No. 2 overall pick Chet Holmgren learning about NBA life despite foot injury costing him rookie season

Chet Holmgren has talked to Joel Embiid and knows the similar stories of Blake Griffin and Ben Simmons. From wiped-out rookie seasons to all-NBA.

“It’s always great to look at something, knowing it’s been done before,” Holmgren said Thursday in his first press conference since suffering a Lisfranc injury on Aug. 20, which required surgery that ended his rookie season before it even began. “Even if it wasn’t (done before), I was going to put my hard hat on and get to work.”

But history has two sides. For every Embiid, Griffin and Simmons, there is a Sam Bowie, a Yao Ming, a Bill Walton, a Rik Smits. NBA big men whose careers were cut short by foot problems.

The 7-foot-1 Holmgren expressed no fear that the same fate could befall him.

“I try to take steps every single day to put my body in the best position for the best possible health on and off the court,” Holmgren said. “I’ve studied my body a lot, along with people here on the medical staff. We’re taking those proper steps to prevent injuries as well.”

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Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren speaks during a news conference Thursday about his foot injury.
Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren speaks during a news conference Thursday about his foot injury.

How Chet Holmgren injured his foot

Holmgren suffered the injury playing in the CrawsOver Pro-Am League in Seattle. The Lisfranc injury damaged ligaments in his right foot, requiring surgery 10 days later.

But Holmgren says he doesn’t regret playing in the NBA-sanctioned game.

“At the end of the day, basketball players are going to play basketball,” Holmgren said.

And playing basketball is exactly what Holmgren was doing – he apparently was injured while trying to block a LeBron James shot.

“It’s just kind of like, you’ve got to feed the love for the game,” Holmgren said. “I don’t want an injury like this to take away from that. I’m always going to have a love for basketball, so I’m always taking advantage of opportunities to play basketball. Just gotta make sure that you do it right and you’re able to kind of avoid things like this.”

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There are no assurances, but Holmgren said he’s never been seriously hurt before. And he had no frame of reference to compare when the injury occurred.

“I had nothing to base it off of,” Holmgren said. “I just knew I had to get it looked at, see how serious it was. Didn’t imagine anything like this, for sure.”

A few days later, when the news that he would be sidelined the entire 2022-23 season, Holmgren wasn’t stoic.

“At first, I wouldn’t say I handled it, emotionally,” Holmgren said. “It was definitely something I had to put my mind to and spend some time to think on and kind of come to some conclusion on things. Really settle my mind so I could stop focusing on what happened and focus in on what’s going to happen and what I gotta do to get where I need to be.”

Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren leaves a news conference Thursday about his foot injury while using a scooter.
Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren leaves a news conference Thursday about his foot injury while using a scooter.

Thunder coach Mark Daigneault says Chet Holmgren is 'driven person'

Thunder coach Mark Daigneault said he’s been impressed with Holmgren’s resolve.

“He was appropriately disappointed when it happened,” Daigneault said. “But our medical staff’s done a great job. He knows what to expect over the coming months. He’s a driven person.”

Holmgren will have a difficult inaugural season in OKC. He won’t travel with the team, at least for now, and his time around the team at practice will be spotty, since he’ll be rehabbing during certain stretches.

“It’s definitely hard, being away from basketball,” Holmgren said. “It’s what I love to do. When I’m able to, I do it every day. I’m lucky I have a great support system around me. Everybody within the organization, everybody is very thoughtful, looking out for me.”

Holmgren’s development as an NBA player will be delayed, though his physical development could be expedited, since he’ll have more time in the weight room. And his video study will increase.

“It just comes down to putting my mental energy towards it,” Holmgren said. “Learning how to really be a professional in areas off the court. I’ve dedicated so much time to really hustling at my craft off the court. This event’s making me step back and kind of rework how I do things. One of those ways is to become professional with watching film, and speaking with coaches, trying to learn, watching what’s happened. Really being engaged, trying to get better through different avenues.”

And the Thunder’s knowledge of their prized draft pick will be delayed. Daigneault offered an example.

Will Holmgren be more valuable defensively assigned to a perimeter player who is not a great shooter, allowing him to sink and play virtual free safety, ala Kevin Durant and Giannis Antetokounmpo? Or will Holmgren be better suited as a Rudy Gobert-type rim protector, who doesn’t stray far from the paint?

For a basketball junkie like Holmgren, those would have been fun questions to answer.

This article originally appeared on Oklahoman: Chet Holmgren learning about NBA life despite season-ending injury