Paul George was under no misconceptions that there would be both a stark learning curve and, at times, a painful adjustment period this season has he integrated himself into the already-established Thunder culture. George knew that one of the most difficult hurdles would be figuring out how to coexist alongside two other alpha players in Russell Westbrook and Carmelo Anthony.
But he also understood that he’d have to figure out how to navigate the dynamic with an oversize auxiliary player — and personality — like Steven Adams, who he’d battled against in the past and who has curried a certain reputation around the league for his physical play in the post, not to mention his uncanny ability to get under his opponents’ skin.
At media availability on Tuesday, George spoke about getting to know the physically imposing and alarmingly hirsute Kiwi, joking with reporters that Adams turned out to be exactly what he expected, but in the best possible way.
“Going against him, I thought he was some cocky arrogant dude, who always just wanted to start trouble,” George said. “I just thought he was one of those bigs that, every opportunity, he wanted problems. And when I got here, it was the truth.”
Let’s also not undervalue the fact that Adams is one of the funniest, most quotable, and all-around amusing personalities in the NBA today, whether he’s rocking a Rick and Morty Christmas sweater, hugging a sea lion, or pretending not to speak English to undermine Kevin Garnett’s incessant trash talk.
Beyond that, he’s an integral part of the Thunder’s success as an elite pick-and-roll man on offense and a gritty rebounder and defender on the other end. Oklahoma City has won seven out of their last 10 games, yet just two games separate them from the eighth and final playoff spot in the West.
Despite their inconsistencies this season, the Thunder’s collection of talent could render them one of the most dangerous teams in the playoffs. Expectations have been tempered a bit, but make no mistake that Adams, George, and the rest of the Thunder are a scary matchup once the postseason rolls around.