| The Detroit News
Detroit — With the production that the Pistons have gotten in the past week from Dennis Smith Jr. and Saben Lee, it’s eased some of the anxiety about playing without Delon Wright, who suffered a groin injury and could be out another week, at least.
That’s compounded by the trade that sent Derrick Rose to the New York Knicks and the long-term absence of first-round pick, Killian Hayes, who has been out for almost two months because of a torn labrum in his right hip.
Flipping the page on the calendar could bring some better fortune for the Pistons at the position, as Wright could be returning, and Hayes could be making his return as well.
It will be a long-awaited reprise for Hayes, who was just adjusting to his first seven games in the NBA before the injury occurred. His rehab seems to be going well and he could be getting back to basketball activities soon.
“It’s been solid; it’s really going well. He’s in the situation where he’s moving and shooting right now,” coach Dwane Casey said Saturday. “Hopefully, (he returns) sometime in the next month — don’t hold me to it; I’m going by what the medical people are talking about.
“So, he’s coming right along, and he’s done an excellent job with his body. He’s cut out sugar in his diet.”
With the quick but gradual progress that the other rookies have made — Saddiq Bey has joined the starting lineup and Isaiah Stewart has emerged as a quality backup center — there’s more optimism about what Hayes can bring in his return.
In the midst of the Pistons’ rebuild, having more minutes for the Core Four and finding how the rest of the roster fits together is the top priority. That enthusiasm has to be tempered with the notion that they’re still rookies and there is plenty more growth that has to come in just becoming good rotation players.
“I can’t wait (for Hayes’ return) because these games are for those guys to put them in critical situations, in game situations where none of our guys have ever been before,” Casey said. “If you think about it, this time last year Saben was playing down in the SEC, playing against Auburn and we had other guys in Europe and Isaiah was in the Pac-12 Tournament.
“All new stuff, all learning and this is what this is for Killian and it’s going to help him once he does come back.”
Doumbouya tries to find rhythm
Last year’s first-round pick, Sekou Doumbouya, still is looking to find a good rhythm this season. He’s played behind Blake Griffin and Jerami Grant at power forward. With Griffin looking to move on, there should be more minutes available, but Grant’s minutes have gone up in the interim.
After Doumbouya suffered a concussion against the Pacers on Feb. 11, he missed three games and has been trying to find good footing since. He’s averaging just 2.6 points and 2.4 rebounds and shooting 23% on 3-pointers, in about 14 minutes.
The opportunities haven’t been there for him to get the same rhythm that the rookies have.
“He was playing well up until the concussion, but just hasn’t bounced back with his shooting. Defensively, Sekou can get in his stance more and down and ready to guard some of these quicker (power forwards),” Casey said. “He’s strong as an ox, and he does a good job of using his body, but the one thing that hasn’t come back is his shooting. I’m a firm believer that it hasn’t gone anywhere; he just needs to continue to work on it, continue to take the right shots, and they’ll come back.”
The domino effect is that with Grant playing more minutes since Griffin has been out of the lineup, that he’ll end up missing some games because of rest with the extra minutes, to avoid wear-and-tear.
“The thing that’s got him right now is Jerami playing (power forward) and playing big minutes. Somehow, someway we got to find some more minutes for Sekou there to spare Jerami some minutes and usage,” Casey said. “That way, he doesn’t have to sit out games and also gives Sekou an opportunity to get out there and get his offensive flow back and his shot back.”