Hayes ‘wound a little too tight’ but vows to come back better as Pistons open preseason

Saddiq Bey
Rookie Saddiq Bey scored 14 points as all 4 Pistons picks in the November draft had moments to validate the franchise’s hopes for their future
Chris Schwegler (NBAE/Getty)
by Keith Langlois
Web Editor

It had been nine months since the Pistons last played, but that only begins to explain the challenges that faced them Friday night as they launched the NBA’s season of uncertainty with a loss to New York in the preseason opener.

The Pistons as you remember them no longer exist. Of the 15 players Dwane Casey found time to play in the 90-84 loss in the preseason opener, 11 weren’t around when they last played on March 11 at Philadelphia. When Casey gathered them for the first practice of training camp on Sunday, some were meeting teammates for the first time.

So, yeah, you might have expected ragged Friday night – and ragged was what you got: 22 turnovers and 32 percent shooting.

But Casey wasn’t looking at the final score or even the statistics that led to it so much as watching for signs of what his team can become.

It starts with making sure Blake Griffin and Derrick Rose are tuned up and ready to go and all systems were go on that front. Griffin moved much better than he appeared to at any point last season before shutting it down after 18 games and Rose picked up where he left off. For good measure, they both hit the floor diving after loose balls in the first half.

“We were on the floor five times in the first half,” Casey said. “Those are the things we can control. You can’t control this time of the year whether you’re shot’s going in or not. I’m more worried about the things we can control.”

At the other end of the spectrum from the two decorated stars are the four rookies new general manager Troy Weaver maneuvered to acquire in last month’s draft and each gave the Pistons reasons to dream – though Killian Hayes, the 19-year-old French point guard taken with the seventh pick, probably will have a few nightmares about his seven-turnover debut.

“Killian has to relax and play,” Casey said. “He was wound a little too tight. That will come. It was a typical first exhibition game for him.”

Hayes drew the start at point guard in part so Casey could have him out with Griffin as the anchor of the half-court offense. He also started veteran Delon Wright, who’s played more point guard in his career than shooting guard but is comfortable at either spot, to help take some of the pressure off of him. Hayes finished with five points, four rebounds and three assists in 21 minutes and wasn’t looking for anyone to offer any excuses for his miscues afterward.

“It felt good just being back on the floor, be able to run up and down,” he said. “I know I made a lot of mistakes and a lot of things I need to learn still. I need to be careful with those mistakes. I know what I can do better. I’m going to watch tape, go through it and not make those mistakes on Sunday and play better.”

Rose said he thought Hayes was telegraphing his passes and found he couldn’t get away with some of the things that worked for him while playing in Europe against bigger, more athletic players.

“You’re trying to assess everything, trying to get to learn guys,” Rose said. “He’s a 19-year-old kid. He’s coming in thinking, if he’s taking two or three shots in a row, how these grown men are going to look at him. It’s different. He’s trying to get a feel for everything.

“For Killian, I would say for all of ’em, it’s really not fair when you think about it. I was able to play through Summer League, was able to go to USA Basketball and play for the Select Team. You’re throwing these kids into the fire. I told him don’t really worry about how the game went or how he played. Of course, he’s a perfectionist. He’s going to think about it. He can’t stop playing aggressive. He’s got to use his body, his 6-foot-5 frame.”

Hayes had his moments, most notably in a four-possession sequence of the second quarter when his penetration and vision resulted in three wide-open 3-point opportunities.

One of them led to a triple for fellow rookie Saddiq Bey, who joined Svi Mykhailiuk in leading the Pistons with 14 points. Fellow rookies Saben Lee and Isaiah Stewart finished the game and gave Casey reason for enthusiasm. Stewart had four rebounds in his seven minutes and Lee two assists, both of them raising the level of play when they entered.

“I thought the young group came in and played fantastic,” Casey said. “They came in and competed.”

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