‘I wasn’t being a good teammate’: The ‘promise’ Giddey made as Aussie gets real on ‘rollercoaster’

    An honest Josh Giddey has opened up on being benched for the first time in his NBA career, revealing he made a “promise” to himself to be a “better teammate” as the Australian guard reflected on a “rollercoaster” third year in the league.

    Giddey’s Thunder were eliminated from the NBA playoffs on Saturday by the Dallas Mavericks, having finished the regular season as the Western Conference top seed.

    Oklahoma City was the youngest team in NBA history to win a playoffs series, initially sweeping the New Orleans Pelicans before going down in a tight six-game duel with Dallas.

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    Giddey impressed in the Pelicans series, averaging 12.5 points and 26.5 minutes while shooting 50.0 per cent from deep, but saw his role significantly reduced against the Mavs.

    Having already had his minutes cut in half in the first four games of the series, Giddey then started off the bench for Game 5 — the first time he had done so in his NBA career.

    Speaking to reporters at his exit interview on Monday, Giddey said it was a new experience given he had always played a prominent role in the teams he played in growing up.

    “I’ve always been in a position where I’m playing a lot of minutes and starting my whole life,” Giddey said.

    “And then when suddenly things don’t happen the way you want them to and the way you think they’re going to pan out, how do you react?”

    Not as well as he could have, according to the 21-year-old, who said his father and NBL legend Warrick had always stressed the importance of being a good teammate growing up.

    “The first couple of games I probably was just so self-centred and worried about me that it impacted the way I was supporting my teammates and being a good teammate,” a frank Giddey admitted.

    “I wanted to change that.”

    Josh Giddey opened up on a tough season. (Photo by Rocky Widner/NBAE via Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

    So Giddey did just that, making a promise to himself that no matter how many minutes he played, he would always be getting around his teammates.

    “I was probably in my own head and I wasn’t being a good teammate. I just felt bad,” Giddey added.

    “Even after game one, I was trying to be happy, but I was also so worried internally. I couldn’t fully get around the guys the way I wanted to and it was a bad feeling.

    “From that point on, I made a promise to myself that whether I play five minutes or 40 minutes, I’m going to be the best teammate I can be. I’m going to be up off the bench cheering for the guys and being supportive.

    “That was kind of the mindset I took into the next three games. I love my teammates. So I just wanted to be there for them as much as I could.”

    It is not like Giddey, who has always had a mature approach to the game beyond his years, didn’t understand why coach Mark Daigneault had made the move either.

    In fact, Giddey himself agreed it was probably the right call to make, even if it was a “bitter pill to swallow”. Again, he just wanted to do what was best for the team.

    “Coach did what he thought was best for the team and to be honest, I probably agree with him,” Giddey said.

    “As hard as it is for a player to sit there and say, ‘I should be on the bench’, at the time Caso [Cason Wallace], Isaiah [Joe], Wigs [Aaron Wiggins], these guys were probably better in this series for Dallas.

    “It’s a tough pill to swallow but for a 21-year-old to go through this now it’s probably a good thing and I just don’t want to feel this feeling again. It’ll make me a lot better and stronger as a player to never let something like this happen again.”

    That is something Giddey repeated a number of times — that going through this, the adversity of having opposition defences guard you a certain way and seeing your minutes reduced as a result, is a good thing for his development in the long run.

    It was just one of several mature responses from Giddey to a challenging year that could have easily left many other young players speaking with far less clarity as to what comes next.

    Giddey is prepared to put in the work to improve. (Photo by Zach Beeker/NBAE via Getty Images)Source: Getty Images

    Instead, Giddey knows he needs to improve his shooting in particular, telling reporters he has made a “promise” to be in the gym as much as possible when he heads back home to Melbourne this offseason.

    “I guess having a series like the last one, to go into the summer with it is probably something I need,” Giddey said.

    “As a 21-year-old, to have this early in my career where you go through a series like that, where you start the whole season and you don’t play a lot of minutes, that’s probably what I need to be honest.

    “There’s obviously a lot of things I’ve got to work on in the summer and I probably don’t sound so excited, but I really am, to get back home and work on the things I need to.

    “It’s easy to sit here and point the finger at people and say, ‘I should have played more, I should have done this’, but I’m the first person to look in the mirror and say, ‘I’ve got to be better’ and I do and I will be. I will be better and there’s a lot of things I’ve got to work on.

    “It’s what the summer is for, it’s what the offseason is for. I can’t wait to get back next season and show that I’m a different player and to never let what happened this series happen again.”

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    Whether Giddey will be doing that in Oklahoma City remains up in the air, with the Australian extension eligible this summer.

    Despite his struggles in the series against Dallas, Giddey has shown enough throughout his career — especially when playing a more ball-dominant, traditional point guard role — to earn a decent extension.

    The Thunder though may not be in a position to offer what Giddey is after given Shai Gilgeous-Alexander is a likely supermax candidate while teammates Chet Holmgren and Jalen Williams will also be due extensions in the near-future.

    “This is home away from home,” Giddey said when asked about the topic of his future and whether he would like to stay in Oklahoma City.

    “I love everything about this place — the city, the fans, the organisation top to bottom is just unbelievable people throughout the building. Getting to come here to work every day is so much fun.

    “… I just love the group of guys we’ve got and I’m excited to keep growing with them. Sam [Presti], Mark [Daigneault], everybody top to bottom has just been unbelievable for me this entire season.”

    And that constant support has not gone unappreciated from Giddey, who admitted there were some days this year where “you don’t feel like getting out of bed”.

    Giddey faced plenty of mental obstacles. Justin Ford/Getty Images/AFPSource: AFP

    “This was probably the biggest challenge I’ve ever gone through for a number of reasons obviously,” Giddey said.

    “I think [coping] mentally is the part that gets overlooked the most for any player. It’s so easy for people to see what’s happening on the floor but not see what happens behind the scenes and there’s so much more to a person than basketball.

    “That’s for anyone not just me. You have a couple bad games, you start to get in your own head, maybe you lose confidence — whatever the case may be.

    “But for me, I’ve just tried to stay within the team as much as I can this year and that’s been the thing for me that I found that’s worked the best. When you come in every day, you get amongst the team and you stay within the group and that’s what cheers guys up and that’s what gets you back on the right path.

    “I’m really lucky to have good people around me. They really care and really are there for you and there’s definitely been days and stretches this year that have been tough. It’s not a secret. But I just tried to come in every day and be the best I could and be the best teammate I could.”

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