Pistons' Hayes looking to carve out niche, solidify backcourt chemistry

Rod Beard
The Detroit News

Detroit — In two of the Pistons’ first three possessions against the Washington Wizards on Wednesday, Killian Hayes drove to the basket, getting an advantage on his defender. He missed the first short jumper, but the second-year guard made a 16-footer, for the Pistons’ first basket of the game.

It was a good beginning to what turned out to be a tough game for Hayes, who went 1-for-4 and finished with four points in 21 minutes. Hayes didn’t play the last 18 minutes of regulation, and he sat the entire overtime period in favor of Hamidou Diallo and Cory Joseph, who played alongside Cade Cunningham.

“(Playing lethargic) was one reason. I think he was minus-14 and that second group did the job and they deserved to play more,” Pistons coach Dwane Casey said Wednesday. “(Hayes) played most of the third quarter but then Hami came in and Cory came in and then Cade came in and really took us home, so that's the reason why.”

Detroit Pistons guard Killian Hayes (7) and guard Frank Jackson (5) react after a play during the first half of an NBA basketball game against the Indiana Pacers.

It’s a part of the growing pains that the young guard is going through in trying to carve out a solid spot in the offense and find a niche for himself in the rotation with consistent playing time, especially at the ends of games.

Casey has chosen to play Joseph over Hayes in certain situations, and that is part of Casey’s insistence that the young players earn their minutes based on their performance and not off draft position or anything else.

In Casey’s offensive scheme, the guard who isn’t handling the ball is placed in the corner outside the 3-point line. But that’s not some type of dead zone; Casey said it’s exactly the opposite.

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“I think a lot of times young guys say that if I'm spaced over in the corner, coach doesn't respect me. But guess what? That's prime real estate,” Casey said Thursday. “When you're in the corner and you look at a lot of our objectives and goals, we want corner threes. So if coaches put you in the corner that's a sign of respect. Either you're cutting out of the corner or you're getting a corner three.

“With our situation, with Cade being a primary ballhandler with Killian having the ability to be a primary ballhandler, they still have to find that chemistry, and I think they've done a good job of finding that chemistry, finding their role.

“If Killian has the ball, what are we looking for Cade to do, and when Cade has the ball, what are we looking for Killian to do? They'd better get used to it, because they're married together. We're all in it together and it's not an issue; it's not a problem. It's just something another area we have to grow into.”

Cunningham has been assuming more of the ballhandling duties, but Hayes still has his share of opportunities too. The key will be finding a fit where he can be effective on both ends of the floor and being a scoring threat in addition to his facilitating.

Diallo's time

Diallo has been back in the playing rotation and is making the most of his playing time. He was one of the catalysts in the second half on Wednesday and he was involved in the offense with 12 points on 4-of-7 shooting.

He’s bringing a different element to the floor with his athleticism and ability to disrupt things defensively. That’s played a part in him getting increased playing time, including down the stretch in the second half of a close game.

Pistons guard Hamidou Diallo (6) shoots over Wizards forward Davis Bertans (42) in the second quarter.

“His energy is unbelievable; it's contagious. I think that helps us too. I thought we missed that in the Oklahoma City game a little bit,” Casey said. “Technique and attention to detail is something that's important for all of our guys, including Hami. A lot of times, you can be going hard but you're making the wrong mistake, but I'd rather have a hard mistake than a guy (who's indecisive).

“But that's Hami. He makes things happen — right, wrong or indifferent — in those situations. I love his aggressiveness and he's trying to play the right way. He doesn't need the ball to do it.”

Pistons at Pelicans

►Tip-off: 8 p.m. Friday, Smoothie King Center, New Orleans

►TV/radio: BSD/950

►Outlook: The Pistons (4-20) have lost 10 straight games, including a tight overtime clash on Wednesday. The Pelicans (7-20) have the worst record in the Western Conference and have lost three of their last four games.