With Kendrick Perkins away from the team during a portion of the Thunder’s past road trip, Steven Adams got his first career start last Wednesday.
His nightmarish assignment: Contain Chris Paul on the pick and roll.
The result: Not great.
During the opening minutes of the Clippers eventual 111-103 win over the Thunder, Paul dissected OKC in the half court, baiting the rookie center into a number of defensive misplays.
It’s not the first (or last) time rookie Paul has exposed an inexperienced player. And it certainly left an impression on Adams.
“He’s the hardest guard I’ve had to mark on the pick and rolls,” Adams said. “He’s just so smart and tricky and he’s quick. It’s kind of hard to explain. Just trust me it’s tough.”
The only point guard in Paul’s category that Adams has faced for significant minutes is Derrick Rose, who exploded for 26 points in a preseason game against the Thunder. Adams played 30 minutes in that game, came face-to-face with a whirling Rose multiple times and was complimentary of the Bulls guard afterward.
But Paul, he says, presents a whole different challenge.
“Well, Chris Paul kind of mixes up both,” Adams explained. “He’s a smart guy, so what he does is he makes you have to guard him, so Blake (Griffin) is open and stuff like that. Whereas Derrick Rose you see is much quicker but he’s just going, so you can sometimes anticipate it. But with Chris Paul, if you anticipate it, it’ll open something else and he’ll just take that. So that’s much harder to guard.”
Adams gets a second crack at Paul and the Clippers tonight (tip at 7 p.m. on TNT).