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Steven Adams won’t play for New Zealand in Olympic Qualifying Tournament

New Zealand Basketball Academy Launch

WELLINGTON, NEW ZEALAND - AUGUST 17: Steven Adams of Oklahoma City Thunder speaks to media at a press conference during the New Zealand Basketball Academy Launch at ASB Sports Centre on August 17, 2014 in Wellington, New Zealand. (Photo by Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images)

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New Zealand already faced an uphill battle to win its Olympic Qualifying Tournament, which also includes France, Turkey and Canada.

It’ll be even harder without the NBA’s only active Kiwi, Steven Adams.

Basketball New Zealand:

Adams has reluctantly made the call that he will not be available due to the congested and unpredictable nature of the NBA post-season, but has indicated this as early as he can to best allow Head Coach Paul Henare to select and prepare the team knowing he will unfortunately not be a part of it.

“I will not be participating in the Olympic competitions with the Tall Blacks this summer,” said Adams. “This was a very difficult decision as I take tremendous pride in being a New Zealander. The Tall Blacks organisation has been extremely supportive and we felt it was best to make an announcement now as preparations have already begun for the qualifying tournament and the Games.”

The Manila Olympic Qualifying Tournament begins July 5. The Thunder’s season could extend into June. That’s a quick turnaround – especially because winning the event would mean a longer summer with a ticket to the Rio Olympics.

Importantly, Adams will also be eligible to sign a contract extension next summer. A strong two-way contributor on a good team and capable of keeping up with smaller teams, the center is poised to earn a big salary. It makes sense for Adams, who has been on a rookie-scale contract, to prioritize his health at this point.