The NBA playoffs are supposed to be the most exciting time of the year but this year’s post-season has not yet reached any great heights.
If you were unsure why Josh Giddey was selected as the No.6 pick in this year’s NBA Draft then the NBL’s behind-the-scenes documentary will erase any shadow of a doubt.
Released today in cinemas throughout Australia, Expect The Unexpected: Inside NBL21 takes fans deep into the chaos that was last season, a competition disrupted by the COVID-19 pandemic wreaking havoc on the best-laid plans.
Giddey made his NBL debut last season for Adelaide, playing with a maturity well beyond his 18 years for the 36ers in a season which was delayed then hampered throughout by border closures, unprecedented rules and restrictions, as well as reduced rosters and salaries.
The documentary also shines a light on Australian coaching legend Brian Goorjian’s return to revive the Illawarra Hawks, the Perth Wildcats’ efforts to make their 35th straight playoff appearance, the New Zealand Breakers’ playing the season away from home and Boomers big man Jock Landale’s unplanned comeback to the NBL from Europe which ended with grand final MVP honours and a springboard to the NBA with San Antonio.
Giddey’s rookie season at the Sixers was always going to be in the spotlight.
He was at ease in front of the documentary cameras and looked even more comfortable on the court despite the hype which built exponentially throughout the season and resulted in him being taken a surprise sixth selection in the NBA Draft by the Oklahoma City Thunder.
Giddey was suiting up for Adelaide as part of the Next Stars program which provides a pathway for young prospects to make the leap into the NBA, on the back of LaMelo Ball’s success the previous season with Illawarra to be taken with the No.3 pick in the Draft by the Charlotte Hornets.
Giddey started 26 of his 28 games for Adelaide, averaging 10.9 points, 7.6 assists and 7.3 rebounds in 32.1 minutes.
The documentary goes into the Giddey family home to show the young star in the driveway with his parents – dad Warrick was a 449-game Melbourne Tigers stalwart while mum Kim also played for the club in the WNBL.
Josh’s sister, Hannah, is also a talented hooper, who is on scholarship in the US college system in Oklahoma, down the road from little brother’s NBA franchise.
Warrick, a hard-nosed defensive specialist described in the doco by Australian icon Andrew Gaze as one of the toughest players of all time, still looks fit enough to be banging bodies despite being 53 but Josh gives him plenty of stick in the driveway.
When pressed whether her husband back in his prime would have been able to stop Josh from scoring, Kim was confident her son would still be able to get past his old man.
As he does on the court, Josh takes it all in his stride with an understated humility.
For a 19-year-old living the surreal life of an NBA phenom, it would be easy to let it all go to your head.
The lavish lifestyle and the pressures of eight-figure contracts have brought many talented players undone.
But judging by Giddey’s poise, it’s not hard to see how he’s settled into NBA life so well – he’s averaging 10.3 points, 7.3 rebounds and 5.7 assists in his first month at the Thunder, helping them to a respectable, better-than-expected 6-11 record and putting himself firmly in calculations to make the All-Rookie First Team.
The documentary also tells the tale of how Goorjian fled China as quickly as possible once he got wind of some strange virus emanating from Wuhan.
Goorjian said he returned to Australia within a matter of days and then took on the challenge of taking the Hawks, after yet another change of ownership, from wooden spooners to the finals.
Perth’s quest for a 35th straight playoff berth is seen through the eyes of the players, living under the burden of keeping the streak alive.
They, of course, made the 2021 post-season before going down to Melbourne in the grand final.
“There are three certainties in life – death, taxes and the Perth Wildcats making the playoffs,” Gaze says in the documentary, unable to conceal his trademark grin.
Wildcats star Bryce Cotton also talks in-depth about his childhood battle with a rare form of epilepsy when specialists told his mother that he would be lucky to live past the age of 11.
Landale is seen relaxing at his family home in Deniliquin, showing his softer side but also his larrikin persona, such as when he couldn’t help but predict in a pre-season media interview that Melbourne would go through the season undefeated.
And when it comes to expecting the unexpected, no one is better placed to elaborate on that theme than the New Zealand Breakers, who had to relocate to Australia for the entire season but battled on despite leading a nomadic existence in Melbourne, Hobart and Launceston.
Expect The Unexpected: Inside NBL21 will screen at selected HOYTS cinemas from today. Details here.