SACRAMENTO -- With 7:41 remaining in the third quarter and the Sacramento Kings down 68-59 to the Portland Trail Blazers, an unexpected player stepped to the scorers table.
6-foot-10 Harry Giles III, fresh off another stint with the Stockton Kings of the G League, took off his warmups, tucked in his shirt, and checked in for Nemanja Bjelica.
The rookie big man had played a total of 233 minutes for the Kings coming into the night. He’s struggled with defensive assignments, averaging 8.2 personal fouls per 36 minutes.
With a need for energy and someone to step forward, coach Dave Joerger gave the rookie some run. From the moment he stepped on the court, he looked like a different player than what the team has become accustomed to.
Whether it was watching the game from sidelines or his latest adventure in Stockton, Giles was the player that the Kings hoped he would be when they drafted him with the 20th overall selection in the 2017 NBA Draft.
“He changed the game for us and set a couple of great screens,” Bogdan Bogdanovic said of the former Duke Blue Devil. “He was tremendous on defense. He changed the whole rhythm of the game. It was great for him and he’s a pretty confident guy. That’s what we want him to do.”
After watching other bigs slip their screens for much of the game, Giles stood his ground and opened Bogdanovic up for open looks. The Kings’ shooting guard scored 14 of his 19 points with Giles on the court and the team responded with a 35-22 run during the rookie’s 13 minute stretch on the court in the late third and early fourth quarter.
After Giles left the floor, the Kings wound up falling apart and losing in overtime, 113-108.
“He was the reason we got the lead tonight,” Buddy Hield said. “[If he] keeps doing that and bringing the energy, it’s going to go far. Coach is going to realize it and everybody on the team is realizing it. I’m happy for him.”
Giles rotated well to help his teammates, he played defense with his feet (instead of his hands), and he hit the deck for loose ball. His spin move and dunk gave folks a taste of his potential and his 13-foot jumper from the baseline to end the third was a big time shot.
“It’s good for his confidence,” Hield said. “He’s been battling going back and forth from the G League. He’s not getting as much playing time as he wants. He just needs to stay the course, man. He needs to be a professional and when his opportunity comes, take advantage of it. That’s all you can tell him and he played his butt off. ”
Giles finished the evening with six points on 3-of-5 shooting to go with seven rebounds, a steal and a block. He turned the ball over just once and maybe the most telling stat from his time on the floor was that he failed to commit a personal foul.
Following the game, Joerger was non-committal on what the performance means for Giles’ minutes going forward. He is in a battle for playing time behind Willie Cauley-Stein, Kosta Koufos, Nemanja Bjelica and Justin Jackson, who has been seeing more time at the four in small ball lineups.
The minutes will get even tighter when Marvin Bagley III returns from injury sometime later in the month.
Giles needs more opportunities, but he also has to show that he can be this type of impact player when he does get minutes.
This season was supposed to be about growth and development for the Kings, but with the team winning, players who step on the court have to help that cause as well. If Giles can show that he is ready and give Joerger quality minutes when called upon, he’ll earn a longer look from the Kings’ coach.