SACRAMENTO — Bigs, beware. Harry Giles III is coming for your minutes.
The 20-year-old rookie is starting to make an impact on a nightly basis, which was evident Thursday night in his 23-minute stint in the Kings’ 112-102 win over the Detroit Pistons.
“I feel like I’m just at the point where I can just be free and have some fun out there and compete at a level I feel like I’m comfortable [with] out there,” Giles said. “I’m in it now, so I’m playing and just having fun and competing and doing what I do.”
Kings coach Dave Joerger pulled Giles over after the game, and had a few words with his young center.
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“I grabbed him after the game and told him, ‘I feel like you’re getting better and the work that you put in, you’re getting better,’ ” Joerger said.
It was a big moment for Giles. After being in and out of Sacramento’s rotation through the first half of the season, he seems to be building momentum, and his coach is rewarding him for his efforts.
“He embraced me, he encouraged me, it felt amazing,” Giles said of the encounter with Joerger. “That’s what it’s all about.”
Against the Pistons, Giles went toe-to-toe with All-Star center Andre Drummond, who has a huge weight advantage over the Kings reserve. Giving up a minimum of 30 pounds to the 7-footer, Giles did his work early and kept his body on Drummond as much as he could.
“Everybody outweighs me at my position, so it’s great,” Giles said. “It’s all about that heart anyway.”
Giles stuffed the stat sheet, finishing with 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting and 4 of 4 from the free-throw line. He added four rebounds, three assists, three blocks and two steals to help the Kings improve to 21-21 on the season.
“He’s not afraid to make mistakes, and I think he understands that, ultimately, you have to make mistakes to learn and you only get that by playing,” Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein said.
The mistakes Cauley-Stein mentioned came in the form of turnovers. Giles gave away the ball a team-high five times in this game.
“He’s able to do everything,” Kings guard De’Aaron Fox said. “He’s just working on his turnovers. A couple of turnovers he had can be prevented, but it’s just because he’s trying to make a play. He’s getting a lot more comfortable on the floor.”
The comfort level might be everything for the former top prospect. After sitting out most of his senior year in high school, playing 300 total minutes at Duke and then watching from the sideline last season with the Kings, Giles needs time on the court to develop a rhythm. That’s not an easy task for Joerger when his team is playing better than expected. As the season became equal parts winning and development, Giles often has had to watch from the bench.
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Sacramento’s front office even has sent the talented big to the G League on multiple occasions in an attempt to give him court time. Somewhere along the way, the game started clicking for Giles.
“I thought he did some good things around the rim,” Joerger said. “I thought he contested some shots and he caught some passes that might have ended up in the second row; he has some great hands.”
Like the rest of the Kings’ young core, Giles is a work in progress. He has incredible potential, and the more he plays, the better he gets. If he continues on this pace, he’ll be in line for a major role in the rotation sooner rather than later.