NBA news 2021: US reacts to Aussie teen Josh Giddey’s ‘sensational’ first NBA appearance, Oklahoma City Thunder, NBA pre-season
Australia’s latest basketball star made a big impression in his first appearance for his NBA team, leaving pundits blown away by his skills.
Australia has a new NBA star and he has certainly made an impression in the US after his first outing.
Josh Giddey, who was picked up by Oklahoma City at No. 6 in this year’s draft, made a sensational start to his American career with a display in a pre-season game showing why he is such a highly-touted prospect.
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The Thunder lost 113-97 to the Charlotte Hornets but Giddey’s performance was the main talking point as he made his debut for Oklahoma after he sprained his ankle in the NBA’s Summer League tournament.
The teenager scored 18 points including two three-pointers, and had seven rebounds and three assists in 29 minutes on the floor.
Known for his all-court vision, Giddey produced a highlight play when he rocketed a slingshot pass across the court to set up a teammate for an open three-pointer.
The shot missed, but Giddey reeled in the offensive rebound, put a lay-up in the basket and absorbed a foul.
NBA pundits were blown away by the 18-year-old’s efforts in his first proper game for Oklahoma City.
“Off-hand deliveries like this are nothing new for 6-foot-8 (203cm) Thunder playmaker Josh Giddey,” ESPN analyst Mike Schmidt said of his impressive passing skills.
“So comfortable facilitating off the dribble, especially with the left. Incredibly accurate.”
The Thunder commentary team added: “He looks like a wizard with the basketball.”
“He looks good. He just looks like a veteran player – he has sensational ball-handling skills.” Joe Mussato of The Oklahoman was also impressed.
“Giddey’s combination of skill and size flashed in the short sequence,” Mussato wrote.
“He had the look of a power forward and the eyes of a point guard. A small sample, but so far so good for the Thunder’s No. 6 pick.
“Thunder fans, in the building for the first time since March 11, 2020, certainly liked what they saw.”
Daily Thunder’s Jayden Rule said Giddey’s debut was “as good as anyone could’ve hoped for”.
“The primary strength of Giddey’s is his playmaking ability and that was on full display this game,” Rule wrote.
“He may have only recorded three assists, but that doesn’t tell the full story. He had several incredible passes where the player on the receiving end was unable to convert.
“His scoring in general was much better than expected. He finishes at the rim well with a soft touch and his ball-handling ability, which was considered a weakness prior to the draft, was crafty and well-controlled in this game.
“Giddey’s ability to handle the ball and score in transition is deadly and when you combine that with the threat of his playmaking, the Thunder can excel on the fast break this year.”
Ian Levy of Sports site FanSided was another to sing Giddey’s praises.
“He looked fantastic in the settings where his skill would be expected to translate quickly — grab-and-go in transition, finding seams in the pick-and-roll — but he also flashed some stretch skills,” Levy wrote.
“Giddey created some buckets for himself, attacking the basket and finishing in traffic, and even hitting a pair of catch-and-shoot 3s.
”It’s one game. But Giddey looked confident and under control with the ball in his hands and played aggressively against the Hornets’ regular rotation and alongside several of the Thunder’s core starters.
“Even if he’s not replicating this level of efficiency throughout his rookie season he’s clearly a piece with plenty of upside.”
Aussie NBA podcaster Leigh Ellis tweeted: “Not to overreact but after 18 points, 7 rebs and 3 assists last night, I think Josh Giddey is a stone cold lock for ROY (Rookie of the Year).”
But perhaps the highest praise for Giddey came from the Thunder’s marquee player Shai Gilgeous-Alexander.
Referring to Giddey’s playmaking skills, he said: “His brain is ahead of his age for sure in terms of seeing basketball.”
Last year’s NBL Rookie of the Year was happy to be out on the court and getting used to the standard of playing in the NBA.
“It felt good. Even just being back on the floor playing was good,” Giddey told SEN.
“Obviously it’s my first kind of test playing against NBA talent in a real game with fans in the crowd and all that stuff.
“It felt good. It’s different to the NBL. The pace of the game is a lot quicker.
“There’s a lot bigger, stronger, more physical athletes over here and you’ve got the all-star talent that there is in this league.
“It’s similar to what I expected but you don’t really gauge how physical and strong guys are until you’re out there on the floor playing against them.”
Albeit in a pre-season game, Giddey was in the starting five for Oklahoma, which bodes well for him being given plenty of time on the court when the NBA season proper begins on October 19.
“My teammates allowed me to play my game,” he said. “We space the floor, we’ve got guys who can shoot the ball.
“Our coach has a lot of confidence in me to go out there and play freely.
“The transition has been pretty easy coming in to this team. It’s a young group, I’ve fitted in pretty seamlessly with everybody.
“There’s going to a be a lot of opportunities for guys to get out there and play.”
Giddey is still getting used to the lifestyle of being an NBA player but is excited to be able to share the court with some of his idols, as well as some familiar Australian faces.
“It’s a whole new world,” he told SEN. “I mean, just with the private jets and security with the team, the hotels you get and stuff like that, it’s a another world.
“From being recognised walking around the street to playing in front of thousand of fans on the biggest stage in the world, it’s completely foreign for me, all this stuff.
“There’s obvious ones like the stars like LeBron (James), Steph (Curry), Kevin Durant, those type of guys are the obvious ones. But I’m looking forward to playing against a couple of the Australians.
“We play Utah in our first game so I get to play Joe Ingles, someone I’ve looked up to for a long time in my first NBA game.
“All those superstars I’ve watched on TV for so many years. It’s going to be pretty surreal being on the same floor as them.”