LARAMIE -- Former Wyoming guard Josh Adams has a dream of playing in the NBA.
He feels he has put himself in position for the opportunity.
And in the next two weeks, Adams, who calls Parker, Co., home, will see if that time has finally come.
He has been working out in recent days with the Wyoming basketball team, providing off-court guidance to a struggling team, but also big-time competition as part of the “other team” during practice.
“I am exploring (professional) options now, trying to stay in shape,” he said. “There’s no better place than 7,000 feet to get in shape and ready for some NBA opportunities.”
It is a goal Adams has had since his youth.
He has never lost the desire, not even in that summer of 2016, when after finishing his career at Wyoming and days away from embarking on the journey to Russia to begin his professional trek he hopes will take him to the NBA, when he suffered a broken spine in a car wreck, and came “within two centimeters” of being paralyzed from the neck down.
And after things didn’t work out in China this basketball season, he returned home in early January and began the preparations for what could be an interesting stretch in January, when NBA rosters can get juggled, and a player like Adams can get an opportunity.
“I’m in a good position,” said Adams. “I am 25, the perfect edge. I am back (a free agent in the United States) around the deadline, which is perfect timing. I have my money from (overseas), so I am financially secure. It’s a perfect time to stay stateside and put all my effort into the NBA. We will know a lot more (in the next two weeks).”
The key dates in Adams’ quest:
Saturday: NBA teams can sign players to a 10-day contract worth $46,080, which is a prorated portion of the league minimum. A team can sign a player to two 10-day contracts. After that the player is free to pursue other opportunities or can accept an offer to play in the G-League, an NBA development league.
Monday: Last day for NBA teams to waive non-guaranteed contracts, which can open spots for teams to look at a player, such as Adams, who could sign a 10-day contract.
Jan. 17: Two-way contracts become guaranteed. Until that time a player on a two-way contract is paid at the NBA rate if he is on the NBA roster or at the G-League level if he has been assigned to that the G-League. A key is a team controls a player on a two-way contract if he is in the G-League instead of him being free to sign with any team. Jan. 17 the contract becomes guaranteed at the NBA rate.
Each of those dates create opportunities for a free-agent, like Adams, if a team decides to make a roster adjustment. If not, Adams said, he is at a point in his career where financially he could sign a G-League deal – which carries a $26,000 salary – and continue to try and work his way to the NBA in an arena more visible to NBA scouts.
“I am not hurting financially so the G League is a solid option,” he said. “The salary isn’t great there, but it is a great way to get into the team. The time is perfect for me to put all my marbles in the NBA bag, whether it’s a G-League with a call-up, a 10-day contract or a partial guarantee.”
And if it doesn’t work out, could a return be made overseas?
“I have nothing against going overseas,” he said. “It’s great basketball. It’s a great way to expand your culture. But the rest of this year it is time to spend some time stateside, see if I can get my cup of coffee. If nothing works out, I could go back.”
Just the fact he can seriously consider an NBA option is a blessing for Adams.
In June of 2016, days before Adams was scheduled to leave to join his professional team in Russia, he suffered a broken back in a car wreck. He admits he was trying to cram too much into two short of time.
“My mom said I was burning the candle at both ends, working out all day and saying out late at night,” he said. “I had been at my youth baseball coach’s house with some old teammates, and I (on the way home) I feel asleep. The road turned left. There are no lights on the streets. I live out in the middle of nowhere. I drove off the side of the road, into a big old ditch.”
Suddenly, Adams dreams were on hold.
“Larry Nance was there throughout the whole process,” said Adams. “Going into the surgery the doctors said it was a routine thing. It’s what Peyton Manning had done. He said the chances of playing were better if we do it.
“When I came back out, Larry said he was worried by the look on (the doctor’s) face when he approached him. The doctor told Larry things were a lot worse once he got in there. It was a successful surgery, but I was about two centimeters away from being paralyzed from the neck down.”
“I am every blessed,” he said. “Every day is a blessing. You realize, you never know what will happen.”
Heck, Adams never knew the opportunities he sought would be available when he was in high school. He was a key part of a Chaparral High School team that won the Colorado State Tournament, thanks in no small part to his acrobatic slam dunk of a missed shot by a teammate at the buzzer in overtime in the title game.
Wyoming, however, was the only team seriously recruiting him. He wasn’t even invited for a visit to Colorado State or Colorado.
He, however, made good on the opportunity at Wyoming. His career included being name MVP for the 2015 Mountain West Conference tournament, in which the Cowboys beat San Diego State in the title game to advance to the NCAA tournament.
In his senior season, Adams averaged 24.7 points, 5.5 rebounds and 4.2 assists per game. He led the Mountain West with 94 made 3-pointers. He set the record for single season scoring at Wyoming at 740 points. He was named Mountain West MVP by the league's media, and an AP Honorable Mention All-American.
Adams finished his collegiate career tied for first all time at Wyoming in games played, second in threes made, third in games started, fifth in scoring and steals, and sixth in assists.
The team, however, went 14-19, a struggle that Adams feels helps him relate to what has happened in Wyoming’s injury-plagued 2018-19 season.
“My four years I went through a lot, and I was able to shed some light on how to remain positive,” he said of conversations with the current players. “You play as hard as you can, the Cowboy Way. They have a great group of guys. They are a little young to they have a way to go on the (basketball) IQ standard, but I was able to shed some light on what it means to work hard and stick with the process.
“They have a lot of stuff I wish I had as far as size and athleticism, but the IQ at this level is as big as any physical attribute you can have. I encouraged them to list to the coaches. They have great coaches, and to take every day as a day to move forward.”
He even spoke one-on-one with James, who was a freshman Adams’ final year.
“I told him to keep doing what he is doing,” said Adams. “Justin is an extremely positive guy. HE is really close to these guys. I told him these guys are going to feed 100 percent off your effort. They look up to you. You need to be super aggressive on the offensive end and defensive end. They will feed off you.”
And when Adams talks, the Cowboys listen.
He is a recent enough alum, they are aware of his toughness and demanding desire. And they know he may not have been in the NBA, but he has been given that chance to play professionally.
After suffering that broken back, he worked hard enough that he did join the team in Russia for the second-half of that 2016-17 season. He played a year ago in Turkey, and then this year went to China, where the business of basketball overshadowed playing on the court.
“China is different,” he said. “I came in and was averaging 32 points. I was top seven in the league in every category. But if you aren’t winning games, if your Chinese players aren’t any good, they cut people left and right. I was the fourth American they cut. The three before we had been NBA guys.”
There was Bobby Brown, who had played Sacramento, New Orleans, the Clippers and last year with Houston; Chris McCullough, who played with Brooklyn and Washington, and Trevor Booker, whose resume included time with Utah, Brooklyn, Philadelphia, and Indiana.
“The Chinese teams have the money and if they aren’t winning, they send (the American player) home,” said Adams.
Now that he is back home, Adams is hoping he can stay and play professional basketball.
The next two weeks will provide that answer.