Beard: Pistons rookie Killian Hayes still playing with sense of urgency late in season

Detroit News

Whether they’re in high school or college, the school year is coming to an end. With it has been some significant senioritis and looking forward to the summer and all the spoils that come with that.

For many, it’s the time of year of doing just enough to pass and not worrying about the consequences.

The Pistons’ young players didn’t get that instant message. They’re still trying hard each game as if it’s the beginning of the season. For rookie Killian Hayes, it still is, in many ways. He played his 19th game in Saturday night’s loss at Charlotte, and though he had a forgettable first half, he turned things around in the second half and finished with 10 points, six rebounds and six assists.

“We came out, I thought to myself, bulls——- in the first half. We weren’t happy; the coach wasn’t happy, so we knew in the second half we had to step forward to compete in the game, and we fought till the very end,” Hayes said. “They got the win and made some tough shots, but we need to play like this the whole game.”

That’s a lot more accountability in the final weeks of a losing season than most rookies would show. Hayes is only 19, but having missed 41 games, he knows from his previous pro experience the importance of each game. It’s not about just playing out the string; it’s about creating some continuity for the summer and into next season.

More: Sink or swim? Pistons’ draft position to be determined in final stretch

With eight games left, there’s precious little time remaining for him to get the most out of this season, in the crucible of real game speed, against real NBA competition. Summer League will be beneficial, but it’s not the same as playing against veterans such as the Hornets’ Terry Rozier.

The sense of urgency seems real, and coach Dwane Casey applauds Hayes’ realization of each game’s importance.

“It should (be important), because he didn’t play all those games, and he was out hurt. For all of our guys, this is their season right here, this is their opportunity,” Casey said. “And we’ve got to play with a sense of urgency. We did the second half (on Saturday), but I shouldn’t have to jump up and down at halftime to get guys to play with a sense of urgency.

“We want to build winning habits, and it’s not like a light switch where you can flip it on and off. If we don’t establish that now, you’re not going to start the season next year with the light switch off and then just flip a button and it comes on.

“You develop those winning habits now to improve for next year. You develop those winning habits, and he did that in the second half, but we have to start better.”

The Monday Drive takes a look at some other takeaways from last week:

1. Frank-ly speaking: Given the opportunity to play, Frank Jackson has become an intriguing prospect over the past few weeks. He had 25 points on Saturday and in the three games last week, he averaged 21 points and 4.3 rebounds, and shot 48% on 3-pointers in 29 minutes. Sure, it’s a small sample size, but he’s playing nearly starters’ minutes and producing at the level of a starting wing — except he’s coming off the bench. This from a guy on a two-way contract who had to make the most of his time in practice to get on the court.

“Frank is a great guy off the court. He always put in the work; his work paid off,” Hayes said. “You can see he brings his A-game every single game and gives 100%. He’s a hell of a scorer, hell of a shooter and we’re really happy to have him on our side.”

2. The schedule: The Pistons have five games in seven days, with back-to-backs on Monday-Tuesday against the Magic and Hornets and Saturday-Sunday against the 76ers and Bulls. Four of the games are at home, but it’ll be a tough week that could feature some odd lineups because of resting players and trying to prevent injuries with the short turnarounds for each game.

3. The record: The Pistons have the second-worst record and could have the best odds of getting the No. 1 pick in the lottery if they remain in the bottom three. Their remaining strength of schedule is 16th, but with several of those teams trying to work their way into the playoffs or improve their seeding, there’s more onus on them to win than the Pistons. The Timberwolves are right behind the Pistons and after an overtime loss on Saturday, that could set up another big game on May 11 for those standings.

4. The shooter: Rookie Saddiq Bey hit five 3-pointers on Saturday, marking the 10th time this season, setting a new NBA record, surpassing the rookie mark by Stephen Curry set in 2009-10 and Allen Iverson (1996-97). He’s been finding his shot and getting more opportunities. Casey said that defenses aren’t closing out on Bey the way they do for other top shooters such as Wayne Ellington, but that could change.

Magic at Pistons

Tipoff: 7 p.m. Monday, Little Caesars Arena, Detroit

TV/radio: BSD/97.1 FM

Outlook: It’s one of the most important games in jockeying for a bottom-three record and the best odds at getting the No. 1 pick in the draft. The Magic (20-44) won on Saturday on a last-second shot by Cole Anthony.

Twitter: @detnewsRodBeard

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