Atlanta — It’s been a slow start for guard Killian Hayes, trying to find his mojo in leading the Pistons’ offense. It’s been something of a sluggish start for the offense too, which was ranked last in the league in scoring, 3-point shooting, and in turnovers.
Hayes had just one made field goal in the first two games, but coach Dwane Casey isn’t concerned about the production from the point guards so far. Casey sees it as a bigger issue with the offense and just not making shots.
With Hayes’ shortened season last year, it’s going to take time for him to get a comfort level, with fewer than 30 games under his belt as a starting point guard.
“I’m not shocked, surprised or discouraged by our point guard play. We knew it was going to be a growth area, that (Hayes) he wasn’t going to just step in like a 10-year vet, and that there were going to be growing pains,” Casey said Monday. “I’m not into all the ‘What’s wrong with Killian?’ He’s a young player and that’s what we are as an organization. That’s part of the growing pains that we have.
“Saben Lee is still another young player, another young point guard and when Cade (Cunningham) comes in, he’s a rookie point guard.”
The Pistons have been saddled by turnovers and not making shots from the field. They’ve stayed close in games because of their defense, which held the Chicago Bulls under 100 points in each of the first two games.
The play at point guard will have to improve, and with three young pieces at the position, along with veteran Cory Joseph, they’ll have to keep plugging away to get things turned around.
“We want more. We’re going to coach them hard and we’re going to continue to teach and push. You can’t wave a magic wand on any of our point guys right now and hope and say, ‘Hey, he should be doing this, and he should be doing that,’” Casey said. “It’s going to be steps and (Hayes) can’t skip letters of the alphabet to get to where he wants to be. Our job right now is to continue to support him, push him, kick him in the behind, and put an arm around him at the same time.”
Hayes had just five assists in the first two games and was 1-of-11 from the field, and the concern is that he might be pressing to try to do too much. If he’s in the wrong frame of mind, Hayes could be impacting his own performances and making it hard to get out of this slump.
From the looks of things, Hayes’ passes are fine, but the shots just aren’t falling to turn those passes into assists.
“In his head, I’m sure he’s disappointed — probably about the wrong things. He’s just probably disappointed about his shooting, and for me, he’s made so many good plays — kick-outs and what we want to do — and we just didn’t make shots,” Casey said. “If you put five or six or seven assists in that column where he was 0-for-whatever, and now it’s not as bad. When he doesn’t have very many assists and where guys weren’t making shots, now, it looks a little bit different.
“For me, don’t worry about the missed shots — yeah, let’s keep working on them — but let’s continue to make the main thing the main thing, which is you being the quarterback, you talking and making sure we organized.”
There’s a frequent comparison of being a starting point guard to being a starting quarterback in the NFL, in terms of their time to get adjusted and processing everything that’s going on. It’s not so much the turnovers for Hayes, but just finding a good rhythm for his shot and where he fits in the offense.
Jerami Grant was questionable entering Monday’s game because of an elbow infection. He hadn’t shown any signs of issues in the first two games, but Casey said Grant would be a game-time decision.
It’s yet another injury to a starter, and what makes it harder is that Grant is their go-to option and was their leading scorer last season.
“It is what it is. Nobody’s going to feel sorry for us. That’s why you have a 15-man roster. Guys have to be ready to step up and where we are in our growth process, it’s a great opportunity for someone to step in and step up to play and get minutes and compete,” Casey said. “It’s not like we’re getting people hurt on purpose. It happens, and luckily, it’s happening — if there is such thing as luck — at the beginning of the year, and we’ve got the rest of the year to continue to grow and develop our guys.”