‘Nothing wrong with it’: NBA star Giddey gets physical in World Cup warm-up

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Boomers guard Josh Giddey is new to international basketball but, just as he has done in the NBL and NBA, he won’t be taking a backward step if opponents want to test him physically.

The 20-year-old Oklahoma City Thunder star played his first game at home in Melbourne with the national team on Monday night, leading the Boomers to a 97-41 thrashing of world No.17 Venezuela at Rod Laver Arena.

The Boomers play Brazil at the same venue on Wednesday at the new time of 5.30pm to ensure the game finishes before the Matildas play their Women’s World Cup semi-final against England.

They will return on Thursday to finish the series with a clash against South Sudan at 7.30pm.

Giddey impressed with his passing and a trademark spin-move to the basket, finishing with 14 points, eight rebounds and nine assists. However, he was disappointed with his six turnovers.

In a testy third quarter, Venezuelan guard Garly Sojo took exception to Giddey’s physicality and gave the young Boomer a sharp nudge as the pair were jostling for position, prompting the Australian to show his displeasure toe-to-toe with Sojo.

Josh Giddey stretches for the ball for the Boomers in Monday’s game against Venezuela, ahead of opponent Pedro Chourio.Credit: Getty

Former NBL import Michael Carrerra tried to bully Giddey in the post soon after, but after bumping him several times was blocked by the NBA guard when he tried to shoot.

“The physicality of FIBA ball is what I love,” Giddey said.

“The refs let a lot of stuff go, whereas in the NBA they will call a lot of ticky-tack fouls. So for a guy like me who loves to play physically, it suits me well.

Duop Reath was the Boomers’ leading scorer against Venezuela.Credit: Getty

“It’s always fun talking out there, it’s part of the game and there is nothing wrong with it.”

Giddey said he was having difficulty adjusting to not having to move out of the defensive key every three seconds, as required in the NBA.

“I’ve never really played at international level before,” Giddey said.

“There are a few different rules and I found myself trying to get outside the key. I keep forgetting there is no three-second violation, so small things like that will get fixed as we play more games.”

Giddey also formed an instant connection with centre Duop Reath, who was handed the start with NBA big man Jock Landale recovering from a minor ankle injury.

Reath did his prospects of making the World Cup no harm, scoring a team-high 26 points.

“We tried to find that connection early in camp, so we can hit the ground running in these games,” Giddey said.

Dyson Daniels drives to the basket.Credit: Getty

“As a guard, you want your big to put himself in position to get easy catches, and he [Reath] had a lot of dunks, lay-ins and put-backs tonight – he made me look great.”

Boomers coach Brian Goorjian has 13 players in contention for the 12-man roster, while second-year St Mary’s centre Harry Wessels is training with the team with an eye to the future.

Landale and Josh Green (elbow) sat out Monday and are both expected to play in either of the remaining two games, while another concern is experienced shooter Chris Goulding banging his knee early in the game and ending the contest with ice on the injury.

There was no further update on his knee post-game.

It seems the final roster position will go to a big man, and Goorjian admitted Reath had pushed his case to stay on the roster. However, athletic forwards, such as Jack White, are making it hard for Goorjian, especially given a small line-up with Xavier Cooks and White as big men played some excellent defence on Monday.

“Do we go traditional [and have another big man] or throw caution to the wind?” Goorjian pondered.

“I liked what I saw tonight, and Duop did himself a real good one.”

Goorjian is confident the team’s offence will be productive with Giddey and Patty Mills leading the way, so his focus is on defence.

With so many tall, rangy players, the Boomers know a top defensive performance will be what drives the team back into the medal rounds at the FIBA World Cup in Asia, starting on August 25.

“Offensively we are never going to have any problems,” Giddey said.

“It’s the other end of the floor that is going to push us to the backend of the tournament and help us win games when we really need it.”

The Boomers v World series continues with Australia facing Brazil on Wednesday at 5.30pm AEST with every match exclusive Live & Free on Gem & 9Now.

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