Young Australian basketball star Josh Giddey’s Summer League debut ended early due to a left ankle sprain. The Inner Sanctum spoke with former Adelaide 36ers head coach Conner Henry to explore how Giddey would be feeling right now.
A former NBA player himself, Conner Henry spent four years in the NBA in the 1980s playing for the Houston Rockets, Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks and Sacramento Kings, and knows how cutthroat it is to make it at the elite level.
Speaking to The Inner Sanctum, Henry spoke on how Giddey’s past experiences going through the different levels of competition should put him in good stead.
“It’s incredibly difficult to make it at any level really, as you’re growing up, and you continue to advance from juniors to high school level [then] to college level and then to professional level because the biggest thing that you have to get used to is the physicality of the game,” Henry said.
“The game is faster, it’s more physical, the rules change. I think [you] are affected by the level and skill of the players. So, Josh has plenty of experience getting through each of those levels, as he’s reached this point in his career.
“I have no doubt that he’s gonna be fine. You know, OKC will take their time with him for sure. They’re going to give him an opportunity to settle in, to make mistakes, and to grow from them. That’s what he’s done throughout his whole career.”
The former Adelaide Next Star had a similar experience last season in the NBL. Henry said the current injury shouldn’t set him back.
“I don’t think it will affect him at all. I can only go on the experiences that we had this past season. Josh tweaked his ankle a couple of times and wanted to play the next day,” he said.
“[He] tweaked his ankle one time and it was pretty severe and we shut him down for a game or a course of three days. But he was really ready to fight through it and play. [Another case where] he fell [and] he hit his head, he was concussed. He had to sit and go through a week’s worth of concussion protocol last season.
“He was anxious to get back out on the floor after two days and that’s just the way he is as a player. He’s a competitor. He wants to rock up every day [and] he did that for us this past season. So this is just minor, these things happen throughout a player’s career.”
Going into the NBA, the pick six product will receive similar treatment to what he did while at the 36ers.
“Just like with us, it was really kind of around the clock treatment. He’ll have even more of an elite facility of lead trainers, assistant trainers, physio medical around him at OKC,” Henry said.
“My guess is that he spends most of his time in the physio room and the Whirlpool and getting it stretched.
“As long as there wasn’t any structural damage, any long term damage, which I heard that there wasn’t, this is just a minor thing.”
After spending time with Giddey in a professional sense, Henry stated that the young star may be feeling anxious about not being able to be on the court.
“They all want to play when you’re that talented and that young and you’ve got expectations placed on a young player, he wants to make sure that he can get out there and prove that he’s worthy of pick six,” Henry said.
“So with that comes a responsibility from everybody to not push him out there until he’s ready physically.
“That’s the big thing, and Joshua understands that as much as he’d want to get out to the next day, even sore. There is no rush. This is a long term play for the organisation and they’re going to bring him along when he’s physically ready.”
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Giddey was a part of the 19 man Australian Boomers squad for the 2020 Tokyo Olympics that participated at training camp in Los Angles and Las Vegas.
Unfortunately, he didn’t make the 12 man roster that won the historic bronze medal. Henry said he doesn’t think Giddey’s exclusion from that squad will affect the beginning of his NBA career.
“Josh was an alternate, almost made the 12. [He] played really well, showed out really well,” Henry said.
“For a number of reasons, he wasn’t chosen in the final 12. He’s got a number of Olympics ahead of him, for sure and he’s one of the young players, that [are] the future for Australian basketball.
“It’s a really bright future, there are so many young kids coming up. The old guard will be slowly bowing out. This group that’s just been there, there might be a couple of those guys left in four years, but there’ll be some more young faces.
“So you know, the setback, if you want to call it, I don’t really call it a setback [not making the final 12]. I think [it will fuel] Josh, even more, to work harder.
“I know he was working out for a month straight leading up to the draft in Vegas. From the reports that I got was [he] just killing it [and] was looking great. So he went into the draft healthy and looking forward to Summer League and he’s gonna be fine.”
Time in Adelaide
With having a Next Star on their roster, the Adelaide 36ers and Conner Henry had to manage Giddey as he wanted to get to the NBA while also trying to win as much as possible.
“We gave Josh the reins to the club to be our lead point guard, when we felt it was time, when we felt like he could handle it and I think our timing was pretty spot on,” Henry said.
“He immediately when he got there started to show that he belonged playing against older guys and professionals.
“He wasn’t quite ready from day one, the speed of the game eventually started slowing down for him. After about three weeks to a month, it was pretty evident that we had somebody special that we would put into that lead position at some point and once we did, we had very good success.”
With Giddey about to enter an NBA locker room, it’s an environment that shouldn’t faze him with his experiences while in the Sixers locker room.
“He was good. He was the young gun, the young kid,” Henry said.
“The lads accepted him they knew that they were playing with an exceptional young talent. They were I think at times very thankful for playing with him because of his skill set. He made everybody better with his elite passing and his elite vision.
“It made everybody’s job that much easier on the offensive end so he fitted in nicely. Was a quiet leader but established his voice. [In the] later half of the season [he] was more than willing to speak up in situations where communication was needed on and off the floor. So he really grew as a player both physically and mentally.”
Henry feels exhilarated to follow Giddey’s career, hopefully watching him forge his own path in the NBA for years to come.
“[I’m] excited for his growth. [I’m] looking forward to watching him get better and better and gonna be sitting back and can’t wait for the games to start,” Henry said.
Giddey looks to have recovered from the left ankle sprain he suffered during the Summer League, and looks set to be ready for training camp and the Thunder’s first pre-season game against the Charlotte Hornets on October 4.
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