What a bummer. No Harry Giles until the Las Vegas Summer League. All those spectacular moves he makes in practice – or so says the intel coming out of Golden 1 Center – will remain behind closed doors except for members of the organization who peek and pry, and practically start swooning whenever the rookie steps on the court.
But the Kings had to do this to the rest of us?
Yes, they did. The Kings will lose enough games this season. They don’t need to lose Giles for the foreseeable future, too. Even though the 6-foot-10 forward-center recently passed all of his extensive medical tests and was deemed fully recovered from ACL tears in both knees, this was the smart play. A painful play, but a smart play.
Perhaps the most interesting aspect of this introductory phase of the Giles narrative is the methodical, scientific, exhaustive way the Kings went about the decision they announced on Thursday. The franchise that for years refused to embrace analytics, maintained a bare-bones front office and scouting department, and ate coaches and general managers for breakfast, lunch and dinner, attacked the Giles Experiment from all angles.
“We trusted modern sports medicine,” said assistant general manager Brandon Williams, speaking on his cellphone from Europe. “That was the start of it. We knew we had to be careful because his ceiling is so high. Until you get to know Harry, you treat him as a fragile being. ‘Banged up. Went to Duke.’ We decided to wait for January, which is two years since his last (ACL) injury, and figure it out from there. What we learned these last few weeks was that the ACL is healed. Then the question became, ‘Do we push it?’
“We decided to follow the same pattern and give Harry the same introduction to the NBA as Willie (Cauley-Stein), Buddy (Hield), De’Aaron (Fox), and the young guys had, rather than plop him into the mix in the middle of the season. That means summer league, offseason training, training camp. It takes players time to find their groove. We think this gives him the best chance for success. And the great news is that he is not the same player who came to us last summer.”
Under the supervision of Pete Youngman, the Kings’ longtime trainer who oversees the sports medicine department that includes Manny Romero and Ramsey Nijem, a program was designed specifically to address Giles’ unique medical history. Everything from his participation in practice, weight training, conditioning and scrimmages is closely monitored, with an emphasis on biomechanics to improve, among other things, his strength, explosiveness, vertical leap and lateral quickness.
According to Williams, the Kings consulted with numerous pro sports organizations and were heavily influenced by the Peak Performance Project, or P3, a Santa Barbara-based company.
Teams enlisting P3’s services gain access to state-of-the-art biomechanical equipment and technology, rigorous testing methods, metrics and and interpretation, a worldwide database that includes information on dozens of professional athletes, as well as a staff of physicians trained to apply science to athletes.
Before determining how to proceed with Giles, the Kings accompanied him to P3 two weeks ago while he underwent three days of intense testing. The results were more than favorable; they exceeded expectations.
Besides adding 20 pounds of proportioned muscle, the data revealed significant improvement of core and body strength, quickness and explosiveness, and a major change in his physical structure.
“Before, when Harry went down (squatted) before he jumped, his knees almost touched,” Williams continued. “It was almost like he was knock-kneed. That was something Ramsey identified in August. We worked on that, because it’s important for his knee stability, and got the quads stronger. Now when he squats, he is much closer to perfect alignment.”
Giles, who accompanies the team for every road game, is all smiles. He said late Wednesday he is ecstatic about the results from the P3 testing and once again fully endorsed the club’s patient approach.
“I just keep getting better and doing what I have to do to get on the court,” he said, “and I have no pain. We have a great plan. I’m up to 240 pounds, and I feel a lot stronger. I’ll be ready to go for summer league.”
Williams can no longer count the times college coaches or recruiters have gushed about a “pre-injury” Giles, a versatile, dynamic performer who exudes charisma even when walking the hallways at the Golden 1 Center. The assistant GM feels for Kings fans who had hoped for a quicker glimpse of the North Carolina native. In a sense, he has been there, too.
“People want to know, ‘What’s up with this dude?’ ” Williams said. “The excitement of Harry dunking a ball, dominating the boards. Early in the season we thought, ‘Maybe we should send him to Reno.’ You can get caught up in the romance of it. He’s that special. But it just made more sense to keep him here. There are only a handful of athletes we know about who have come back from two of these (ACL tears), so the sample size is small. You should have seen the look on his face down in Santa Barbara, though. He was so happy. Now that he’s healthy, we can ramp it up, get him for next year. And you know he’ll be ready to go.”