The Detroit Pistons will “host” one of their Central Division rivals on Thursday afternoon but they’ll be nearly 4,000 miles from their home arena.
They will play the Chicago Bulls in Paris. It’s the first NBA game in Europe since 2020 and the league’s 12th in France since 1991.
The Bulls played two preseason contests in Paris in 1997. The Pistons, who are playing for the first time in France, have played regular-season games in London (2013) and Mexico City (2019).
Chicago has defeated Detroit 12 straight times, including a 132-118 win on Dec. 30 when Zach LaVine poured in 43 points.
It will be a special game for Pistons third-year guard Killian Hayes, who grew up in France as well as Florida. He also played professionally in France before getting drafted.
“(Family) doesn’t care if I play good or bad,” Hayes told Pistons.com. “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.”
With Cade Cunningham sidelined by a season-ending shin injury, Hayes has become a fixture in the Pistons’ lineup. He’s started 31 of 44 games, averaging 10.0 points, 5.7 assists and 1.3 steals. He’s averaging 14.6 points and 8.0 assists this month.
“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,” coach Dwane Casey said. “It’s a good opportunity for him to go back in his country, in his city, and be an NBA starter.”
The Pistons, depleted by injuries, have lost five of their last six games. In their last outing on Sunday afternoon, they fell at home to the New York Knicks 117-104.
Chicago snapped a three-game losing streak that same day by defeating Golden State 132-118. Center Nikola Vucevic tied his career high with 43 points.
Vucevic will look for another highly productive outing in a city he has visited many times.
“I love Paris, the history, the monuments,” Vucevic said. “It’s a wonderful place for just walking around. I’m a history student and always have been curious about the French kings. It’s important to know the history of the world and how we got to where we are. We learned a lot about that in school. I’ve been there for Fashion Week and often go to the museums. My favorite is Versailles.”
DeMar DeRozan hasn’t played the last three games due to a quad injury but could be back in action on Thursday. Even if DeRozan plays, Bulls coach Billy Donovan wants to make sure Vucevic continues to get plenty of offensive touches.
“He been an elite offensive player his whole career,” Donovan said. “We’ve got to establish him and not just to score. He’s a good facilitator. He doesn’t force a lot of shots. He’s really a good ball mover Even if he didn’t score it’s important he’s involved in the game for us offensively. We’ve got to try to establish him as much as we can.”
–Field Level Media