Thunder center Adams begs off from joining New Zealand for OQT

Bruce Hemmelgarn/USA Today (file photo)

By Ivan Saldajeno

MANILA--Gilas center prospects Andray Blatche, Junemar Fajardo, and Greg Slaughter will have one less player to worry about as New Zealand slotman Steven Adams announced that he will not play for the national team come the FIBA Olympic Qualifying Tournament at the Mall of Asia Arena in July.

In an official release by Basketball New Zealand on Tuesday, Adams opted to beg off from joining the Tall Blacks because of scheduling concerns especially that the Oklahoma City Thunder, his NBA club, are projected to have a deep playoff run.

“I will not be participating in the Olympic competitions with the Tall Blacks this summer. This was a very difficult decision as I take tremendous pride in being a New Zealander. The Tall Blacks organization has been extremely supportive and we felt it was best to make an announcement now as preparations have already begun for the qualifying tournament and the Games,” Adams said.

Oklahoma City is currently in third place in the Western Conference with a 40-16 record.

Despite losing Adams, New Zealand mentor Paul Henare reiterated that the Kiwis can still stand out against fellow Pasay Group B teams Gilas and France.

Henare said in particular, “Our history shows the Tall Blacks are a formidable team that can mix it with the best in the world, I think you’ll find that 2016 is no different. The Tall Blacks have a proud history and a strong culture that produces focused and committed teams.... Our focus right now is on bringing together the strongest possible group of players committed to wearing the black singlet in Rio. The silver lining here is that we have certainty early on, while not the answer we wanted, we can now focus solely on bringing together a strong group of players and finalising our build up campaign for the qualifying tournament in Manilla.”

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