By Randy Renner
If you want to be the best, they say, you have to beat the best.
Thunder second year center Steven Adams is about to get a real chance to show just how much better he's gotten when the Thunder take on the New Orleans Pelicans tonight.
Adams will be taking on All-Star Pelican big man Anthony Davis and he'll probably also see a lot of Omer Asik too. Adams missed out on Marc Gasol and Zach Randolph the other night when Memphis came to town but both Davis and Asik are expected to play, at least some, tonight.
Davis had 26 points, eight rebounds and four blocks in a rout of Houston this week. He slides back and forth between playing power forward and center.
Kevin Durant has said Davis likely "next in line," for big time stardom in the NBA and Thunder head coach Scott Brooks doesn't disagree.
"He's definitely going to be one of the best players in the game," Brooks said after practice Wednesday. "To be considered one of the best you have to have layer to your game, you can't be one dimensional. He scores inside, he scores outside, he can put the ball on the floor and get to the free throw line. He rebounds and he blocks shots. He's a stat stuffer."
Adams is becoming more of a stat stuffer himself, especially this preseason.
His point production has gone from 15 in the first game at Denver to 19 in Dallas to 22 Tuesday night at The Peake.
He's shooting almost 90 percent (24-for-28) and Tuesday night even hit most of his free throws (4-for-5) and picked up just one more foul in 18 minutes of play after getting two in his first three minutes on the floor.
"It's always good to play against the best players in basketball, it's how you get better yourself," Brooks noted.
Adams appears to have made huge strides in the off-season and most everyone figures he's won the starting center job though Wednesday Brooks wasn't yed ready to make that official.
"We've got the rest of training camp to continue to evaluate, we've got a lot of practices and some more games to play but he's played well, he's done everything that we've asked."
It looks like the Thunder will still be very shorthanded tonight. I asked Brooks before he got on the plane to new Orleans if he expected any of his eight players now on the injury list to be able to play tonight against the Pelicans.
"I don't think so, as of right now, no. Hopefully within these next three games sometime."
The Thunder at least managed to avoid further calamity when both Adams and sharpshooter Anthony Morrow took hard fouls Tuesday night. Each came up limping at times during the game but Brooks said neither suffered any serious problems, though Morrow might not be ready for tonight's game.
"Steven's fine and Anthony's ankle was sore so he didn't participate in practice," Brooks said.
Morrow will likely be a game time decision based on how he feels later today.
Unfortunately there's no TV for tonight's game so we won't be able to see that Adams-Davis-Asik tussle there will be television though for Friday night's game at Wichita against Toronto.