Coach Dwane Casey‘s experiment of moving Killian Hayes to the bench is working exactly as expected, writes Omari Sankofa II of The Detroit Free Press. The second-year point guard is a natural ball-handler, but he often wound up in a secondary role when the Pistons started him alongside Cade Cunningham.
Casey made the move on January 23 and Hayes’ all-around game has benefited, Sankofa observes. He’s running the offense with the second unit and is getting to the basket more often. He has been on the court at the end of games lately, and Casey is happy with the way he has responded.
“Him going to the bench was never anything about mistrust,” Casey said after Tuesday’s game vs. Washington. “It was about him fitting in with the second unit. He’s still going to be a part of our core. I think his decisions were good tonight. His defense was decent. Keeping (Wizards guard) Ish Smith in front of him is not easy. This is what this is about for him, growing.”
There’s more from Detroit:
- The opportunity that Isaiah Livers has been waiting all season for has finally arrived, per James L. Edwards III of The Athletic. The 2021 second-round pick had foot surgery last April and was sidelined through the preseason. He made his NBA debut on December 16, but only played five minutes before the foot started hurting again. He and the Pistons agreed that more rehab was necessary, but now he says he’s fully healthy and ready to contribute. Casey was hoping to see him in action before the season ended and believes he has a bright future. “I think Isaiah’s going to be a player,” Casey said. “He’s a shooter, and you can’t get enough of those guys to stretch the floor. He has size, he’s smart. He’s the full package.”
- Casey deserves credit for keeping his team focused and competitive even though wins have been rare, several players tell Edwards in a separate story. The coach has respect from his players for all that he has accomplished in his NBA career, and he gives them the freedom to talk openly about issues that affect the team.
- Finally having a healthy roster is giving the Pistons a chance to enjoy a little late-season success, notes Lauren Williams of MLive. Detroit has won three of its last six games and was competitive in the three losses. “I think it just shows our progression as a team,” said Jerami Grant, who missed significant time with a thumb injury. “Earlier in the season we (would) win a game and then we lose a game by 20 or something like that. But I think it’s showing how much better we got it the team. Right now, we just got to pull out these wins and just keep moving forward.”