Kiwi NBA star Steven Adams has earned his coach’s respect as the ultimate teammate despite a disappointing debut season with New Orleans Pelicans.
While his team faltered over the last month of the regular season - finishing 31-41 and 11th of 15 teams in the Western Conference, missing the playoffs - the centre played a big role in the development of two of their most promising youngsters.
Centres Jaxson Hayes, 20, and Willy Hernangomez, 26, thrived under the watchful eye of the Rotorua-born big man, who dealt with lingering injuries throughout the season.
Adams played just 58 games - the least of his first eight seasons in the NBA - averaging just 7.6 points - his lowest output since his rookie year - and 8.9 rebounds per game.
But his offcourt impact impressed coach Stan Van Gundy, who describes Adams as "the most supportive teammate" he has ever coached.
"Steven is a guy who cares about his teammates and is always talking to them, and in particular to Willy and Jaxson," Van Gundy says.
"It's hard to be those two guys being around Steven and not be thinking about their own games - Steven is always talking to them about where they need to be.
"He helps them look for different ways to be better, and I think him consistently thinking and talking about the game is tremendously beneficial to those guys, and then he is one of the most supportive teammates I have ever been around.
"He's a great source of confidence for his teammates - and in particular those two - and the relationship between the three of them, I thought, was very good."
Spaniard Hernangomez describes the 27-year-old as his favourite ever teammate and credits Adams for playing a key role in a breakthrough campaign.
Adams, who jokingly refers to ‘Billy’ as the "world's worst liar", enjoyed playing the senior statesman role, even if it meant he was outshone by the developing duo.
"They were amazing down the stretch," Adams says. "Turns out I was just a deadweight, mate.
"Jaxson did a phenomenal job, developing and growing on both sides of the floor this year.
"Two very good players who are very open-minded and absorb everything going on around them - both have great futures.
"I guess I've always been a talker - not a big speech kind of guy - more just one-on-one type stuff. That's what I was doing all year with Billy and Jax, just trying to help them where I can, and claim it, if they do good and deny it, if they do bad."
Adams has a year to run on his Pelicans deal and if Van Gundy has his way, he may have a big role to play, as New Orleans look to turn potential into results.
"We have a young side, but with one more year of development for Zion [Williamson], Brandon [Ingram] and Lonzo [Ball], I think we can be right there next year."