<
>

Jaylen Adams taking MVP talk, playoff berth in his stride

Runner-up to teammate Frank Mason III as 2019-20 G League MVP with the Wisconsin Herd, Jaylen Adams is no stranger to being at the pointy end of award discussion. Chase Buford was also head coach of that squad, on a team that held the league's best record when the pandemic brought the season to an untimely close.

Fast forward two years and Adams is a frontrunner for the award in his first season in Australia -- once again playing under Buford -- while the Sydney Kings have sliced their way through the league to win 13 of their last 14 NBL games en route to securing a playoff spot with one round to play.

"I'll say this. It was a goal of mine coming here," Adams says of the MVP award. "It's not something I haven't talked about coming into the season. The more the season has gone along, I just want to win. That's what does it for me, coming in and winning games and playing at a high level as a team.

"We've done special things this season and I think we can accomplish more. It's because of the wins (I'm in the running), if I was playing well and we weren't winning it wouldn't be talked about. To me, it's about the dubs."

With an ability to score at will, Adams leads the league in assists per game, comfortably playing the role of facilitator on a star-studded roster of NBA calibre teammates including Ian Clark, Xavier Cooks and Jarell Martin.

"It's my job as a point guard to get everybody involved, not just myself. I bring the ball up the court, I have the ball in my hands the majority of the time. I could come down and shoot it every single time, but what's that going to do to the game flow?

"I want everyone to get their touches, I want everyone to be in rhythm and we're playing together because that's when I think we're the toughest to beat."

Despite his unselfish nature, there's no question Adams is the Kings' closer, with the 25-year-old putting together a reel of game winning buckets during the team's 13-game winning streak that ended last weekend.

One of those game winners came in the form of a hellacious poster on the Brisbane Bullets in the final seconds.

"That was just necessary in the moment, I just did what had to be done. Two points is two points. Midway through it was a super clean line to the rim, I had to see if I still had some legs. I guess I still got plenty," he says with a laugh.

The outrageous throwdown prompted fellow St. Bonaventure alum, ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski to post the highlight on his social media, in a tip of the hat to the former college star.

"Those Bonnie ties man, it's a special place. Anybody that went there has got love for one another. He's definitely always been a support and I appreciate Woj for sure, we got that Bonnie connection, so I appreciate it when he shows love."

The influence of Adams on the Kings success is obvious, with early season ankle concerns contributing to a sputtering start for the team. Holding a 16-5 record with Adams in the lineup, they are 2-3 when he is out of uniform.

Under a new head coach and new system, Adams has allowed for a streamlined integration of philosophy on the floor, with the import guard well accustomed to the young head coach's style and at times, emotions, with Buford often seen riding every possession on the sideline.

"That's him right there, he's an emotional dude. It comes off in practice, he's involved, he's yelling. The coaches and assistants are in the drills, they go hard themselves, they are sweating. He presents himself as one of the guys, you can go talk to him if you have a problem. The whole time he's just present, he communicates well and knows what he's talking about, he's a real good coach."

An NCAA champion with the Kansas Jayhawks, Buford isn't out of place in those drills, but can he guard Adams?

"Hell no, he can't guard me. Chase can't guard me," he laughs.

It shouldn't be a surprise that Adams laughed at such a question. Not because of the response, but because there is a joy that comes through whether you are talking about basketball, video games, or the Sydney weather.

His laid-back attitude is as refreshing as it is endearing, adding another layer to the visual experience of watching him on the court. While a calm natured personality seems ideal for a professional athlete, he admits it has been confused in the past for a lack of care.

"Over the course of my career I've heard it. I don't know what it is specifically that has to be fixed in order to change that look. It's how I am. I'm never really tripping, it's the person I am for real. I don't trip off too much, I'm pretty straight forward. I always look at the situation for what it is and try not to get too emotional about it.

"Maybe that's what I'm like that on the court. No matter what the situation is, I'm going to come down, look at the defence and try make the right play, the right read. I love the game of basketball, that's never been a question."

In between the banter, a seriousness comes through with any mention of a championship, with Buford and Adams trying to complete a job that was taken out of their hands in Wisconsin. While their winning streak has been snapped, they do face two critical games this weekend, including a Sunday meeting with the Illawarra Hawks that could decide home court in the first round of the playoffs.

"It's important because we've already seen what our home fans do and their energy. It would definitely help us. I think it's important, that home crowd we love, but at the same time we have to prepare the same way we have been, and we'll be alright."

"I thought Illawarra was the toughest team for us to beat matchup wise. How well they can score, how they play, it's almost similar to us a little bit. Those are the ones you live for. We got them one more time and we're excited for that one too."

The matchup with Illawarra will serve as a final dress rehearsal before the postseason begins next week, with last week's overtime classic serving as a tease for what could be to come. On this occasion, Adams is hoping a little added hydration will help him avoid the cramps that took him from the floor in the overtime of that meeting.

"I don't think I'm drinking enough water, man. I went and bought two cases after the Illawarra game and just being going at the waters in the house. Hopefully we can stay away from that pickle juice and can stay in the fourth quarter of games."

Catch the full conversation with Jaylen Adams on the Ball and the Real World podcast - available on all major platforms.