Tramel: Pelicans' Steven Adams gets a triple-double. OKC Thunder gets a win. Hard to beat that.
Remember the good ol’ days, when here in Loud City we contemplated how many rebounds a game Russell Westbrook took from Steven Adams? My guess always was about 1.5.
It was for a good cause. Westbrook’s assault on the NBA record book and triple-double history.
But maybe we were focused on the wrong stat line. Maybe all those years, Westbrook actually was hogging assists that could have gone to Stone Cold.
Traded to the Pelicans in October after seven seasons with the Thunder, Adams is playing better than ever and showing off his basketball skills and instincts.
- Related to this story
- Article: OKC Thunder: Five takeaways from loss to Miami Heat
- Article: OKC Thunder at New Orleans Pelicans: How to watch, lineups, tip-off time
- Article: Tramel: OKC Thunder is taking more 3-point shots than even Houston
- Article: OKC Thunder's Kenrich Williams living up to his ‘Kenny Hustle’ nickname: 'That’s why I’m in the league now'
- Article: 'Appalling': OKC Thunder coach Mark Daigneault responds to riot at U.S. Capitol
- Article: OKC Thunder: Five takeaways from win against New Orleans Pelicans
- Video: OKC Thunder - Steven Adams animation
Adams is taking fewer shots -- his usage rate is his lowest in five years -- and his rebounding is holding steady and his assists are at a career high, 2.6.
That’s after Adams’ first career triple double, achieved in a 111-110 loss to the Thunder. Adams had 10 points, 11 rebounds and 10 assists. His previous career high was six assists.
Mike Muscala, one of Adams’ backups a year ago, was pleasantly surprised to hear that Adams posted the triple double.
“Always good to see him,” said Muscala, who had 18 points himself in the game. “He’s such a tough player to go against. He’s such a great passer.
“For sure, he does a great job facilitating offense. He catches in the high post, he can palm the ball so easily…”
We saw more and more of that from Adams during his OKC days. But we didn’t see this -- a behind-the-back pass to Nickeil Alexander-Walker for a second-quarter dunk.
“We know he can quarterback,” said Mark Daigneault, who spent last season as a Thunder assistant coach and who arrived in OKC to coach the G League Blue a year after Adams was drafted. “In all seriousness, when you play through him, he can glue your offense together. He really made us pay.”
Adams indeed is a wonderful player. An efficient offensive player who doesn’t much care if he shoots or not and seems to take as much pride in his passing as his scoring. A superb rebounder. A dogged defender.
Shai Gilgeous-Alexander said playing with Adams is as fun as playing against him is not fun.
“Getting around his screens as opposed to him setting screens for you, his offensive rebounding, his passing,” SGA said. “Steven’s a complete player. “Yeah, obviously, a guy that like you’re going to miss.”
And miss him we do in OKC. Miss him a lot. But time is undeterred, and it was time for Adams to move on. All Adams would do with this Thunder team is help it win more games, and that’s the last thing an organization needs when it’s positioning for the draft lottery.
So Wednesday night was fun. The Thunder won a close game against a good team, just like it would do in 2011 and 2014 and 2017 and 2020. And an old friend, wearing enemy colors, posted a triple double, having helped Westbrook post so many triple doubles in Thunder blue.
In the first half, the ball bounced out of bounds and into Daigneault’s hands on the sideline. Adams immediately accosted Daigneault and wanted the ball. I assume he was playing. I’m pretty sure. Daigneault didn’t let go of the roundball. He could play, too.
Neither cracked a smile. But it was all in fun.
“That was a very tense moment,” Daigneault said. “It was a wrestling match. I don’t think I’ll win that one very often.”
But now we know why Adams so desperately wanted the ball. He was a quarterback ready to go to work.