SACRAMENTO -- Kings fans have Harry Giles fever. He’s become their version of the Loch Ness Monster. They see grainy video of the 20-year-old dunking in practice and the excitement only builds.
It’s hard not to like him. Giles is charismatic and has a huge smile. He speaks with a deep southern drawl and he’s a bit of prankster. The question is, after tearing his ACL in both knees as a prep and needing a follow up surgery at Duke, will he ever be the same player that made him a household name as a high school kid?
Step One in Giles’ return happened during summer league, both in Sacramento and Las Vegas. After redshirting the 6-foot-10 big man last season, the Kings had no issues running him out there, even for back-to-backs during the exhibition seaosn. Giles held up fine and prepared for the next step.
In Monday’s preseason opener in Phoenix, Giles made a splash, scoring 14 points, grabbing six rebounds and handing out three assists in 23 minutes of action. It wasn’t a perfect showing, but it was definitely something to build on.
“I finally got one in the books for me,” Giles said following practice on Wednesday. “It went well. It went better than expected. It actually slowed down a little bit faster than I expected and I just had a great time out there.”
It’s all a learning experience for Giles. After missing all but the first game of his senior year in high school, Giles played just 300 total minutes at Duke under head coach Mike Krzyzewski.
The Kings selected him with the 20th overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, but chose to put Giles in the hands of their training staff for a year and build the strength in his legs and core. The hope was that he would be able to return to his previous form with a little luck.
Still considered a rookie coming into this season, Giles has barely played in three years. He knows the system and the language used by Dave Joerger and his staff from his time being around the club last season, but he’s missed out on valuable court time during the development years.
Against the Suns, Giles got in foul trouble early and eventually fouled out. He also took and missed an ill-advised 3-pointer with 23 seconds remaining in the third quarter, much to the chagrin of Joerger. Sacramento’s coach could be heard yelling at Giles as he ran back on defense after the miss.
“The first three I shot, it was bad timing and situation,” Giles said. “It was a tie game and I probably could have got a better shot.”
During the break leading to the fourth quarter, Joerger pulled his team aside. In the huddle, the veteran coach drew up a play for Giles to take another 3-pointer to open the quarter, but with better spacing and in rhythm.
“Coming out of the timeout, (Joerger) kind of showed me that this is the better option to shoot your three right here,” Giles said. “It worked out perfectly. I hit the shot. It also just showed me confidence, believing in my shot.”
For Giles, basketball questions are a welcomed distraction. He’s spent the last few years fielding technical questions about bilateral ACL recovery and faced the possibility that he would never make it to this point in his basketball career.
“It’s great to be on the other side of it, finally getting away from the injury questions, how rehab’s going, how this is going, instead of how’s the game going, how are you adjusting to how you’re playing,” Giles said.
Giles didn’t feel nerves coming into the contest. He was ready to play, like he has been for a while. The injury history will always be there. He can’t escape the questions and he can only do the work behind the scenes and hope for the best in the future.
For now, he is just another young player looking to make his mark in the league. He’s looking forward to playing the Lakers and Warriors in back-to-back games this week. He’s excited share the court with LeBron James and is ready for what comes next.