By Michael Kinney
OKLAHOMA CITY– By almost every measurable, Josh Giddey had a successful rookie season with the Oklahoma City Thunder. His four consecutive Western Conference rookie of the month awards would back that up.
The 19-year-old Melbourne (Australia) native averaged 12.5 points, 7.8 rebounds and 6.4 assists in his first year in the NBA. Giddey’s other landmark achievements included becoming the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double and the first player since Oscar Robertson in 1961 to record three consecutive triple-doubles as a rookie.
However, entering his second season, Giddey is not looking to rest on his laurels. He saw the flaws in his game and worked in the offseason to become a better player.
One area Giddey specifically wanted to improve upon was his shot. Because of that, the Thunder brought in shooting coach Chip “The Machine Gun” Engelland to work with Giddey and the rest of the Oklahoma City squad this season.
“I was really excited when Coach Mark (Daigneault) called me and said that they’re bringing in Chip,” Giddey said. “I had a big smile on my face. I told my agent I was with at the time, and he lit up. He was so excited for it. When I heard about his reputation and whom he’d worked with and what he’d done over such a long time, I was really excited. and grateful that these guys wanted to spend resources and time into developing me as a player.”
Engelland has gained a reputation for improving the shots of a variety of NBA players. They include former San Antonio Spurs Tony Parker and Kawhi Leonard.
“He brings a lot of wisdom,” Daigneault said. “He’s a pro’s pro. He also brings great positivity He is coming from a lot of success. Yet, he is coming in with the intention of blending in, wanting to help people progress in their careers. All he wants to do is help and have a positive impact.”
As a rookie, Giddey shot .419 from the field, .263 from 3-point range and .709 from free throw shooting. These were numbers he was not enamored with.
“Being a better shooter wasn’t something I shied away from,” Giddey said. “It was something I owned and knew I needed to get better at, and there’s no one really better to work with than Chip. Ever since he’s been here, we’ve been together pretty much two, three times a day in the gym working out. Spend a lot of time with him, and he’s a genius with what he does, and I’m excited going forward and the things we can do with each other.”
Yet, Giddey doesn’t believe it’s going to take wholesale changes to make him a more consistent and reliable shooter.
“It’s just a few minor changes,” Giddey said after the first day of training camp. “Chip didn’t come in trying to completely restructure my shot or anything. It was just minor things like hand placement. I used to flick the ball lot with my thumbs. It’s just different things we’re working on. But he’s a genius in what he does and, and I trust the things he has in place for me.”
Giddey knows he won’t be compared to Larry Bird or Steph Curry anytime soon. Right now, he is more interested in the process of getting better and improving.
“Hopefully, it’s small increments every day and hopefully over the long course, it starts improving and getting better and better,” Giddey said. “But I trust what Chip has in place. He’s the best in the business, so I’m excited to keep working with him.”
Like many of the Thunder, Giddey spent the offseason attacking the weight room. As a teenager in a league full of grown men, he defiantly felt the physicalness of the season wear on him.
“Getting in the weight room, getting stronger was important for me too,” Giddey said. “I’m 19 so I got a lot of room to grow and a lot of things I need to get better at. There were a lot of different things and some that we worked on. But let’s say shooting and, and you know, getting stronger with the two main ones.”
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