His mind is calmer, his movements are more decisive and his confidence is growing by the day.
The first half of the season was a struggle, but the evolution of Kings rookie Harry Giles III seems to be underway as the team prepares to play the Charlotte Hornets on Saturday night at Golden 1 Center.
Giles logged limited minutes and three brief stints in the G League over the first 36 games, but now it appears he’s carving out a role in coach Dave Joerger’s rotation. Giles has appeared in the past six games, averaging 16.8 minutes with flashes of the extraordinary skill set that made him a top prospect before a series of knee injuries nearly derailed his career.
Giles filled the stat sheet in Thursday night’s 112-102 victory over the Detroit Pistons, scoring a career-high 14 points on 5-of-9 shooting with four rebounds, three assists, three blocked shots and two steals. When it was over, Joerger put his arm around the 20-year-old center and offered encouraging words.
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“I grabbed him after the game and told him, ‘I feel like you’re getting better,’” Joerger said. “... He’s still trying to seam a couple of passes that he needs to let go and go to the next option, but he is a good passer and that just takes some experience. I thought he did some good things around the rim. 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.”
Giles appreciated the gesture.
“They believe in me,” Giles said. “Knowing (that), after I probably messed up 10 times straight in the last five minutes of the game, (he) still saw the good in my performance is great.”
Giles should have another opportunity to showcase his improving game when the Kings (21-21) play host to the Hornets (19-21). Charlotte had lost three of four going into Friday’s game against the Portland Trail Blazers. The Hornets will be playing the second night of a back-to-back and their fifth game in eight days.
Giles has demonstrated an ability to score around the basket with both hands. He’s a good rebounder, an aggressive defender and a gifted passer who finds teammates with remarkable vision and precision.
“I feel like I’m just at a point where I can be free and have some fun out there,” Giles said. “... I feel like I’m just comfortable out there and that’s what it’s all about. I’m in it now. I’m playing and I’m just having fun, so I’m going to compete and do what I do.”
Giles isn’t fouling as frequently as he did earlier in the season, but he did have a team-high five turnovers against the Pistons. Kings center Willie Cauley-Stein said his understudy will clean up his mistakes with increased playing time.
“As a young dude, you get so amped to play that the mistakes you make can be prevented by just slowing down and really reading the situation, but it’s also something you can’t feel unless you play, so you have to make those mistakes to figure it out,” Cauley-Stein said. “His confidence is super high. He’s slinging the ball around. 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.”
Giles is averaging 5.5 points, 3.2 rebounds and 11.5 minutes per game, but his potential is evident in his averages per 36 minutes of 17.2 points, 10 rebounds, 4.1 assists and 2.5 steals. Giles hinted a breakthrough could be coming when he posted 10 points, eight rebounds, six assists, four steals and two blocks in 20 minutes against the Utah Jazz on Nov. 25, but his playing time remained sporadic until recently.
Now that he’s getting consistent minutes, Giles said he knows what he has to do.
“Be me,” he said. “Just go out there and have some fun and compete. I think I’m doing that — being me — being a dog out there, and everything is going to fall into place, so I’m just going to keep doing what I do.”