Bogdanovic ‘more comfortable’ assuming early role as one of Pistons’ top scorers

Detroit News

Detroit — Bojan Bogdanovic was feeling his shot Tuesday night.

The Pistons forward drilled a 15-footer, followed by back-to-back 3-pointers in the first quarter against the Washington Wizards.

It was an early flurry of points for Bogdanovic, who has been the team’s best offensive option early in the season, including the first half of an eventual 120-99 loss on Wednesday. He finished with a game-high 25 points on 8-of-13 from the field.

Bogdanovic, as most veterans tend to, referred to the ultimate goal of winning when asked if he’s starting to feel more comfortable since he was acquired by the Pistons a month ago.

“I’ve been in the league for a while,” Bogdanovic said after the game. “I’m getting more comfortable, but we have to be better. We have to win games.”

The Pistons knew what they were getting when Bogdanovic was acquired in a trade the weekend before the start of training camp. He has been a solid veteran wing with eight years of NBA experience, and more importantly, playoff experience. A scorer from all three levels of the floor. Someone who can play both forward spots. And a willing passer.

A minor calf injury slowed his acclimation process in the preseason, but through the team’s first four games, Bogdanovic is proving to be Detroit’s top option on offense.

Bogdanovic was averaging a team-high 19.3 points, four rebounds and 2.7 assists per game. In addition, he had connected on 52% of his field-goal attempts and 52% of his 3-pointers.

One area that’s been apparent, but hasn’t been as evident in the stat sheet is Bogdanovic’s ability to draw multiple defenders. There have been several occasions early this season when Bogdanovic has found either Cade Cunningham or Saddiq Bey outside the arc for open opportunities when he’s double-teamed.

The Pistons only tallied 12 assists on Tuesday, a major decrease from the 31 assists they had during the season-opening win over the Orlando Magic.

“We showed that we know how to play together,” Bogdanovic said. “The first game, we had more than 30 assists, which for a young team that we have, it’s big time. That’s how we have to play, move the ball from one side to the other instead of trying to do something by ourselves.”

The Pistons are entering a tough stretch of five straight games against playoff teams from last season, including two games this week against the Hawks, a matchup against the Golden State Warriors and two road games against the Milwaukee Bucks next week. It’ll be a tough test for a young team with a low-scoring presence from its second unit.

“We gotta be more solid,” Bogdanovic said.

Hayes looking to find a rhythm

Killian Hayes attempted a size-up dribble against Rui Hachimura but lost control of the ball, which landed in the hands of Delon Wright, sparking a fast break for the Wizards. Wright, who played for the Pistons during the 2020-21 season, pushed the ball in transition and lobbed it to a soaring Kyle Kuzma for a two-handed slam.

It was one of Hayes’ game-high four turnovers during Tuesday’s loss. It was a disappointing performance for the young Detroit guard. He finished scoreless with just two rebounds, zero assists and missed all six of his shots from the field in nearly 17 minutes.

“I thought Killian Hayes was pressing way too hard,” coach Dwane Casey said after Tuesday’s game. “I was trying to get him to relax and (he was) just pressing. There’s gonna be nights when you may just be a passer, may be a defender, a rebounder. It doesn’t matter, but bring something that contributes to winning other than just scoring.”

In his third season, Hayes, the former No. 7 overall pick in 2020, and his performance during the first four games of the season is a polar opposite from the confidence and poise he exuded during his three preseason games.

Hayes compiled totals of 12 points and six assists through three games while shooting 42% from the field and 33% from 3, often serving as the driving unit of offense for the Pistons’ second unit. In four games of the regular season, the Pistons’ bench has struggled to score, and Hayes is averaging 2.3 points, two rebounds and three assists per game with abysmal shooting totals: 12.5% from the field and 10% from 3-point range.

Hayes said he just needs to continue to shoot and the shots will fall.

“Keep playing hard. Keep going through it,” Hayes said before Tuesday’s game. “I know shots are going to fall. Keep shooting. Still playing with confidence and keep going. We got 70-plus more games left, so I ain’t tripping.”

“He’s getting the opportunity and we’re trying to give him the support and put him in situations he’s been in, but he’s not playing at the level he’s played at in exhibition,” Casey said. “We gotta find out why and why he’s pressing and putting pressure on himself. There is none. This is an opportunity to grow and get better in those situations.”

Making a Statement

The Pistons will spice things up on Wednesday with a brand new court and uniform combination as they look to claim a statement win against the Hawks.

Wednesday’s game will mark the debut of Detroit’s new black statement edition jerseys, which features “DET” across the chest in white lettering, with bold blue and red stripes across the jersey. The stripes pay homage to the warmup tops the Pistons wore during the late ’80s and early ’90s.

The Pistons are 1-0 in their association uniforms (white) and 0-3 after donning their icon uniforms (blue) during their first road trip of the season. Maybe a new wardrobe change will come with good fortune.

The Pistons’ Statement Edition uniforms will be worn during every “In It for My City”-themed game at Little Caesars Arena, which spotlights local performers and highlights small businesses.

Below is a list of dates for Detroit’s “In It for My City” themed nights:

▶ Oct. 26 against Atlanta

▶ Nov. 4 against Cleveland

▶ Nov. 12 against Boston

▶ Dec. 16 against Sacramento

▶ Feb. 10 against San Antonio

▶ Mar. 13 against Indiana

Twitter: @MikeACurtis2

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