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The Best N.B.A. Rebounding Training: Battling 14 Siblings


MEMPHIS — Steven Adams once thought he was destined for farming life, back when he was just an exceptionally tall boy finding his way around Rotorua, a rural town on Latest Zealand’s North Island known for its thermal pools.

He valued labor, family and consistency. (Because the youngest of not less than a dozen siblings, he had no alternative but to work with others.) Then one in all his youth basketball coaches bought him a pair of size 16 sneakers at a flea market. He wore them all over the place.

Today, Adams, 29, has a high-profile and well-paid occupation, as a 6-foot-11 center for the Grizzlies — and as one in all the N.B.A.’s most prized teammates. He plays defense. He curses. He rebounds. He curses. He cracks jokes. He curses.

“Funniest person I’ve ever met,” said David Roddy, a first-year forward.

In the method, Adams has endeared himself to a young team with championship hopes as the most effective teams within the Western Conference. A former sidekick to the likes of Russell Westbrook and Kevin Durant in Oklahoma City, Adams is now a one-man team-building operation in Memphis, where Ja Morant, one in all the league’s most precocious stars, counts himself among the many beneficiaries of Adams’s lunch-pail labor.

“I feel like plenty of the stuff he does for us goes unnoticed,” Morant said, “and it’s time for people to start out watching him.”

Along with his sleeve of tattoos, bushy beard and mop of hair that extends to the back of his jersey, Adams would look right at home aboard a big fishing vessel. As a substitute, he leads the N.B.A. in offensive rebounds by a large margin — a statistic that teammates and coaches value, since offensive rebounds create extra shots — while applying his self-styled brand of leadership.

It was on display through the Grizzlies’ season-opening win over the Knicks. In the midst of a late timeout, Adams stole a towel from the shooting guard John Konchar in order that he could hand it to Morant, who apparently had a sweaty brow and — let’s be honest — was prone to play a more vital role down the stretch. Konchar, who finished with 12 points, was left to stare at his empty hand.

After a recent practice, Konchar recalled the primary time he met Adams, who got here to the Grizzlies in a trade with the Latest Orleans Pelicans before the beginning of last season.

“I didn’t really know what to anticipate,” Konchar said. “I mean, he’s 7-feet tall and appears form of scary.”

Konchar proceeded to rattle through Adams’s many superb attributes: his comedic timing, his taste in music, his size and strength, his uncanny gift for collecting errant shots. As he was wrapping up his interview, Konchar spotted Adams.

“Steve-O!” Konchar shouted. “I said so many nice things about you.”

Adams glanced over his shoulder just long enough to tell Konchar that he was stuffed with it.

Said Roddy: “Truthfully, he’s taken all of the younger guys under his wing. And I’m just attempting to learn from him as much as possible.”

A lot of Adams’s approach as a basketball player is rooted in his childhood. He had a big family. By Adams’s count, his father, Sid, had 14 children, though a few of his siblings think the number is higher. Adams also coped with tragedy and loss. And while he loved to rejoice, he also knew when to be serious.

“Families are tough to run,” Adams said in an interview. “You’ve got to be open and honest. You’ll be able to’t be overly kind, either. It could’t be encouragement on a regular basis. No, dude, that you must tell them after they’re messing up. And there’s nothing flawed with that.”

He went on: “Often, honesty is kind of ugly, and other people don’t prefer it. But it surely’s vital within the N.B.A. because you would like immediate results. We play games every other day, so that you must get at the basis of the issue.”

Sure enough, the interconnected themes of family, community and, yes, teamwork run throughout Adams’s 2018 autobiography, “My Life, My Fight: Rising Up From Latest Zealand to the OKC Thunder.” Adams is happy with the book.

“Threw some words together, didn’t I?” he said.

He writes about playing sports as a boy and about getting pushed around by his older sisters. (One among them, Valerie Adams, is a two-time Olympic champion within the shot put who recently retired after winning the bronze medal on the Tokyo Games in 2021.) He writes about fighting the lack of his father, who died of cancer when Steven was 13, and finding basketball through the assistance of local coaches who guided him to camps and provided him with opportunities.

He also writes about feeling isolated at Notre Dame Preparatory School in Fitchburg, Mass., where he spent a postgraduate season before enrolling on the University of Pittsburgh. By then, Adams writes, he had gotten used to having a “tight-knit community” around him — friends who were “at all times willing to assist out with anything.” Without that sense of community, Adams suffered.

So being a component of 1 — and even helping to create one — was something he prioritized when he joined the Thunder because the No. 12 pick within the 2013 N.B.A. draft. On a playoff-ready team led by Durant and Westbrook, Adams was joyful to do the blue-collar work that got here naturally to him: block shots and set screens, rebound and defend.

If he was an excellent teammate, Adams also irritated opponents. As a first-year player, Adams fouled out of three straight games. Vince Carter and Nate Robinson took swings at him. Later, in a heated game against Golden State through the 2016 Western Conference finals, Draymond Green kicked him within the groin.

On the time, Adams wondered why so many players looked as if it would react so aggressively toward him. He theorized that plenty of them were only children. Here, again, he cites being a component of a giant family growing up. As he writes in his book, “The trick was to bother your siblings as much as you may without being caught by your household ref.” The ref, in that instance, was one in all his parents.

With the Grizzlies, Adams has been on a tear. Ahead of their game against the Charlotte Hornets on Wednesday night, Adams had averaged 11.7 points and 20.3 rebounds in three straight wins — and no, that will not be a typo. He had 21 rebounds against the Pelicans on Saturday, which gave the impression of a giant deal until he grabbed 23 against the Sacramento Kings the subsequent day.

“There’s no craft or science behind it,” Grizzlies Coach Taylor Jenkins said. “He just puts himself in the appropriate spots, reads his teammates and has a knack for the ball. It’s so simple as that.”

Adams described among the subtle differences between offensive and defensive rebounding. On offense, he said, he felt as if he may very well be on “the attack,” with greater freedom to pursue the ball. On defense, he has more responsibilities. For instance, he could also be in the midst of a defensive rotation when a shot goes up and he has to search out someone to box out.

In either case, he knows he has a job to do, which is to assist his team. In some ways, it’s all he has ever known.

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