In his annual exit interview with the media, Sam Presti tried to temper the rapidly rising expectations surrounding his latest draft-day success.
Steven Adams had just completed his first postseason run, an eye-opening month-plus where the 20-year-old arrived on the national scene and solidified himself as one of the franchise’s most promising building blocks. But, Presti warned, he didn’t want to be a prisoner of the moment.
“The recency bias is to think about the last couple games that he played,” Presti said of Adams. “But ... if our run ended in Game 5 of the Memphis series, we wouldn’t really know what Steven was capable of and we’d be maybe looking at those questions differently.”
Presti is right. Adams had a solid rookie season, but wasn’t really a factor as the playoffs began.
In Games 2 through 5 of the Memphis series, Adams played a combined nine minutes, all in mop-up duty. He was out of the rotation. And if the Grizzlies had completed that first-round upset of the Thunder, Adams’ initial postseason experience would have been as little more than a spectator.
But that’s when things changed. That’s when Scott Brooks abandoned some of his trusted veterans and gave the rookie an extended chance. And that’s when Adams delivered.
It started in the Game 6 must-win in Memphis, when Adams rose from a deep freeze to swat five shots in 20 minutes, throwing his body around and altering the physical complexion of the game and series.
The performance was impactful enough for Brooks to stick with Adams for good.
Over the Thunder’s final 14 playoff games, Adams played 310 minutes, 53 more than starter Kendrick Perkins and the fifth most on the team, behind only Kevin Durant, Russell Westbrook, Serge Ibaka and Reggie Jackson.