It was a tough rookie season for Killian Hayes. He didn’t have a Summer League or a typical preseason to prepare, and before he even played 10 games, he had a hip injury that kept him out for a couple of months. Hayes returned to finish the season healthy, but with things getting somewhat back to normal, he’s looking forward to a better second season.
Hayes has been working out in Detroit throughout the early part of the summer — and unlike last year, he’s able to work out with his teammates. Fellow rookies Saddiq Bey, Isaiah Stewart and Saben Lee have been working consistently as a group, and they’re building camaraderie and chemistry that would have been a critical part of their rookie seasons.
It’s never too late to get what’s necessary.
“It’s been great because we’ve been able to practice with all the guys but also practice individually,” Hayes said. “We’ve been able to do both, especially like everything that’s team related, playing 3-on-3, 2-on-2 or 1-on-1, just going through drills, so we just build that chemistry even more.”
Hayes, the No. 7 pick in last season’s draft, entered the league with high expectations. But after suffering his hip injury, he was shelved for more than half the season and had to work his way back to playing shape. It was frustrating at times. But when he finished with a flourish, Hayes had a blueprint of what he needed to work on to improve this offseason.
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The focus has been squarely on shooting from distance and inside the arc.
“Definitely shooting, I worked a lot on my shooting, footwork and using my body,” Hayes said. “Defensively, just being really a dog and just playing hard defense. I got my footwork way better, putting in work every day in the weight room. I’m really working on all-around aspects of the game, but my main focus has been shooting and ball-handling, just being more physical on the floor.”
Hayes was known for his on-ball defense, but coming off the injury, he seemed to be a little hesitant to make contact and potentially aggravate the injury.
With some time to get more comfortable, he’s been able to ramp up his work, and to get some specialized shooting help from new Pistons development director John Beilein.
“Coach Beilein is the one who put in all the shooting drills so he’s real big on shooting fundamentals, footwork, even simple things like passing. I know I can pass the ball, but it’s just going back to the roots and working on fundamentals,” Hayes said. “The coaches put us through different drills so we got five minutes shooting to try and get 85 shots up, get above, 60 or 70 percent, and we’ve got a whole bunch of shooting drills, a lot of competitive stuff so just keeps us going.”
Hayes is anticipating the NBA Draft this week to see who the new addition to the roster will be, with the Pistons holding the No. 1 pick. He’s seen the fan anxiety, but he doesn’t have any insight about what the Pistons’ plans are.
“It’s going to be exciting, especially for the fans. When I walk through the airport everybody stops me, like ‘Who are we going to pick?’ (I say) Just like you, I don’t know, but it’s exciting.
“I know the city is really excited so it’s just going to bring us that boost. I’m just looking forward for my new teammate.”