Pistons open training camp with Killian Hayes starting: ‘He’s not your typical rookie’

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
| Detroit Free Press

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The regular season won’t start for another two weeks, but Killian Hayes is already impressing his head coach and teammates. 

And he’s the starting point guard, for now.

Training camp officially started Sunday, with the Detroit Pistons working out and scrimmaging as a team after a week of testing and individual workouts. Hayes was active on both ends of the floor, head coach Dwane Casey said, and accomplished a difficult defensive feat for most point guards. 

“Killian is a long, athletic point guard,” Casey said. “Again, he’s not your typical rookie. He sees things defensively, he sees things offensively, he had three or four blocked shots today at the point guard position, which is hard to do without fouling.”

READ MORE: Pistons rookie Saben Lee is a lion on court: He’ll ‘dunk on anybody’

He also competently ran the offense. Due to his several seasons of professional experience in Europe, both Casey and general manager Troy Weaver have said Hayes should be ahead of the curve as a rookie.

“Killian was making veteran plays, saw him make two beautiful lob passes to Mason (Plumlee),” veteran guard Wayne Ellington said. “Already, just seeing that shows me his poise and his advanced skillset for such a young player.” 

Casey hasn’t committed to a starter at the point guard position for the regular season yet, but it’s a vote of confidence for the rookie, who would be starting over two veteran point guards if he does end up holding onto the role. 

What to expect from Pistons’ Killian Hayes as a rookie point guard ]


KIllian Hayes talks after first day of Detroit Pistons training camp

KIllian Hayes talks after the first day of Detroit Pistons training camp, Dec. 6, 2020 in Detroit.

Like last season, Casey is planning on bringing Derrick Rose off of the bench. He likes Rose’s ability to be a spark plug as a sixth man. The Pistons restricted Rose’s minutes to 26 per game last season to keep him fresh and limit injury risk. 

Rose, 32, is comfortable with the arrangement, and said Saturday he’s dedicated to mentoring Hayes.

“I already talked to him and told him that he was the future of the team and there’s no competing,” Rose said. “My job here is to push him and groom him into a great player.” 

That leaves Hayes and Delon Wright, who the Pistons acquired in a trade with the Dallas Mavericks, battling to be the starting point guard. 

“We may start out with Killian there,” Casey said. “There’s nothing set in concrete, but we’re starting him there to see how he goes. Again, he’s not just a typical rookie, he knows how to play it. But Delon’s a veteran, he knows how to play it. We want to keep Derrick in his position coming off of our bench, which is a weapon. We’ll see how it goes with Killian and Delon in that situation, but we’re starting off with Killian there right now.” 

Casey and Wright have a history dating back to 2015, when the Toronto Raptors selected Wright 20th overall in the draft. Casey coached him during the first three seasons of his career, and their relationship is one of the main reasons Wright wanted to play for the Pistons. 

That familiarity, along with Wright’s experience level, makes him a strong option for the Pistons as a starter. 

“We didn’t tamper with Delon at all, but I’ve always had eyes on those guys from afar,” Casey said. “He knows the system, we drafted him. I was probably as hard as Delon in Toronto when he was a rookie as anybody. He and Fred VanVleet, those young guys, Pascal (Siakam), I was tough on them. It’s paid off and it’s paying off for Delon now because he knows the system, he knows the terminology.”

Delon Wright badly wanted to play for Pistons. He finally got his wish ]

Hayes made a strong first impression, though, and the position battle will be one to watch through camp. He understands he has to prove that he can handle the responsibility. 

“It’s all work,” he said. “I know I just got here. People say stuff but I still need to prove myself and I need to show that I belong. I’m like everybody else. I need to earn my spot, earn my minutes and just work hard.”

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. Read more on the Detroit Pistons and sign up for our Pistons newsletter.

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