In a year without much to look back fondly on, Oklahoma City will be able to send out 2020 on a nostalgic note.
While few members of the team remain from Adams’ time, there will be meaning for an organization that head coach Mark Daigneault said still feels his impact.
“People associate really positive things on and off the court with our logo, and there’s no bigger reason for that than the players that have played here,” Daigneault said Tuesday. “Steven is an embodiment of our organization in a lot of different ways — his personality, his competitiveness.”
The Big Kiwi spent seven seasons with the Thunder, becoming a fixture of the team and a fan-favorite with his tough play on the court and laid-back attitude off.
True to tune, he was casual when asked about it Wednesday.
“Should be fine, mate,” Adams said, according to The Oklahoman. “Just another basketball game, really. Should be good to see some familiar faces and whatnot.”
That’s the same guy who, when asked about his emotions after he was traded, said “It’s not like I died or anything” and that he’d see his former teammates again.
He said that on the first day of this month. The reunion came quickly. But some people have some reservations about seeing him again — guard Shai Gilgeous-Alexander joked that he wouldn’t be going after rebounds quite as hard as normal with Adams down low.
They were teammates last year, but Gilgeous-Alexander faced off against Adams and the Thunder four times as a rookie on the Los Angeles Clippers.
In the nearly two years since the last matchup, Gilgeous-Alexander has evolved as a player.
“Not too many times I’ve seen Stevo on the defensive end guarding me. In practice last year we were usually on the same team,” Gilgeous-Alexander said. “It’ll be different. It’ll be weird.”
There will be one missing ingredient to the homecoming: the fans.
Chesapeake Energy Arena will be empty when Adams returns.
“I think it would’ve been better if we had the fans,” guard Hamidou Diallo said. “I wanted to see how the fans would have reacted to him.”
The Thunder tweeted a tribute of him before the game, and until fans are able to return to the arena and see him in person, it’ll have to do.
For the players and team, it will remain meaningful.
“As new guys put the uniform on, the uniform has meaning to them, and a large part of that is players like Steven,” Daigneault said. “We’ll welcome him back with open arms and then hopefully give him nothing easy.”
Thunder vs. Pelicans: Point spread, betting odds, prediction
Thunder tweet video tribute to Steven Adams before game vs. Pelicans
Sam Presti calls trading Steven Adams a 'challenging and difficult decision'