Pistons prioritize keeping Hayes connected after ‘dodging a bullet’ with injury

After getting good news on Killian Hayes’ physical well being, Dwane Casey’s thoughts turned to the Pistons rookie’s mental health.

“The main thing I’m concerned with is making sure he stays connected mentally,” Casey said Wednesday night. “Young man coming to the NBA, first year, and all of a sudden you’re disconnected because of injury. It can be traumatic.”

Hayes suffered a right hip injury in Milwaukee on Jan. 4 while playing in his seventh NBA game. The French native, 19, was the No. 7 pick in the November draft and started every game until getting hurt. The injury was initially diagnosed as a torn labrum after a Jan. 5 MRI, but Hayes since saw specialists in New York and Cleveland who, in consultation with Pistons team doctors, determined the injury was, instead, a subluxation or, in layman’s terms, a partial dislocation.

The protocol for Hayes’ recovery calls for eight weeks of rest and rehabilitation, at which time he’ll be re-evaluated to determine a next step.

“I’m not a medical doctor, but I would say any time you don’t have to go under the knife, that’s always good,” Casey said of Hayes avoiding a call for surgery. “That was dodging a bullet.”

The Pistons loved Hayes’ makeup and understood they were throwing him in the deep end of the pool by making him their starter after playing last season in Germany, where he for the first time was his team’s primary playmaker after playing mostly off the ball for his first two professional seasons – as a 16- and 17-year-old – in France, where his father, former Penn State star DeRon Hayes, played professionally.

In Germany last season, Hayes struggled in the early part of the season, committing turnovers at a high rate, before settling in and establishing himself as a no-doubt lottery pick. The Pistons strongly felt he would follow a similar path in the NBA – and will again once he’s cleared to resume playing, whenever that might come.

“He has to make sure he takes care of his business and his injury, but it’s more worried about him and making sure he keeps the right mindset – which I know he will,” Pistons general manager Troy Weaver said last week. “That’s why we have so much belief in him. He was a rookie point guard and trying to find his way. And time and minutes were going to help him continue to grow and now that’s been taken away. But he’s built for his.”

In Hayes’ absence, the Pistons have installed veteran Delon Wright, who spent his first three NBA seasons playing for Casey in Toronto, as their starting point guard with Derrick Rose remaining in his capacity as leader of the second unit. Saben Lee, drafted 38th overall last month, remains available on a two-way contract.

When the Pistons aren’t traveling, Casey and Weaver will make sure Hayes stays engaged by observing practices and remaining part of the team.

“Every time we’re in town, he’s very involved with practicing and staying connected,” Casey said. “Him staying connected mentally is just as important as him getting back with us.”