The trouble with Harry.
Sacramento Kings play-by-play man Grant Napear made a proclamation during Wednesday’s broadcast that Harry Giles was targeting Tuesday’s home game against the Portland Trail Blazers for his return.
Napear wasn’t confirming that Giles will play. The only one that can do that is head coach Luke Walton, who has just recently gotten his hands on the 21-year-old big man after a summer that didn’t go as planned.
In the blink of an eye, Giles has gone from one of the young core pieces that the franchise hoped to build around, to a player without a contract for next season.
General manager Vlade Divac declined Giles’ fourth-year option on Oct. 31, which was a jarring move for almost everyone involved.
After spending a year rehabbing the talented 6-foot-10 center and then patiently working through his sophomore campaign that included 58 appearances, the Kings have basically walked away from the business of Harry Giles.
What went wrong is likely more complex than either side would like to admit.
Giles struggled to return from a quad contusion at the end of the season and it spilled into the summer. When the team reconvened for the California Classic and Las Vegas Summer League, Giles wasn’t ready to compete.
It was about this time that the Kings hit the free-agent market and landed both Dewayne Dedmon and Richaun Holmes to play the center position. These additions weren’t coincidental.
According to a league source, when Giles showed up to training camp not in the shape that the Kings expected and then struggled with pain in his left knee on the first day of camp, the team was forced to reconsider their future plans.
Giles has worked his way back. He has been practicing and then doing extra work with development coaches Rico Hines and Stacey Augmon, but he’s already missed all of camp and the first eight games of the season. He also gave away any shot of competing for a job under a new coaching staff.
Dedmon has struggled, but the team invested heavily in the veteran to play alongside Marvin Bagley as a stretch five. Holmes has moved ahead of Dedmon into the starting lineup, at least while Bagley is recovering from a broken thumb. He is an energizer and has instantly become a fan favorite.
Barring injuries, finding room for Giles in a crowded front line won’t be easy for Walton. Bagley is only a few weeks from a return and holdover Nemanja Bjelica has played extremely well for the Kings.
According to multiple sources, the team hasn’t given up on Giles as a player or a person. They will continue to work on his development and health with the hopes that he can get back on the right track.
There may come a time when Giles finds his way back on the floor, but Divac wasn’t willing to risk nearly $4 million in salary for next season. If he is going to remain a King, he will have to “earn a contract for next season,” sources told NBC Sports California, as well as Jason Jones of The Athletic.
Unfortunately, the Kings’ decision opens up alternative options for Giles. By declining his fourth-year option, Giles is now an unrestricted free agent following the season and can sign with any team in the league. He can return to Sacramento, but the Kings are limited to a one-year, $4 million offer. Other teams in the league do not have the same restrictions.
If Giles is traded mid-season, any team that acquires him is also limited to the same one-year, $4 million offer, which reduces any value he may have on the trade market.
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Giles chose one path in the offseason and the Kings chose their own on Oct. 31. Neither of these paths likely lead in the same place. There is time for some reconciliation here, but the financials may get in the way come July 1 when free agency opens and the team no longer has any hold over Giles.
This is not the outcome that anyone envisioned when the Kings selected Giles with the No. 20 overall pick in the 2017 NBA Draft.