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'The reason is pain': What Harry Giles, young Kings learned from Stephon Clark protest

Harry Giles, 19, is the youngest Kings player. He has friends who will attend their senior proms this spring.

But even if he wanted to, Giles couldn't escape the protest surrounding the fatal shooting of Stephon Clark by Sacramento police officers. Demonstrators brought the issue right to his front door, so to speak, when they blocked the entrances to Thursday's game against the Atlanta Hawks at Golden 1 Center.

Giles knows older teammates like Garrett Temple will speak on the issues eloquently, but he also knows that someone in his position, as an NBA player, can't hide from the discussion.

"It's something you need to do growing up," said Giles, who has been sidelined this season while recovering from knee surgery. "Being young, me being 19, a year and a half ago did I think I'd be talking about stuff like this? No. But it's part of growing up; it's something you're going to have to face."

The Kings are in the business of developing talent on the court, but the players are in a constant state of development away from the game, too. Not everyone has their political and social views figured out a month before they turn 20, and the Kings have one of the youngest rosters in the NBA.

Opinion

They're learning about issues and forming their own opinions in a world where they are one post on Twitter from being praised or vilified. They're also professionals who earn millions of dollars, constantly in the spotlight.

"It's crazy how it is, because of your platform they automatically assume, they're adults, they've got it, they're good, he's got everything taken care of," Giles said. "But they don't know we're 19. I'm still 19, it's crazy. I could still be a sophomore in college, but at the same time, you get it. Because the platform you have at 19 is different than a normal 19-year-old, you have a different voice, it's just the way it is. People are going to look at what you say differently than they would another 19-year-old."

The Kings hired Galen Duncan in the offseason to oversee their Kings Academy, to help enrich the lives of players away from the court.

One such experience was a visit to the Smithsonian National Museum of African American History & Culture in Washington in November. Giles said the recent events made that trip more meaningful, because there were examples of protests and the reasons behind them at the museum.

Still, Giles, said he wants to learn how to be "smart" about the topics he's discussing.

"Still trying to learn, still trying to get more awareness about it," Giles said. "Still trying to find a way to get more comfortable to talk about, and really be able to express yourself in a positive way, it's tough."

Kings coach Dave Joerger said the Kings have a "great crew we can kick ideas off of" in the organization and promote an environment where everyone is free to express themselves.

That's especially important for some of the younger Kings.

"The conversation is educate yourself, listen, listen to people who have information about different things and different topics and don't be afraid to listen to people who don't have the same opinion as you," Joerger said. "Because it helps you understand your own opinion more and strengthens or weakens your opinion, and that's how we learn. And look at something before you just go say something."

Temple said before Thursday there hadn't been a lot of discussion about Clark amongst the team. The protest changed that.

"Trying to explain to them this is a national stage, this is how you create chatter around what has happened," Temple said. "If you keep 10,000, 12,000 people out of an arena the night of a game, this is how this becomes national news, if it wasn't already. This is how they get their message across. The biggest part is they're listening, they're understanding."

Thousands of empty seats on Thursday reminded Giles of the importance of the issues surround the protest.

"When you're actually here and get a feel for it and see how people are hurt, there's a reason they're doing that," Giles said. "The reason is pain and trying to get a point across, too. It's tough but at the same time it's something you've got to be ready for and handle it the right way."

Trending up

Kings chairman and principal owner Vivek Ranadive spent much of his early tenure with the team being mocked for bad hires in coaches and the front office and being labeled as too hands-on and quirky.

Randadive's response to Thursday's protest put him in a positive light nationally, perhaps the most positive since he took over the team.

Temple said he was "proud" to have a team owner like Ranadive, who supported the rights of citizens to peacefully protest, even as the team lost money because of the protest.

Not only did the Kings win on the court that night, beating Atlanta, they won over many more because of Ranadive's response.

Trending down

Any chance of the Kings finishing with the worst record in the NBA.

The Kings (24-49) can't out-tank Phoenix or Memphis (both with just 19 wins), and have games against each on their upcoming four-game trip.

And with improved play from Buddy Hield, it would be hard for the Kings to not win a few more games the rest of the season.

Perhaps for the second year in a row, the Kings will get lucky and move up in the draft order after the NBA draft lottery in May.

Looking ahead

The Kings host Golden State on Saturday before their four-game trip. If the Kings win, they would take three of four games this season in the series.

The Warriors were without multiple starters in both Sacramento wins in Oakland and will be without multiple players again due to injuries.

Related stories from Sacramento Bee

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