The Pistons posed for a team picture on Tuesday, two days ahead of their next “home” game, which will be played nearly 4,000 miles away from Little Caesars Arena in Detroit.
Behind the group stood the Eiffel Tower, one of the most recognizable historical landmarks in the world. It’s the premier destination for tourists in France, the host country of the NBA Paris Game, which will pit the Pistons against their longtime rival, the Chicago Bulls.
Thursday’s matchup against the Bulls (3 p.m. ET) will be the Pistons’ first game in France, and third international game, having previous regular-season games in London (2013) and Mexico City (2019).
The international matchup marks the first NBA game in Europe since 2020 and the league’s 12th game in France since 1991. The NBA Paris Game 2020 — the first regular-season NBA game in Paris — was held on Jan. 24, 2020, and featured the Charlotte Hornets and the Milwaukee Bucks.
“It’s exciting to represent not only our organization, but the NBA,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said. “We’re promoting basketball for our league, and then on top of that, we’re representing our city. Detroit is a French word. It’s something that we want to put a good face on and go out and perform and do a good job — but most of all, represent our league and the organization.”
France has more players drafted into the NBA than any other country outside North America and has been the most-represented European country in the NBA for each of the last 16 seasons.
Pistons guard Killian Hayes, who was born in Lakeland, Fla., grew up in Cholet, France and became the highest draft pick from the country after Detroit selected him with the seventh overall pick in the 2020 NBA Draft. The third-year guard is playing the best basketball of his career, averaging a career-high 10 points and 5.7 assists per game.
Hayes is serving as the team’s honorary host, as he visits his home country to play an NBA game for the first time. After Saturday’s practice, he said he’s most looking forward to playing in front of his friends and family.
“Seeing my grandma and my family back home,” Hayes said. “I haven’t seen her in a little while. She used to come to every one of my games when I was back home in France.
“Just going back home is really a blessing. Just being able to play in front of my family and friends, they don’t care if I play bad or good. Just being able to be with them. Of course, I want to play well, but they see it differently. They just want to see me out there.”
Casey has been part of several of the Global Games during his coaching career. When he was an assistant coach with the Seattle SupersSonics from 1994-05, they played in preseason games in Mexico City in 1994 and in Germany and Spain in 1996. The SuperSonics also had two games in the regular season in 2003 in Japan.
When asked where he would like to see the NBA play a game, Casey looked no further than Africa, which is already home to the Basketball Africa League.
“I would say as much or more in Africa,” Casey said. “The NBA’s doing a great job in Africa, but I think we can continue to do more teaching and spreading the game there because there’s so many needs there (on the continent). Not only basketball, but life skills and all of that.”
The NBA, in collaboration with the Bulls, the Pistons and the French Basketball Federation (FFBB), will host a series of youth basketball events and social impact programming surrounding the game that will include basketball clinics for youth players, coaches and referees, youth basketball competitions and NBA Green initiatives.
Most of all, a game will be played.
The Pistons are 12-35, which is the third-worst record in the league, and appear headed toward another draft with a high lottery pick. This year’s draft will be headlined by French phenom Victor Wembanyama, the presumed No. 1 overall pick.
In their last meeting, the Pistons were overwhelmed by the Bulls in a 132-118 loss, after Chicago guard Zach Lavine scored a season-high 43 points. The Pistons were without Hayes for that game due to a three-game suspension. The third-year guard will be available on Thursday, and he hasn’t forgotten the result of that game.
“We owe Chicago,” Hayes said. “We had a close game against them at their place. We’re not losing sight of our goal. We’re going there to play a game and that’s where our main focus is.”
Based on Hayes’ response, it’s safe to say the Pistons are looking to “ball so hard” that they’ll come back to the States with a win.
Thursday’s matchup against the Chicago Bulls marks the Pistons’ fifth game as part of the NBA’s Global Games initiative.
Here’s how they fared in their previous four meetings:
▶ Oct. 29, 1995: defeated Washington Bullets, 110-99, in Mexico City
▶ Oct. 10, 2006: beat Miami Heat, 84-64, in San Juan, Puerto Rico
▶ Jan. 17, 2013: lost to New York Knicks, 102-87, in London, England
▶ Jan. 19, 2023: lost to Dallas Mavericks, 122-111, in Mexico City
Pistons vs. Bulls
Tipoff: 3 p.m. ET Thursday, Accor Arena, Paris, France
TV/radio: NBATV, BSD/97.1
Outlook: The Pistons (12-35) will look to snap a two-game losing streak against the Bulls (20-24) when the two teams face each other Thursday. Jaden Ivey scored 22 points in Detroit’s last meeting against Chicago.