Detroit Pistons won’t panic over Killian Hayes; they want him to ‘relax and play his game’

Detroit Free Press

Omari Sankofa II
 
| Detroit Free Press

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To an extent, Derrick Rose understands what Detroit Pistons rookie Killian Hayes is currently going through.

In 2008, Rose was a rookie point guard acclimating himself to the speed and physicality of the NBA. By his own admission, he struggled early on. Knee tendonitis cut his summer league short after two games, and he said he was “terrible” in the two games he did play. 

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He was also named to the USA Basketball Select Team, which he said was instrumental in giving him confidence ahead of his first season. Rose, of course, went on to earn Rookie of the Year honors with the Chicago Bulls. But he benefitted from an extended preparation period — something that Hayes didn’t get. 

The Pistons’ seventh-overall pick has been a Day 1 starter through four preseason and four regular season games. He’s shown flashes of the playmaking and scoring ability that made him one of the best point guard prospects of the draft. But he’s also playing without the benefit of a normal offseason. He didn’t have summer league, and he went through an abbreviated, five-day training camp. 

“You look at a kid like Killian, he didn’t have any of that,” Rose said. “He’s thrown right in. He’s got a poker face. I’m talking to him as much as possible and letting him know he has to relax and just play his game, but he’s going to have to learn with experience.” 

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Through four games, Hayes is averaging 5.0 points and 3.5 assists. He has more assists (14) and turnovers (10) and is already a reliable defender.

But he’s shooting just 27.6% so far. NBA defenders are longer and more athletic than the opponents he faced in Germany and France, and he’s still adjusting. To compensate, many of his shot attempts have come from the short midrange area, and he has made just one trip to the free-throw line through four games.  

The Pistons aren’t concerned. Rose has been one of Hayes’ biggest supporters, and the coaching staff remains confident that Hayes will figure it out. It’ll just take time. 

Dwane Casey reflected on the rookie season of Toronto Raptors point guard Fred VanVleet, who split his time with the Raptors and their G League affiliate in 2016-17. VanVleet is one of the NBA’s best point guards today, but it took time for him to develop. 

Casey noted that Hayes initially started slow last season with ratiopharm Ulm in Germany, before settling in and establishing himself as a consensus top-10 draft prospect. It’s early in the season, and they’re working with him to increase his comfort level on the court. 

There have already been positive strides forward. He had seven points (3 of 6 from the floor), seven assists and just one turnover in the second half of Monday’s loss to the Atlanta Hawks and helped the Pistons cut a 24-point deficit to five in the fourth quarter. It was his best stretch of basketball yet in his young NBA career.  

“We’ll learn,” Casey said. “We’re going to keep teaching, keep coaching and we’re not going anywhere. We’re going to keep grinding it out and keep going through the process.” 

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Detroit Pistons’ Dwane Casey assesses Isaiah Stewart, Killian Hayes

Detroit Pistons coach Dwane Casey talks Dec. 28, 2020, after a loss to the Atlanta Hawks. Detroit played without Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin.

Detroit Pistons

Walking wounded

Both Hayes and Blake Griffin left Tuesday’s loss against the Golden State Warriors with injuries. It’s unclear if they’ll play on Friday against the Boston Celtics. 

Griffin is still going through concussion protocol after receiving an elbow to the mouth in the second quarter, and Hayes left in the third quarter after spraining his right ankle. Casey said that Hayes went through workouts on Thursday, and is day-to-day. 

Contact Omari Sankofa II at osankofa@freepress.com. Follow him on Twitter @omarisankofa.

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