| Detroit Free Press
Detroit Pistons’ Dwane Casey on what he liked in second preseason game
Pistons coach Dwane Casey explains what he liked in the exhibition win over the Knicks at LCA, Dec. 13, 2020.
Most rookies need extended game time to adjust to the speed and physicality of the NBA. That acclimation process often takes longer for point guards, who are tasked with managing the offense — and tend to be more mistake-prone as a result.
Killian Hayes, starter in the Detroit Pistons’ first two preseason games over the weekend, is at the beginning of that adjustment period. The long offseason left, Hayes and the rest of this rookie class less preparation than first-year players typically have in a normal year.
“First game, I thought I was in good basketball shape, but I was not,” Hayes said. “I was tired real quick. Just getting back to it. Before that, I hadn’t played for a long time. So (it’s) getting back and getting in a rhythm, getting used to playing with each other in a game. Just gotta get back to it.”
[ What Sekou Doumbouya’s strong game could mean for Detroit Pistons’ regular season ]
Hayes played for ratiopharm Ulm in Germany last year, but his season prematurely ended in March due to the coronavirus pandemic. Going nine months without playing a competitive basketball game took a toll on his conditioning, and the Pistons only had five days of scrimmages leading into Friday’s preseason opener vs. the New York Knicks.
He’s shown flashes of the playmaking and ball-handling that made him the seventh pick in November’s draft. But he’s still finding his comfort level and his adjustment to the NBA will be one of the biggest storylines this season for the Pistons.
Through two exhibitions vs. the Knicks, Hayes tallied 11 points on 4-for-18 shooting from the field, seven assists and eight turnovers.
He looked more comfortable with the ball in his hands during the second game and whipped a few passes to open teammates that would’ve improved his assist total had the shots fallen. After logging seven turnovers Friday, he had just one Sunday. He was also better defensively and appeared to play with more energy on that end of the floor in the second half.
“I saw a big development in Killian from one game to the next,” Dwane Casey said on Tuesday. “He missed some shots in the second game but he took care of the ball. … As I mentioned, game conditioning. Just getting the feel of an NBA game, having to anticipate what the opponents are doing.”
Overall, Casey and his players are encouraged by Hayes’ first two games. Blake Griffin, who has already developed some chemistry on offense with the rookie, has mentioned several times that Hayes is in an unfair position. Rookies usually have four months of workouts leading into their first preseason game. Hayes, along with the other rookies on the team, played a preseason game without the benefit of summer league and a multiweek training camp.
Griffin has been Detroit’s best player so far and looks healthy after playing just 18 games last season. He’s basically a 6-foot-11 point guard at this stage of his career, and he has taken some of the playmaking load off of Hayes, which Casey said helps.
Two of Hayes’ four made shots so far were assisted by Griffin, who rewarded Hayes for moving without the ball in his hands on both occasions. Hayes is still developing chemistry with the rest of the roster. Part of the reason why Casey has started Delon Wright next to Hayes is to take additional pressure off of the rookie as a ball handler.
Hayes showed promise as an off-the-dribble shooter in Germany last year, but it hasn’t translated to the NBA quite yet. Wright found Hayes for an open 3-pointer early in Sunday’s game, and Hayes missed it after taking a step toward the corner. He took several side-step and step-back jumpers through the game and used screens to get himself open. The shots didn’t fall.
“The shooting is going to come, as long as we’re taking the right shots,” Casey said after the game. “And right now, we’re taking the right shots.”
The Pistons will continue to find ways to make the game easier for Hayes. But so far, they’ve seen enough to be optimistic about his learning curve.
“He’s talented, he has a great feel for the game,” Mason Plumlee said. “We just have to create opportunities for him to make plays and get his own.”
Contact Omari Sankofa II at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa. The Free Press has started a new digital subscription model.