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Gonzaga Basketball

Foot injury will sideline former Gonzaga standout Chet Holmgren for entire 2022-23 NBA season

Chet Holmgren, right, shakes hands with LeBron James prior to the CrawsOver Pro-Am game in Seattle on Saturday. Two minutes into the game, Holmgren, the former Gonzaga standout, suffered a foot injury what will sideline him for the upcoming NBA season.  (Jennifer Buchanan/The Seattle Times)

Chet Holmgren will miss the 2022-23 NBA season with a Lisfranc injury in his right foot.

Holmgren, the former Gonzaga standout and No. 2 pick of the Oklahoma City Thunder, sustained the injury while contesting LeBron James’ layup at the CrawsOver Pro-Am in Seattle on Saturday.

“We are disappointed for Chet, especially given the excitement he had about getting on the floor with his teammates this season,” Thunder general manager Sam Presti said in a statement. “We know Chet has a long career ahead of him within our organization and the Oklahoma City community.

“One of the things that most impressed us during the process of selecting Chet was his determination and focus. We expect that same tenacity will carry him through this period of time as we work together and support him during his rehabilitation.”

Holmgren had the unenviable task of trying to slow down the 6-foot-9, 250-pound James one-on-one in the open court just a few minutes into the game. Holmgren managed to do so, forcing the Los Angeles Lakers’ superstar to airball a back-to-the-basket shot from close range. In the process, Holmgren, hustling back to stay in front of James, appeared to plant his right foot awkwardly before elevating to contest the shot.

The 7-foot, 195-pound Holmgren was in pain immediately and started hopping on one leg near the baseline at Seattle Pacific’s Royal Brougham Pavilion. He stopped near the bench and quickly exited the court. The game was called off just before halftime due to slippery court conditions.

Presti told reporters he didn’t believe condensation on the court was an issue in Holmgren’s injury. Holmgren didn’t seem to slip during the play.

Holmgren’s slim frame raised questions from some analysts about how he would hold up against bigger, stronger NBA players.

“I’m not afraid of him as a player,” one scout said. “I think he’s going to be fine and could be exceptional. I just worry about his durability.”

Holmgren, however, didn’t miss a game in his only season at Gonzaga and he’s been injury-free for most of his young career. A detailed article in Sports Illustrated noted Holmgren had no red flags, a “clean profile” and predictions of a long career with few missed games – a rarity for bigs – following in-depth testing of his coordinated movement at P3, Holmgren’s training facility leading up to the draft.

Presti dismissed Holmgren’s thin body type as being a factor in the injury.

“I understand there’s a lot of first-level thinking going on out there,” Presti told the Oklahoman. “We can’t really control that. It’s a figment of the alternate reality that is the internet. But that’s not where reality resides. There are opinions and there are facts, and we are dealing with the facts.”

Holmgren was playing in the Crawsover for the second straight year. The former Zag also assisted at GU sophomore point guard Nolan Hickman’s “The Give Back Foundation” camp in Seattle for the second consecutive season, joining No. 1 pick Paolo Banchero and Zags forward Anton Watson, prior to participating in the Crawsover.

Seattle native and former NBA standout Jamal Crawford’s annual summer pro-am is popular with current and former NBA players as well as college standouts. Fans camped overnight outside the gym and there was an overflow crowd on hand to watch James, making his Crawsover debut, Boston star Jayson Tatum and the top draft picks.

Holmgren’s contract permits him to play in Exhibit 5 activities, including the Crawsover, that are sanctioned by the NBA, according to ESPN’s Bobby Marks. NBA players routinely stay active playing in pro-ams or pick-up games during the off-season.

Holmgren averaged 14 points, 8.4 rebounds, 2.8 assists and 2.8 blocks in five summer league games. He posted 23 points on 7-of-9 shooting, including 4 of 6 on 3-pointers, seven rebounds, six blocks and four assists in his summer league debut.

Presti said Holmgren ruptured a tendon in the middle portion of his foot. Holmgren’s injury will require surgery and the team has been in contact with top foot specialists. He’s expected to be ready for the 2023-24 season.

“There’s going to be some tough times now, don’t get me wrong, but he’s got what it takes and he’ll be ready when he’s ready to come back,” Presti said. “I think he’ll be a force.”

Holmgren is expected to be a key piece for the Thunder, who are 46-108 (.291 winning percentage) the past two seasons. He’d been listed second behind Banchero for NBA Rookie of the Year by oddsmakers.