Two months after beginning the rehab process to rehab his hip injury, Killian Hayes is nearing his return.
Hayes has been cleared for on-court basketball action and “will begin a phased progression towards his return to full-contact practice and game action,” the Detroit Pistons announced Tuesday. The rookie point guard will be re-evaluated again in three weeks.
It’s good news for both the Pistons and Hayes, who had only played seven games before suffering a subluxation in his right hip against the Milwaukee Bucks on Jan. 4. The Pistons announced Jan. 20 that rather than surgery, they would opt to treat his injury with rehab.
Head coach Dwane Casey said Monday the Pistons aren’t rushing Hayes back, and he’s been making positive strides in his recovery.
“We’re going to be conservative with him, to bring him back the right way, not rush him back and have the same thing happen all again. Similar injury to (Hamidou Diallo). We want to make sure we’re careful with those, because those things, especially with the schedule that’s going on, are not conducive to healing properly with practice and games and travel. We want to make sure we give him as much time as possible.”
When Hayes does return, it’ll be to a roster that’s changed in significant ways since his injury.
Derrick Rose and Blake Griffin are both playing in New York with the Knicks and Nets, respectively, and the Pistons have added two guards in Dennis Smith Jr. and Diallo. More changes could come before the March 25 trade deadline.
Barring any adjustments to the point guard rotation, Casey anticipates playing two point guards at a time to accommodate Hayes, Smith, Saben Lee and Delon Wright. Casey also thinks Rose and Griffin’s absences could improve Hayes’ decision-making.
“That should free him up a little bit,” Casey said. “I thought he was trying to please everybody, and at the point guard position you can’t do that in the NBA. You gotta tell guys ‘get over there’ and ‘get your butt over there’ and all of those things. I think he’ll play a little bit freer now. With freedom comes responsibility and making the right decisions on his part. This should be his time to handle the ball, make the right decisions… build winning, playmaking habits offensively.”
Hayes showed flashes of the playmaking ability that made him the seventh overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft during the seven games he did play, and surprised as a versatile defender. But he struggled to score the ball. He averaged 4.6 points, 3.6 assists and 1.1 rebounds in 21.1 minutes per game, shooting 27.7% overall and 25% from 3.
When he does return, Casey said the Pistons could get back to their original strategy for Hayes — playing alongside Wright, who can take some pressure off Hayes as a lead playmaker.
“I think his defense was ahead of his offense when he was playing, I was really impressed with the way he got into the ball pick-and-roll-wise and followed the screens and used his strength and size,” Casey said. “It’s going to be good to get him back.”