“Playing an NBA game in France will probably only happen once in my career”
Detroit’s French point guard Killian Hayes is fired up with anticipation for the NBA game against Chicago in Paris on Thursday, Jan. 19, as he told a tight-knit group of media.
This is probably the biggest basketball event of the year in France. The NBA will play the second official match in its history in France, this Thursday, January 19, 2023 in Paris, after January 2020. The Chicago Bulls will face the Detroit Pistons of the young French leader Killian Hayes.
From the prime of his 21 years, the former Choletais is now living in his third season in the United States. Hatching, after two years less than expected. He’s averaging 10 points and 5.7 assists per game, on a young Detroit team that has been judged at the bottom of the standings (14th out of 15 in the Eastern Conference). In mid-December, a month before the infamous France match, Hayes opened up to a tight-knit group of media about what the prestigious fixture represented.
How do you approach this match in Paris?
I’m excited I can’t wait to go back to France. I don’t often have the chance to go back, but when I do go back, to see my friends, my family there… It will be a wonderful event. Afterwards, it’s still a regular season game, that’s the focus, but we’ll still enjoy being back in France.
Are you looking forward to introducing your France teammates?
Of course, there are many men on the team who have never been to France or Paris. They ask me a lot of questions, shopping, what to do, food… I’ll take care of it when we’re there. I will wear them properly. (smile) Then, they are tourists, so they go to see the Eiffel Tower, the Louvre no doubt.
“Everybody is sending me messages, they’re asking me for 5, 6 places…”
What is your relationship with Paris?
I know Paris well. I didn’t grow up in Paris, I grew up in Cholet, but I often go to Paris. France is still small, in an hour and a half by train I am in Paris.
Do you think the French public will be there for this poster between Detroit and Chicago?
I’m told it’s “sold out”, that people are having a hard time getting tickets, so I’m trying to get as many tickets as possible to give to all my boys (smile). It’s going to be heavy, I think the Accor Arena will be full.
you said in GQ Magazinethat you go “required to collect at least one hundred tickets»…
Everyone sends me messages, they ask me for 5, 6 places… I tell them: “hey, we have to limit it to 2 or 3”, because everyone will be complicated . (laugh)
“There are 30 teams in the NBA, they can pick anyone”
What’s your take on the NBA’s very busy calendar, especially for young players, and the possible break that this match in Paris could represent?
I think we have 4 days in Paris. They put us a lot back-to-back (two matches in two days, editor’s note) this season. The NBA schedule? The first season, it was incredible, you went from 30-40 games to 82, not counting the playoffs. Yes, it’s a big change, but in the second season you’ll get used to it. And the 3rd season, it becomes normal. In the back-to-back, I felt limited in the second game. The match in Paris will give us a bit of a break, but we have to stay focused. After Paris, we are back and the program continues.
Also readAlex Caruso (Chicago) on the NBA match in Paris: “I can’t wait, it will perk us up mentally”
What will the public see different in your game since you came to the NBA?
It’s been a long time since I played in France. My game has changed a bit, but I wouldn’t say it’s changed much. Keep having fun, lots of assists, crafting, fast play, transition, alley-oop… We play a fast game with lots of transitions, it’s going to be fun to watch.
When did you know there was going to be this fight in Paris?
I learned that a long time ago! I think I knew at the beginning of last season (the NBA didn’t announce it until May 2022, editor’s note). So I didn’t tell anyone, no one knew. But when I found out, I said to myself: “It’s heavy.” I didn’t think that. There are 30 teams in the NBA, they can pick anyone and they pick us to go, honestly it’s an honor. I know that maybe it will only happen once in my career, to play an NBA game in France. You just have to enjoy the moment, to have my family there. It will be good.
Do American players talk to you about French basketball? Are they interested in it?
We often talk about the Euroleague because, in our team, there is Bogdan (Bogdanovic) who played in Fenerbahce, who also had a real career in the Euroleague. But if not, they will ask me about Victor (Wembanyama) of course, because he is the next number one pick in the draft.