SACRAMENTO -- Sunday's news that Richaun Holmes is nearing a return was cause for celebration in Sacramento. It also was cause for concern for head coach Luke Walton.
Holmes spent the first half of the season turning heads with his strong, consistent play on both ends of the court. His absence hurt the Kings, but it also opened a door for others.
Out of necessity, Walton turned to second-year big man Harry Giles and the 21-year-old big has turned heads with his strong play.
"I think Harry's probably the reason why we're winning,” Buddy Hield said of Giles. “His energy, the way he moves without the ball, he screens, he competes - yeah, he makes some silly fouls, but s--t, that's Harry man, he's going to compete his a-- off."
Giles put up another really solid performance in Sunday’s 106-100 win over the Detroit Pistons. He scored 12 points on 5-of-9 shooting, grabbed seven rebounds and blocked a shot in 21 minutes of action.
It was Giles’ fifth straight game scoring in double digits for Sacramento and he appears to be settling into a starter's role, bringing an ingredient that was missing from the Kings.
“I got way more to my game, I kind of get that energy label -- that’s just me, I’m going to bring that energy always,” Giles said following the win. “I think that’s what the game deserves and what the game needs.”
Giles is a fan favorite, but he also is a player that's spent the last three seasons in Sacramento waiting for an opportunity. Everyone in the building has taken notice of his strong play and even his teammates are pulling for the former top prep prospect.
“Having to play like that from where he came from -- he didn’t get no minutes and then earning minutes and then after guys get hurt, God favored him, he was able to show out,” Hield added. “That’s big for him. Harry is the reason we’re playing like this right now because of his energy and his unselfishness.”
Two weeks ago, Giles was the only healthy center on the roster. General manager Vlade Divac acquired 7-footer Alex Len at the deadline in a swap with the Atlanta Hawks, but the former No. 5 overall pick in the 2013 NBA Draft was nursing a hip flexor injury and even when he was cleared to play, it was on a minutes restriction.
Len now is healthy, and like Giles, he is building momentum.
“He understands the game of basketball,” Walton said of Len. “When you’re coming to a new team, a lot of times the terminology will slow you down, coverages might be different, you have to learn to play with your guys as far as strengths and weaknesses. He figured it out really quick as far as what we’re trying to do.”
In his sixth game with the Kings, Len came off the bench and proved to be a difference-maker against the Pistons. He scored a modest eight points on 4-of-8 shooting but added 13 rebounds and five blocks in 27 minutes with the second unit.
With Holmes on the mend after missing the last 23 games with a torn labrum in his right shoulder, Walton is facing a very difficult dilemma.
“When Richaun gets healthy, it’s going to be a tough job for Luke to see who he’s going to put in because they’re all giving great minutes and great effort,” Hield said.
All three players bring a unique skill set. Holmes is a pick-and-roll specialist and one of the Kings’ best defenders. Giles is the best passer of the lot and brings energy and toughness the Kings need. Len is the true 7-footer that can protect the rim and instantly has improved the team’s ability to compete on the glass.
Both Giles and Len are unrestricted free agents at the end of the season, but with the team creeping up on the eighth seed in the Western Conference, this season has to be about wins and losses.
Giles can steal some time at the power forward spot and Holmes can defend the four as well, but neither has the ability to stretch the floor. Len is a conventional big that roams the post.
“We’ll manage it when we get to it,” Walton said. “Harry is playing very solid for us right now, making plays, playing with an edge. Alex is doing a really nice job giving us something we didn’t have as far as that big 7-foot center out there. Richaun was maybe having the most consistent year out of anyone for us when he went down. So we’ll get to that when we get to it.”
There is no question that all three players have taken advantage of the opportunity in front of them this season with the Kings. With 22 games remaining, Sacramento still is breathing in the postseason chase and this group is one of the reasons why.
Whatever happens from here on out, it’s up to each individual to take the situation in stride and cheer on their teammates.
“You never know what might happen,” Giles said. “You never know your journey, so you’ve just got to be ready.”