Steven Adams fights Harrison Barnes for a loose ball in Game 1 of the Western Conference finals. (Marcio Jose Sanchez/Associated Press)

Oklahoma City Thunder center Steven Adams couldn’t apologize quickly enough Monday night for calling the Golden State Warriors’ guards “quick little monkeys,” but his use of the expression drew a mixed response in his native New Zealand.

“It was just a poor choice of words, mate,” Adams told USA Today. “I wasn’t thinking straight. I didn’t know it was going to upset anyone, but I’m truly sorry. It was just a poor choice of words. I was just trying to express how difficult it was chasing those guys around.”

Adams, 22, has lived in the United States since 2012 and went to college at Pittsburgh. He was a first-round pick by Oklahoma City in the 2013 NBA draft. Kenny McFadden, an African American former Washington State player who coached and mentored Adams in New Zealand, pointed out the obvious cultural differences between America and New Zealand, which has a small population of Africans and African Americans.

“It was unintentional, there was no malice behind it,” McFadden told the Associated Press. “You have to put it into context. Growing up in the U.S., certain words mean different things to different people. In New Zealand, we don’t have the same issues. We’ve never had the same type of issues.”

In New Zealand, the AP’s Nick Perry points out, “little monkey” is a term often applied to children. Although infrequently used with adults, it would not be considered offensive in most cases. In the United States, it is racially offensive.

Wynne Gray, a columnist at the New Zealand Herald, believes that no apology was needed, writing:

Common language is becoming a more awkward subject round the globe as we saw with the “gypsy boy” slur delivered by Joe Marler in English rugby.

I apologise for not coming to terms with those regional differences.

Heat of the moment, a microphone jabbed up his nose by some TV-type, these are unscripted moments. There will be blemishes but viewers are looking for the raw reaction to what has just happened.

But if America doesn’t want to hear that or run the risk of screening some offensive comment, then bug off and leave the players alone.

Cameron McMillan, the Herald’s sports editor, wrote that the matter was “well-handled” by Adams and was ready to move on to Game 2.

“Yes, he has to apologise because someone would have been offended. Is it offensive though? It’s obviously not in this country, but I question why it is in a country where they have teams named the Indians and the Redskins. Seems like double standards if you can’t offend one race but you’re openly free to offend another.”

Kevin Norquay writes, via Stuff.co.nz, that there are bigger issues, pointing specifically to the fact that a Mississippi school district was ordered by a judge to desegregate its schools this week.

Intentional racism is to be scorned and despised. I’m looking at you Mississippi.

Unintentional racism is to be learned from. Thanks Steve, we salute you for leaning so quickly.

And Kiwis, the next time you meet an American tourist called Chuck, Randy or Fanny who says they’re rooting for the All Blacks, refrain from smashing out angry social media postings.

It might simply be a cultural disconnect.

Adams, whose mother is Tongan and whose father is an Englishman, managed to deftly acknowledge the cultural differences, offer his apology and move on.

“It’s just different, mate,” he told USA Today. “Different words, different expressions, and stuff like that. But they obviously can be taken differently, depending on which country you’re in. I’m assimilating, mate, still trying to figure out the boundaries. But I definitely overstepped them.”