Hawks’ Saddiq Bey returns to Detroit where it all began

Atlanta Hawks forward Saddiq Bey (41) passes the ball as Detroit Pistons forward Kevin Knox II (24) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Credit: AP

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Atlanta Hawks forward Saddiq Bey (41) passes the ball as Detroit Pistons forward Kevin Knox II (24) defends during the first half of an NBA basketball game, Tuesday, Nov. 14, 2023, in Detroit. (AP Photo/Carlos Osorio)

Credit: AP

DETROIT — Just a little over 11 months has passed since Hawks forward Saddiq Bey last stepped on the court at Little Caesars Arena. So, when the Hawks faced the Pistons on Tuesday in the first matchup of the two teams this season, plenty of thoughts buzzed in the 24-year-old’s brain.

Leading to the game though, Bey wouldn’t provide much hint of what those thoughts entailed. He didn’t budge at the team’s practice before it traveled to Detroit. He also didn’t budge at the team’s shootaround the morning before the game.

For Bey, everything remained business as usual.

“It’s a different perspective now,” Bey said at the team’s shootaround Tuesday morning. “I’m with Atlanta, so, for me, I just treat it like a road game, to be honest with you. I was blessed to be able to start my career here. But I’m a competitor. So, I want to win. It’s our first In-Season Tournament. That’s all I care about, is getting this win and moving on to the next one.”

But after the final buzzer when the Hawks put the stamp on their 126-120 win over the Pistons, Bey finally could let those thoughts go and what it meant to be back in the city of his first NBA home.

“Yeah, it was a different experience,” he said following Tuesday’s game. “I’ve never been on this side of the gym before. I didn’t even know it looked like this, the locker room. Just kind of going through the city, everything was just (different). I remember some of the things, even the DoorDash orders I would make, some of these same restaurants, I’m like ‘wow, I haven’t seen this in a long time.’”

Bey scored 19 points, had four rebounds, two assists, one block and two steals in what was an night filled with emotions. He started the game going 1-of-4 in the first half. But he found a rhythm, continued to attack the basket and when the ball found him on the perimeter, he knocked shots down.

As each shot fell, the forward showed little hesitation to remind fans in attendance at Little Caesars Arena what he could do.

The Pistons drafted Bey with the 19th overall pick in the 2020 NBA draft after they made a three-team trade that would allow them to acquire his draft rights.

He suited up for over 200 games in their uniform with plenty of highlights throughout his time in Pistons gear.

He earned All-Rookie honors with the Pistons then scored a career-high 51 points that led to win over the Magic in March 2022, a little under one year later. He has made two game-winners, including a 3-pointer over two defenders in the final seconds of an overtime win over the Spurs. He made another game-winning 3 to down the Warriors just last season.

But just like it took a multi-team trade to acquire Bey when his career started, a multi-team trade signaled the beginning of a new chapter for him.

Since the Hawks acquired Bey in a four-team trade, he has averaged 11.4 points and has knocked down roughly 40% of his 3-point shots.

While he acclimated to his new surroundings, he hasn’t forgotten the family that he built in Detroit. In Tuesday’s meeting against the Pistons, he and former teammate Isaiah Stewart often went toe-to-toe with each other. It brought up some fond memories of practice for Bey, and it reminded him that not long ago they wore the same uniform.

It also brought up memories of the fans and how the cheers have now turned to trash talk.

“Me and Stew came in the same year, same class,” Bey said. “He’s my guy (and) I love him forever. We’re both competitors. We both talk. We’re both physical, and I love it, and I love being on the road. I love the hecklers on courtside that was talking to me, talking trash to me. It’s crazy. I was just playing for them a year ago. But I love it, man.

“That’s what I live for, moments like that. Being able to just be competitive. At the end of the day it’s to get the win. So I literally live for that, dreams and stuff like that. So it was great. But my guy Stew, man, I love him. That’s who he is. That’s what he does. That’s why he extended, and that’s why I’m happy for him and everything’s accomplished. So it was good.”

Once the final buzzer sounded, those hecklers returned to fans and the competitors returned to being family. He met courtside with fans holding a “Bey” Pistons jersey, ready to show his appreciation to them with an autograph.

“It was good,” Bey said. “It was a great moment, man, seeing the staff that I remember that was there when I was there. Seeing the fans that still cheer for me, little kids got their jersey and I’m very, like I said, loyal to who’s loyal to me. It was great seeing those fans, and I’m hearing the love from them along with some of the fans that was kind of against me.

“So, it was great seeing both sides. It’s great. That’s what basketball and sports is all about, and I just cherish our fans who really supported me throughout from when I first got there until now. It means a lot.”

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