Steven Adams, the Oklahoma City Thunder big man who hails from New Zealand, is having a whale of a postseason. He’s averaging just shy of a double-double for the playoffs, pulling in 9.9 rebounds to go with 10.2 points per game—numbers that are up across the board from his regular season stats.
Adams’ play under the hoop has been a major key in the Thunder’s run through the playoffs, including taking out the no. 2 seed San Antonio Spurs, a team they beat twice in San Antonio after the Spurs lost just one game on their home floor during the regular season.
Adams is a terror in the paint, using his physicality to out-bully other bigs for offensive rebounds and put-back dunks, and expertly maneuvering the pick and roll with point guard Russell Westbrook for easy layups and alley-oops.
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Part of Adams’ success can be attributed to his somewhat unusual pre-game warm-up routine. While his teammates are stretching or shooting around, Adams can be found pushing his trainer backwards from sideline to sideline in a drill called the “Bull Rush.” Meant to work on an athlete’s leg power, speed and upper-body strength, the Bull Rush prepares Adams for the colossal clashing of bodies he will withstand under the rim for the next 48 minutes.
Adams’ trainer places his hands on Adams’ shoulders and provides resistance as the big man sprints to the other sideline, a distance of 10 meters or so.
“The guy that is doing the resisting will have his hands on the shoulders of the guy that is doing the sprint work,” said Steve Tashjian, a former strength and conditioning coach for the Columbus Crew who is an advocate of the Bull Rush. “You keep them driving their feet and arms and want them to push against the resistance.”
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Adams uses a slight variation, positioning his arms just under his trainer’s shoulders while he pushes him backwards. Regardless, the Bull Rush helps Adams endure physical play the moment the whistle blows, and it has helped take the Thunder all the way to the Western Conference Finals.