PARIS, FRANCE - JANUARY 17: Killian Hayes #7 of the Detroit Pistons signs basketballs and jerseys at the hotel as part of NBA Paris Games 2023 on January 17, 2023 in Paris, France. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, user is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2023 NBAE (Photo by Jeff Haynes/NBAE via Getty Images)

Detroit Pistons ‘thrilled’ French fans will see thriving Killian Hayes this week

Vince Ellis
Special for Pistons.com

PARIS – The spotlight is shining brightly on Killian Hayes this week.

The Detroit Pistons third-year point guard is in his home country where his team will face the Chicago Bulls on Thursday at Accor Arena.

During Tuesday afternoon’s media availability at Palais des Sports Marcel-Cerdan (the home court for likely future No. 1 overall pick Victor Wembanyama’s French League team) shortly after the Pistons’ arrival, Hayes was the top attraction for local media.

And while he is the face of the Pistons’ Parisian excursion, he’s assumed the role of team tour guide even before the Pistons left Detroit.

That’s to be expected since Hayes – although born in the U.S. – spent a good part of his youth in France where his father, DeRon, played professionally for Cholet, which is several hours away from Paris via train.

Killian, who also played for Cholet, is a candidate to play for his national team when France hosts the 2024 Summer Olympics so his presence is main focal point for league activities this week in the NBA’s mission to market the highest level of basketball in the world all around the globe.

It’s fortunate that Hayes is playing the best basketball of his career at this very moment.

And while Hayes is saying the right things, members of the Pistons organization are ecstatic that he is in position to give home country fans a show later this week.

“I’m excited for him,” Pistons teammate Cade Cunningham said. “It’s amazing that he’s able to bring his NBA team to his home country and to be able to play in front of French fans, a country that he’s played for.

“It’s just cool. I’m glad that we get to be here with him and enjoy this experience with him.”

Hayes wants to keep the focus on Chicago, while allowing he is excited to see family and friends.

“(Family) doesn’t care if I play good or bad,” Hayes said before the team left the U.S. on Sunday night. “I’m just happy being able to be with them and just play in front of them. Of course, I want to play well, but they see it differently. They just want to see me out there.”

Hayes, 21, was the seventh overall selection of the 2020 NBA Draft, the first draft decision of Pistons general manager Troy Weaver. He made his debut with Cholet at 16 he won a gold medal and earned most valuable player honors for France at the 2017 FIBA U16 European Championships. He was a main cog in France earning silver at the 2018 FIBA Under-17 World Cup.

After a season playing professionally in Germany, he made himself eligible for the draft. Weaver, just hired by the Pistons, was attracted to Hayes’ size (at 6-foot-5, he’s big for a point guard) and passing ability.

But point guard is the toughest position to learn and Hayes struggled with inconsistency his first two seasons. Pistons coach Dwane Casey has always preached patience, citing Hayes’ age and pandemic protocols hindering typical developmental methods.

A turning point for Hayes came earlier this season when Cunningham opted to have season-ending surgery for bothersome shin splints. That opened more minutes for Hayes and he’s started to establish himself. Since Nov. 9, he is averaging 12.3 points, 6.6 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 42.7% overall and nearly 36% from the 3-point line.

“I’m thrilled for Killian,” Pistons owner Tom Gores said before the Pistons arrived in Paris. “I know he’s worked hard and continued to stay focused. He’s still a young guy, and he needs to show he can perform consistently, and he’ll have every opportunity to do that for the rest of this year.

“He’s a very smart player, you can see he has a high basketball IQ. Now that his shooting is improving, his scoring is improving, he’s rounding into a complete player.”

The week is also an opportunity to expose the Pistons to Parisian culture. A team photo was taken Tuesday morning at the Eiffel Tower. Tuesday’s dinner will be held at Palais Garnier, the city’s historic opera house. A reception will be held Wednesday night at the official residence of the U.S. Ambassador to France Denise Bauer. Of course that leaves time for some sightseeing.

“I’m going to tell them places to go, good spots to eat at,” Hayes said. “I’m going to let them explore as well. I know a lot of guys are going to go shopping, myself included. It’s going to be a good time.”

But it’s still a business trip for Hayes. And with the way he’s playing, the trip couldn’t have come at a better time.

“I'm happy for him,” Casey said. “He's still not a finished product, but he's a starting point guard on the NBA team, on a young team, and to be able to do that and go back to his country is huge.

“It's a good opportunity for him to go back in his country, in his city, and be an NBA starter.”