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For Harry Giles III, the long road back just got shorter

Still only 25 (and still 6’11”), Harry Giles III was an intriguing signing by the Nets this off-season. Now, after his double-double and generally good showing Thursday, the Giles intrigue deepens.

2023-24 Brooklyn Nets Media Day Photo by Michelle Farsi/NBAE via Getty Images

Harry Giles III had himself a game Thursday night: 16 points, 10 boards and an 8-of-10 shooting. It was only preseason and against a team from Israel’s second division. Nonetheless, the 6’11” big looked good. As Tim Capstraw noted on YES Network, Giles’ long history of injury, particularly to his lower body, didn’t seem to affect his athleticism, particularly his quick jump. Indeed, he and the Nets other feel-good story of the night, Ben Simmons, combined on what was arguably the play of the game...

It was just one of several collaborations...

For Giles, still only 25, the game was more than just a measuring stick. The first two games of the Nets preseason were his first NBA outings since May 2021 when he had a two-minute stint for the Blazers vs. the Rockets. He hadn’t scored 16 or more points in any NBA game — pre-season, regular season or post-season — since February 28, 2020 when he was playing for the Kings. That was two weeks before the pandemic shut the NBA down.

Signed to an Exhibit 9 deal, meaning nothing is guaranteed, Giles realizes this could be his last chance and any progress is a big step from the oft-injured but enormously skilled big man.

“I felt good,” Giles told reporters after the game. “Like I said a couple of days ago, this isn’t my first rodeo. I’m just getting back in the swing of things. Every game, I plan to get better. I feel better...

“It’s all about confidence, too, just building confidence each game. This is my first couple of games in like two years, so for me, it’s just working through that. And I feel great. I’ve been working my body out hard in the summertime and now all of preseason, so I’m excited to keep going and keep building.”

Giles has credited Sean Marks & co. with believing in him. On Media Day, he told reporters that of the dozen or so teams that worked him out in Las Vegas and Miami before his September signing, the Nets had expressed the most interest all along. In fact, he noted, Brooklyn had been in regular contact with him throughout his career.

So … so far, so good.

“I thought Harry was extremely aggressive and that started with his rebounding on both ends of the floor,” said Jacque Vaughn of Giles’ play, post-game. “He was physical. I think he was in the right spots defensively giving us a presence at the rim, so definitely a good night for him. I think he ended up with a double-double, so it’s a pretty productive night in those minutes.”

“I believe in giving guys a chance to show how they can impact the team,’’ Vaughn added.

Giles agreed: “I went out there today and just played hard, just keeping my focus on what I’ve been focused on, that’s rebounding.”

He got the start because the two bigs ahead of him on the depth chart, Nic Claxton (sore glute) and Day’Ron Sharpe (twisted ankle) were able to go and he was.

As our Lucas Kaplan wrote of his signing back in early September, everyone loves stories of redemption.

Yet these guys occupying the fringes of the NBA are likable. Extremely so. They are, not unlike the Brooklyn Nets’ current self-image, the underdogs. Natural fan favorites. The injuries and setbacks Giles has faced make him especially fascinating. That said, the unlikely success of any non-guaranteed Net wouldn’t just be heart-warming, it would be a highlight of the season for the most devoted of Nets fans! The fans that grow attached to these new characters, the fans that root desperately and often alone, for them to maybe make the roster. The fans who get excited, even tune in for their garbage-time minutes, perhaps culminating in glee for eventual, hard-earned, 11-minutes-per-game. The mind can only wander from there.

Everyone who has followed his career also knows that Giles is always one injury away from the end of his career, one that started with him being ranked ESPN’s No. 1 high school prospect in the land back in 2016, ahead of Jayson Tatum, his good friend; Bam Adebayo; DeAaron Fox and Jarrett Allen, all of whom have been named All-Stars in subsequent years.

The litany of injuries is long as YES noted during Thursday’s game.

What’s next? Giles, Darius Bazley and Trendon Watford, the latter two on non-guaranteed vets minimum deals, seem to be in a big man competition. There’s enough room for all three if the Nets use their remaining two-way which remains open. Vaughn did group the three, referencing “Harry, Baze, and Wat all getting a decent amount of minutes to see how they can add to our team,” in talking with the media pre-game.

Before he was signed, Giles seemed to set a two-way contract as his goal. “If I gotta go two-way… that’s just what I gotta do. Two-ways get converted all the time,” he told a Sacramento radio reporter in July.

Indeed, Tatum and his agent, Daniel Hazan, pushed for a change in rules this year that would permit him to sign a two-way deal. As Chris Haynes of Yahoo! Sports wrote early in the summer, under the old NBA/G League rule, Giles wouldn’t have qualified for two-way status. Technically, he had been on an NBA roster for four seasons, but that included the 2017-28 season when he didn’t play at all. Under the so-called “Harry Giles III rule,” he is eligible. (He would join the Nets two other two-ways, Armoni Brooks and rookie Jalen Wilson)

“Let’s see how he goes,” said a Nets insider at the time of the signing. Thursday was a good start.