Why is Josh Giddey playing for Thunder while police investigate alleged relationship with minor?

Josh Giddey is expected to be in the Oklahoma City Thunder lineup when they host the Lakers on Thursday night, two days after Newport Beach police said they were conducting an investigation of allegations that the NBA player had an inappropriate relationship with an underage girl.

On the day authorities said they had launched an inquiry into the 21-year-old Giddey, the guard played in Tuesday night’s game at Minnesota and was booed whenever he touched the ball. That treatment on the road is likely to continue until more is known about his alleged behavior and he’s either exonerated or suspended.

Whether the reception will be warmer in Oklahoma City’s Paycom Center on Thursday against the Lakers remains to be seen. Giddey is a key cog on a Thunder team tied for third in the Western Conference.

He was the sixth overall pick in the 2021 NBA draft without having played college basketball, and as a 19-year-old rookie was the youngest player in NBA history to record a triple-double. Giddey is in the third year of a four-year, $27.2-million contract with the Thunder.

Questions about Giddey’s possible involvement with a minor emerged on the social media platform X, where pictures and videos began to spread online. The images of Giddey with a female, who is allegedly underage, circulated online during Thanksgiving weekend.

One of the images is of a shirtless Giddey standing behind the female, who is smiling. Others are of them apparently talking and laughing into the camera outside a nightclub in Orange County.

Additional information since then has been scarce. Newport Beach police released a statement Wednesday asking the public for information related to the allegations while detectives are “pursuing all leads and evidence to obtain the facts of the case.

“The Newport Beach Police Department aims to ensure a fair and thorough investigative process while maintaining the privacy and dignity of everyone involved,” Newport Beach police said. “At this time, NBPD Detectives are still conducting an active investigation.”

The female is a high school student in Orange County, according to a teacher who was not authorized to speak publicly on the matter and requested anonymity. The Times will not publish specific identifying information of an alleged underage victim of a sexual crime.

The age of consent in California is 18, compared to 16 in Australia and Oklahoma, the country Giddey is from and the state he plays in, respectively.

A person in the Orange County district attorney’s office who spoke on condition of anonymity expressed frustration, saying of the rampant speculation and misinformation online: “If there is a criminal prosecution, it would be difficult.”

On Friday, Thunder coach Mark Daigneault would not comment on anything about Giddey that occurred off the court, and Giddey responded to questions from reporters about the alleged relationship by saying, “I get the question, guys. I completely understand you guys want to know about it. Just for right now, I don’t have anything to say.”

Giddey spends the offseason in Orange County to train, and his agent, Daniel Moldovan, who is also Australian, lives in Newport Beach.

Playing for Team Australia, Giddey earned the Wanda Rising Star Award at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in September and is viewed as key to Australia’s medal chances at the 2024 Paris Olympics. Giddey’s parents were professional basketball players. His father, Warrick Giddey, played for the Melbourne Tigers and currently is a coach in the Australian Women’s league. His mother, Kim Giddey, played for Melbourne in the women’s league.

Josh Giddey’s coach in Australia, Brian Goorjian, expressed support.

“It’s really out of my wheelhouse,” Goorjian told Australian reporters. “All I’ve done is messaged him and let him know the support is there. I am going to go [to the U.S.] in early December and see him face-to-face. I just want to let him know right now he’s got our full support.”

For now, Giddey is free to play for the Thunder. The NBA typically waits until law enforcement completes an investigation and files charges before it issues any punishment. Even if no criminal or legal issues arise from the law enforcement investigation, the league can suspend a player. An example is the 25-game suspension currently being served by Ja Morant of the Memphis Grizzlies because of his second video involving a firearm on Instagram live.

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