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For Harry Giles III, a bear hug with Sean Marks signaled a return to NBA, the game and the life

Marc J. Spears talks with Harry Giles III about where he’s at and the journey to get there.

Brooklyn Nets Practice in the Park Photo by Kostas Lymperopoulos/NBAE via Getty Images

Sean Marks remembers Harry Giles III reaction when he told the oft-injured big man that he had made the Nets roster after a preseason game in Miami.

“I’ve never been bear-hugged and lifted off the floor,” the 6’10” Marks told Marc J. Spears of Andscape and ESPN.

Indeed, the bear hug was the culmination of what Spears describes as Giles journey back to the NBA. one that had so many moments, some good, some bad, Giles, still only 25, is not getting much time on the court so far this season, but every time he has, he’s played more than a respectable game. More than that, Marks told Spears that Giles is good for his team.

“When you get a guy like Harry in your environment, he is an easy guy to root for,” Marks said. “It’s as simple as that. The way he conducts himself. True professional. He works really hard. Diligent in his craft both on the floor and behind the scenes. He just needs to stay healthy, and that has been the biggest issue for him the whole time …

“He adds to the team environment. That’s important. You never know when you’re going to get called upon. But he’s good emotional support for our entire locker room.”

Giles admitted there was a lot of emotion that led to the bear hug, and a lot of personal pride.

“You can’t get too high or too low. But at the same time, I had to pat myself on the back because that was a tough road to get through. A lot of guys would have quit and not made it through. But God had the Brooklyn Nets on my side,” said Giles.

The Duke product’s story has been well told, about how his great potential has been betrayed by his body, with one injury after another keeping from reaching the heights everyone in basketball thought he’d climb.

Spears, though, gets into what Giles missed in his near two-year, injury-induced exile from the game, from the ice baths and free food to, yes, income.

Giles didn’t play pro basketball during the 2022-23 season and said not being in the NBA was painful. He missed simple things like, “not going to shoot around and practice every day, not getting in the cold tub, getting treatment, getting the free food every day. You don’t take those things for granted once it’s taken away from you.” Giles said he “applied more love” to basketball in his absence, continued to work out regularly in North Carolina, Los Angeles and Miami and engaged in lots of prayer. Paul and Tatum continued to also give Giles positive words of wisdom.

He even set up a trucking company — one truck so far — to help his finances, believing that he finally had to think about life after basketball. Giles is making $2.165 million this season, the most he’s made since 2019-20 and other than the $37,000 he got as a G League walk-on from the Clippers in 2021-22, his only NBA paycheck. He didn’t even last the G League season, being cut in January.

“Before, I was just in the G League on assignment,” Giles said. “It was different being there full time on that salary. It made me dig deep into how deep I wanted it.”

Helping him get there were some moments like the one last April in Sacramento when he sat courtside for the Kings first home playoff game in 17 years and got a rousing ovation as he did the other night when he returned in his Nets uniform.

“I can’t even put into words my gratitude and appreciation for my time and the fans in Sacramento,” Giles said. “Those were some of the best days of my life. That was my best NBA experience so far. I loved it there.”

He’s also had support from Chris Paul, for whose AAU team Giles played for, and Jayson Tatum, his teammate at Duke. He said that the Nets, more than any other team, kept in touch with him during his time on the sidelines, then during his summer workouts.

He is extremely popular with his teammates as well as the coaching staff.

“Most guys would sulk, know they’re not playing,” Mikal Bridges explained following his cameo in Monday’s loss to the Kings. “His attitude is great every day. You just wouldn’t think he had a bad day and he works so hard, he’s in the gym like working, you know? I feel like I’m one of the last guys leaving the facilities, ’cause I get treatment and all of that stuff and it’s not even close. Like, he’s one of the last guys to leave and always coming to the locker room dripping sweat. Just, I see him out there working hard. Just his energy and his vibe.”

Nothing is set, Giles knows. His deal with Brooklyn is non-guaranteed until January 10 when all NBA non and partially guaranteed deals get fully guaranteed for the rest of the year. But for now, he’s happy where he is, back in the game, literally and figuratively.

“I’ve been hurt a few times. Waived from teams. Didn’t make teams. But you got to keep living. Sometimes you feel like things aren’t getting better and there is no green light or daylight ahead of you. But you got to keep pushing until you see it.”