Harry Giles watched all 82 games the Kings played last season. He saw the Kings get pushed around by opponents who regularly took a hit-first mentality out on Sacramento.
Giles doesn't have to sit and watch anymore. He plans to do something about it.
Giles sat out last season as the Kings wanted him to get stronger after multiple knee injuries. He made his NBA debut Monday in the California Classic summer league, finishing with 13 points and three rebounds in a 98-93 victory over the Los Angeles Lakers at Golden 1 Center.
Giles, the 20th overall pick in the 2017 NBA draft out of Duke, said he wants to "bring the things that we struggled on last year," and he can do that without putting up big statistics.
The Kings need more players with an intensity that prevents them from getting pushed around. Giles showed flashes of that. He played with an attitude, talked trash and didn't back down as he went back-and-forth with Lakers rookie Moritz Wagner.
"Toughness is something I'm going to bring every day," Giles said. "I'm always going to bring that fight, that grit because I'm never going to let another man feel like he's got an advantage over me. That's never going to happen, especially in a basketball game. No way."
Kings players and coaches talked a lot about Giles' fire during practices, but because those sessions are mostly closed to the media, most people outside of the organization hadn't seen this side of him.
"Even when he wasn't playing in games, he was like that in practice," Kings point guard De'Aaron Fox said. "His energy was like that in practice. That's something I knew he was definitely going to bring to the game. It just brings energy when you see a guy playing like that, and you see a guy fighting like that, you don't want to do anything but ride with him."
Giles admitted he had some nerves before the game. He hadn't played much in nearly two years. He had no idea how he'd perform, but said he exceeded his expectations.
"I just went out there with a mindset to go have fun, be free, let it come to me," Giles said. "That's always easier said than done; I'm different. I got to barking out there pretty early. But that's just me trying to get myself into it."
Giles' barking with Wagner lasted all night. The Lakers' first-round pick was just as talkative in finishing with 23 points.
Giles fed off the trash talk.
"I like how he challenged me," Giles said. "He brought something out of me. I was playing hard, but he brought that extra chip and that extra edge out of me, and I appreciate it."
Kings summer league coach Larry Lewis praised Giles' approach and how he played under control. Giles' game had a maturity to it that was surprising, given he hadn't played in so long and was injured most of his lone season at Duke.
This is, however, what the Kings expected from him.
"He's very poised," Lewis said. "For his first time on the floor, I couldn't ask for anything else. He did exactly what we asked of him. I think his IQ is pretty high. I could go on for five, 10 minutes praising him."
Giles made for a solid tandem with rookie Marvin Bagley III (18 points, six rebounds).
"I think we're getting to know each other," Bagley said. "Those practices the past couple of days have helped us out a lot."
Like Giles, Bagley has some edge to his game, too.
Lewis liked it because, "You can't have enough bulldogs on your team — we've got some bulldogs," he said.
"Harry has a lot of fire because he spent a year with us already," Lewis said. "Marvin has a lot of fire naturally."
By the end of the night, Giles looked as if he'd been a fight. He couldn't have been happier about that.
"I just had amazing time out there, played hard, went through the battle," Giles said. "I've got a cut lip — that's what I kind of wanted, just to put myself back in the mix and feel like I'm part of the game, and that's what happened, so I had a great time. I'm just blessed to walk off the court healthy."