to get the ball on the low post more and create from there.”
Adams has all the tools to be successful.
At 7-feet, 250 pounds, he has ideal size and mixes that with strength, timing and footwork. He put all that and more on display throughout Wednesday’s game.
Against 6-foot-10 inch Pacers forward Willie Reed, Adams went to work time and time again from the left block. He scored four of his nine points in the opening two minutes, his first bucket coming on a quick and nifty post move that ended with a layup.
Even though Adams went just 3-for-6 Wednesday, you could see signs of him developing into a quality post presence. He showed great patience on his catches, solid awareness of his surroundings and good vision and passing ability when playing in a crowd.
“He showed a couple of really good passes from the low post and a couple of really good moves,” said Rajakovic. “We have to be happy with that. That’s something that is adding to his game and is going to be an emphasis for the rest of the summer.”
Adams flashed a workable drop step move and a sound jump hook. He said he’s most comfortable with the jump hook, which has been on display throughout the week.
“Me and (Thunder assistant coach Mark Bryant) have been working at it for a year, all last year,” Adams said of low-post offense. “Now it’s just putting it in the games and trying to get comfortable in the games. … It’s headed in the right direction, I feel.”
But not nearly where Adams wants or needs it to be in time to be a go-to option next season.
“I’m still a (newbie), bro,” Adams said. “I’m getting better from when I started off. But I still have a long way to go in terms of reading my man and what I can get away with.”
Wednesday’s lesson came from 6-foot-9, 275-pound Pacers center Arinze Onuaku. He became one of the few men this week that Adams couldn’t budge.
“I tried to back him down and then he stripped it,” Adams recalled. “And so I’m like, ‘OK, I’ should use my speed against him.’ It’s different reads like that that I’ve got to get used to.”
Until he does, don’t look for Adams to demand post touches.
“It’s just because I ain’t really confident in my moves,” he said. “If I was more confident in my moves then I’d definitely be more demanding because I know that I’ll be able to score straight away. So that’s what I’m trying to get to.”
But Adams is confident he’ll get there.
And so is the Thunder.
“We believe that he is capable of doing this stuff, and he is making improvements,” said Rajakovic. “We’re going to make small steps every day and every week, and we believe that he’s going to be the guy who’s going to bring that for us next year.”