Dear Andre Drummond
August, 16, 2013
By Ethan Sherwood Strauss
Allen Einstein/NBAE/GettyPlease embrace the offbeat -- it'll extend your career.
Dear Andre Drummond,
Big fan here. Well, at least as much as a theoretically objective writer who doesn’t root for the Pistons can be. I was just taken with how your rookie year went.
You got all kinds of criticism and skepticism going into the draft.
Then the season started, and you obliterated that noise with dunks louder than a piano dropped from the clouds.
Some of the shots you blocked and alley-oops you caught had no business reaching the hands of man. Perhaps you know that you led all rookies in PER, but what really struck me were the plays that stuck with me throughout your season.
There was the Alec Burks' shot you blocked straight down at the floor like a dribble, the 360 alley-oop, the insane dunk that almost was and the time you ripped Dwyane Wade on consecutive possessions, just to name a few.
This was the best show on League Pass, but sadly, it couldn’t last. I noticed that, as the season went on, defenders took your presence more seriously. They began thwarting your highlight-reel plays at any cost. This usually meant they’d knock you out of the air or chop at your arms with the force of a punch. I don’t know if your back injury resulted from this kind of punishment, but it’s easy to see how this could lead to more injuries in the future.
We both know your free throw efficiency factors into the intentional fouls. It’s easy to see why defenders would avoid your 60.8 percent field goal shooting in favor of your 37.1 percent free throw shooting. Until the league addresses "hack-a" strategies, you’ll also have to deal with teams fouling you before the play even starts.
I, for one, hope that you can find a way to triumph over these obstacles.
You probably get a lot of advice, so I don’t want to seem like I’m lecturing. I’m fully aware that you’re the guy on the court, and I’m the guy on the laptop. This is just something to consider if you haven’t already.
Take it or leave it.
If your free throw shooting doesn't improve like Joe Dumars hopes it will, please consider shooting them underhand.
Of all the players who have been in this position, you’re uniquely suited to the dramatic style change.
Shaq couldn't handle it because he thought the form looked goofy. Though O’Neal was an all-timer, his teams lost games in eight playoff series in which average free throw shooting from O'Neal would have made up the difference. Imagine how great Shaq would have been had he succeeded with the underhand style. With, say, 80 percent free throw shooting from the line, Shaq easily could have been the best player ever. Hall of Famer Rick Barry even espoused that Shaq was perfect for underhand free throws on account of his large hands, but Shaq just couldn't subject himself to looking goofy.
Please don’t take offense to this, Andre, but you’re fantastic at owning goofy things. You've embraced penguin movies and the “Big Penguin” nickname, even going so far as to Vine yourself in a Penguin costume. You engaged in a "Star Wars" lightsaber fight against a bipedal horse and designed hilarious sports logos on the side.
You’re unique, funny, and increasingly popular among fans, who see you as an antidote to the buttoned-down athlete cliché.
If you adopt something as retro-cool as the underhand free throw, fans will love you for it. Make it your signature.
Hey, if the overhand form you’re working on dramatically improves your percentage, forget I ever said anything. But if you’re anywhere close to 37 percent next season, what do you have to lose by switching? If this weird-looking form helps you become a great free throw shooter, then the benefits extend far beyond the free throws themselves. You’ll have an easier path to the rim, a lower risk of injury and, probably, a longer career. Moreover, you’ll be viewed as a brave pioneer, with a style of his own.
I wouldn't bother writing this open letter if you comported yourself like a typical person who does typical things. But you don’t. You're a fascinating person who wouldn't know boring if you dunked on its face. Free throws are usually boring, but you’re not.
You’re just the guy to make the free throw fun again.
Duckbill Platypus Fan Ethan Sherwood Strauss
P.S. Maybe suggest underhand jump shots to Josh Smith.