It is no secret that Harry Giles’ knees have not been kind to him in recent years. As a result of his ACLs, many opponents at Duke University coordinated their offense to attack him on the floor.
The 6’10 Giles, who made his NBA debut last week after sitting out his first professional season to rehab his knees, took that personal and is using it as motivation on the defensive side of the ball.
“This year, I’m guarding first. I’m not letting them come look for me, I’m looking for them on defense … especially with the guards, I’m going to have to guard the pick and roll this year,” said Giles, whose welcoming and open nature quickly turns serious when discussing his goals on the basketball floor. “I’m always going to bring that fight, that grit. I’m never going to let another man feel he’s got an advantage over me, that’s never going to happen, especially in a basketball game – no way.”
There’s that passion Sacramento Kings fans are starting to see from the second-year man. Stats are nice, but he is just as concerned about bringing energy and fight to a game. In Saturday’s opener to the Las Vegas NBA Summer League against the Phoenix Suns, Giles tallied 17 points, 6 rebounds, 5 steals and 1 block. His defensive tenacity was evident, particularly on a monster block on Dragan Bender and while guarding No. 1 pick Deandre Ayton, making it difficult for Ayton to catch the entry pass and nabbing a few of his steals in the process.
Giles’ personality radiates and it was on display all of last season even though he didn’t play in a game. He would appear outside of the Kings locker room and everyone around him would light up. He would stop to make time for anyone willing to extend a hand shake, chatting with them a few minutes attentively and openly. His teammates love him, often raving when talking about his talent, personality and effort, which they try to emulate as it rubs off on them on the floor and in practice.
All things considered, the fact that Giles is making his NBA dream come true, being productive on the floor (he averaged 9.3 points, 6 rebounds and 1 steal through three games in the California Classic), including playing in a back-to-back, is quite the accomplishment in itself.
The Kings training staff used a biomechanics program over the last year to help Giles build up the strength he would need to step onto an NBA floor and move on from his ACL injury. His story from high school star to 20th pick in the 2017 NBA Draft has been well documented. His injuries derailed his season at Duke and removed him from the top of the 2017 NBA Draft Lottery class. Last week, Giles got his first taste of NBA action. In his first game, he got a cut lip, which he appreciated.
“That’s what I kind of wanted, just to put myself back in the mix and feel like I’m part of the game again,” he said with a smile.
Giles welcomes challenges from his opponents, and the cut on his lip could have come from his effort on defense. While he is a little bit raw on offense, admittedly trying to not be so anxious to make moves and slow down, his lateral quickness has been a welcome sight, as well as his ability to trap, get into passing lanes and play help defense. Not to mention his ability to alter shots around the rim.
“I’ve been trying to challenge myself to always play good on the defensive end, always make sure I’m doing that regardless of what’s going on everywhere else, make sure I’m talking, guarding, making sure my teammates are involved too, and make sure the energy is up too,” Giles said.
De’Aaron Fox, who played in the first game of the California Classic, commented on what Giles can do on the defensive end.
“He’ll guard a point guard, he’ll guard a five man, he’s going to go up and block shots, he’s got huge hands, long arms, can move his feet. He has every physical tool to be a great defender. He can guard any spot,” Fox said. “I think that is one thing that people haven’t really seen from him because they haven’t seen him healthy in a long time, but he’s definitely going to display that.”
Kings assistant coach Larry Lewis said Giles still has some things to learn on defense, however, mentioning getting in game shape being more of a priority at this point.
“It’s not a matter of whether he can run two miles or not or survive a practice. Game shape is like nothing else and you only get it by playing in the game – you are running, and jumping, and stopping and looking and you have to see this and see that, you have to be very alert, you have to be aware and very witty. Those are the kinds of things our young players learn in the game,” Lewis said. “I think he’s a strong young man, he’s passionate and he wants to learn so he’s learning every day.”
As Giles continues to work at getting into game shape and learning how to play at the NBA level, the best news is this: After three games on an NBA floor, including that back-to-back and tallying a double-double in Thursday’s game against the Miami Heat, he said his knees feel good.
We’re all looking forward to seeing more of that fight and grit in Las Vegas.