Harry Giles III tried to keep his emotions in check Wednesday when he learned he had made the Nets’ opening roster. At first, he wanted to cry.
The tears would’ve been understandable. Giles hasn’t played an NBA game since May 24, 2021. But when general manager Sean Marks gave him the news in Miami, he was lifting weights and didn’t want to cry around his teammates.
“I was trying to focus on my lift, I was sweating out hard and I was trying to get through the day,” Giles said Sunday after practice. “I was still kind of hyped about myself. So once I got to the room, I just laid on the bed and I’m like, oh my God.”
The Nets waived Darius Bazley on Thursday, which cleared the way for Giles and Trendon Watford, both forwards, to make the 15-man roster before teams finalize them Monday. It’s another step for Giles after injuries short-circuited his career and he had to work out for teams in Las Vegas with no guarantees of getting a training camp invitation.
Giles played in the Nets’ first two preseason games and had 16 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Maccabi Ra’anana. He earned raves for adding a physical presence in practice.
For someone who once was ESPN’s top high school prospect before the second of three knee surgeries, Giles found a new love for the sport during his push for another chance in the NBA.
“He was top of the top for a long time, and then injuries set in and they’re hard to fight back from,” Cameron Johnson said.
“And he’s battled back. To be on the outside and get back in is a testament to his hard work, his dedication, his willingness to sacrifice, his willingness to be a part of the team.”
When he got to his hotel, Giles called his mother to tell her the news. She asked if it had sunk in and he said it hadn’t yet. Four days later, he was still in disbelief.
With that weight off his shoulders, Giles is looking ahead to his first regular-season appearance in two years. It’s the next thing keeping him hungry.
“It’s a hard league to get back into, especially when you’re out,’’ Giles said. “So hats off to myself and the work to stay on top of this and believe in myself.”
Notes & quotes: A day after not being a full participant in practice, Dennis Smith Jr. was a partial participant Sunday. Smith sprained an ankle on Oct. 12, and coach Jacque Vaughn has yet to determine his status for Wednesday’s season opener . . . Rookie Dariq Whitehead has progressed to doing two-on-two drills with coaches after missing the preseason because of offseason foot surgery. The Nets haven’t given a timetable for his return. Marks said Whitehead will play at some point this season.