The day before Halloween 2019, I waited outside the Kings' locker room at halftime, hoping to catch general manager Vlade Divac while he walked back to his stool in the tunnel.
For some reason, Divac and his staff were dragging their feet when it came to announcing if they would pick up contract option years for a group of young players, including De’Aaron Fox, Marvin Bagley, Caleb Swanigan and Harry Giles.
The conversation was brief when Divac did appear. He was flanked by team executives, and before anything was answered, I was turned away and the message was clear: Something unexpected was about to happen.
Halloween morning, I was able to confirm that both Fox and Bagley had their options picked up, and also that the team had passed on Swanigan, as expected, but also Giles.
The decision came with the following statement from a team source.
“The Kings love Giles and will continue to support his development. This decision also doesn’t preclude Giles from being an important part of their future.”
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After investing the No. 20 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft, followed by a year of rehab and development on Giles, the Kings basically had given away all of their rights to him and made it extremely difficult to retain the 22-year-old center.
In his lengthy interview with Marcos Breton from The Sacramento Bee, Divac, who resigned as Kings GM on Friday, addressed the decision to not pick up Giles’ fourth-year option.
“My message to him was to be a pro,” Divac told Breton. “You have to be a pro. And he responded very well. When we came back [after the league-wide COVID-19 shutdown] he came in shape. I was very pleased. My idea was to keep him around.”
Giles made a mistake in the summer of 2019, but he was 21 at the time. That doesn’t excuse his decision to show up out of shape. In doing so, he lost any opportunity to compete for a rotational spot with a new coaching staff.
While the message was loud and clear, Divac could have made the same point a different way and, if nothing else, retained the value of a young player. As it stands, Giles might have played his last game in Sacramento. He's a huge fan favorite, and this decision ruffled a lot of feathers.
Giles had a few highlight-reel moments during his second official season in the NBA. He finished the year averaging 6.9 points, 4.1 rebounds and 1.3 assists in 14.3 minutes per game. Due to the slow start to the season, he was limited to just 46 games, but after a series of knee injuries as a prep athlete, he will enter the summer as a healthy unrestricted free agent who can sign with any team in the league.
Giles might come back for another tour of duty with the Kings, but because it didn't pick up his option, the team is limited to a contract that starts at $4 million and has no rights to match other offers.
Unfortunately for Divac, he won't have a say in the decision after stepping down as the Kings' GM.