Detroit Pistons Killian Hayes playing freely down final stretch of season
DETROIT – Detroit Pistons rookie Killian Hayes didn’t have an ideal start to his NBA career. Although the 19-year-old missed several games in what was already a short season, he has made the best of it and is starting to settle in.
Seven games in his rookie season, Hayes tore his labrum and sustained a hip injury for three months. He averaged 4.6 points, 1.1 rebounds, and 3.6 assists as he tried to adjust to the pace of the NBA game.
He was good defensively, even when facing guards like Marcus Smart, Steph Curry, and Trae Young. But offensively, he couldn’t find the right feeling as he made 27.7 percent of his shots at 6.7 tries per game. From a distance, he also forced the shots and made 25 percent of them.
Since returning from his injury in April, Hayes appears to be more confident and has been slowly becoming more determined to take his own shots. On Sunday against the Chicago Bulls, Hayes scored 21 points in shooting 9-of-17 from the field and shooting 3-of-6 out of three.
“I mean just play with your mind, play freely, not rethink, and just go with the flow and have fun on the pitch,” said Hayes. “I feel that this was one of my problems, especially at the beginning when I was just thinking and now, like all coaches and my teammates, helped me to be myself and just play freely.”
The 19-year-old, who played in Germany last year, now averages 6.8 points, 2.8 rebounds and 5.3 assists per game.
During his game, some passes and his ability to whip the ball across the pitch to the goal scorers in transition caught the league’s attention, which landed him on social media highlights. One of these passes was a three-quarter pass for fellow rookie Saddiq Bey.
It happened in the third quarter of Detroit’s competition on April 16 against the Oklahoma City Thunder, where Hayes caught the rebound from a missed Darius Bazely triple. He hit the pass and split two Thunder defenders in transition to find Bey alone in color for a simple basket.
Hayes played a similar game during the Pistons matchup against the Minnesota Timberwolves on Tuesday. This time around, Hayes navigated the ball between Karl Anthony Towns and Ricky Rubio to find Sekou Doumbouya for a dunk.
He’s fed many of his other teammates and has made an average of six assists per game since his return.
His rookie point guard Saben Lee also benefited from a cent from him. Lately, the Pistons have been experimenting with the two rookies compromise tasks as the team’s ball handler, depending on what the situation calls for. Hayes allowed it
Of course, Hayes has played with other guards before, but in five of his first seven games he was the only real point guard on the grid. With Lee on the court with Hayes at the same time, it has opened up more opportunities for him to be the goalscorer. It allowed Hayes to play the ball more and to make himself a little more comfortable blocking his shots.
“I love it,” said Haye. “This is the second game I’ve played with Saben at the same time, and I love being able to play and not being on the ball. The game is just more fun because when you always have the ball in hand, the defense can read what you want to do. “
Hayes’ shooting was the slowest part of his game. But his confidence has grown since his return and as the off-season approaches quickly, he will have more time to work on it. Additionally, according to head coach Dwane Casey, he needs to keep working to keep his dribbling going and attack bigger defenders.
But after a rocky start to his career, the rookie gets a feel for things and on the way to the start.
“Until he goes through it and learns from his mistakes, I think he’ll really take off,” said Casey. “And I see it coming, he does it in the blink of an eye, but he will return from time to time and then come back like all newbies.”