Andre Drummond growing his game
ORLANDO, Fla. -- Don't be fooled by the numbers or the statistical measurements.
Despite the 6-foot-11, 280-pound frame and all of those promising and productive moments during his rookie season, Andre Drummond still has plenty of room to grow.
The Detroit Pistons' 19-year-old center is quick to acknowledge where he stands coming off a season during which he was the NBA's youngest player. Remarkably, Drummond maintains that distinction among all the rookies and prospects at this week's Orlando Pro Summer League.
But there are burdens that come with the blessings of being the teenage centerpiece of a reloaded frontcourt expected to propel the once-proud Pistons back into the postseason.
One of the main benefits of being Drummond at this stage of his blossoming career is that his body rarely defies him.
"I've got young legs, man," Drummond said Tuesday after finishing with his second double-double in as many games this week. "I can run around all day. I played 35 minutes today and didn't even realize it. I'm not even tired at all."
On the flip side, among the main challenges associated with phenomenal talent and youth are the growing pains that play out publicly before thousands on a daily basis.
"I don't feel like I'm still a teenager," Drummond said. "Sometimes I forget I'm this young. I am, though. The worst part about it is making dumb decisions. It's only just my second year in. I'm still really trying to find my way."
Therein lies the answer to why a starting-caliber NBA center, who was one of the most efficient players in the league last season, is out there bullying the competition at times in games at the Orlando Magic practice facility.
Drummond's age indicates he's among his peers at the week-long tournament at which a handful of rookie- or second-year lottery picks are competing amongst a majority of players simply fighting for invites to NBA training camps, which will be opening in about three months.
But Drummond's skill set and potential suggest he could be headed for a breakout season if he takes advantage of every opportunity to be in a sweaty gym growing his rapidly expanding game into an astonishingly massive body.
Drummond is one of a handful of advanced rotation players from last season who are fine-tuning their games in the 10-team tournament that runs through Friday. Tuesday's marquee matchup saw Drummond post 12 points, 11 rebounds and four assists for Detroit in a losing effort against Oklahoma City, which got an Orlando summer league record 35 points from guard Reggie Jackson.
The thing I think will get 'Dre over is he's not one of those 'I know' guys. Like, everything you tell him, he's [not] like 'I know, I know.' Everything you tell him, he sucks it up. He might not like it, but he doesn't complain about it. He still does it." -- Pistons assistant coach Rasheed Wallace
While Drummond looks to take the next big leap in his development for the Pistons, Jackson is in Orlando aiming to build on his performance from last season when he filled in at point guard after All-Star Russell Westbrook was lost in the postseason to a knee injury.
Drummond is expected to benefit from plenty of changes this summer in Detroit after he averaged 7.9 points, 7.6 rebounds and 1.6 blocks in 20.7 minutes as a rookie.
Last month, the Pistons hired Maurice Cheeks as head coach. Cheeks and team president Joe Dumars then convinced Rasheed Wallace to join the staff to work exclusively with Drummond and third-year power forward Greg Monroe. Detroit's offseason makeover is expected to continue this week when free-agent forward Josh Smith signs his $54 million contract that will give the Pistons one of the biggest and most athletic frontcourts in the league.
What all this means is that Drummond needs to be on the fast track if the Pistons are to reach their potential and become a factor in the Eastern Conference pecking order.
"Everybody has their own expectations for us," Drummond said. "All I know is we have a great group of guys, a great coaching staff and adding Josh to the roster is a good pickup for us. We expect great things."
And the Pistons have lofty expectations for Drummond. Cheeks and Detroit summer league coach Maz Trakh challenged Drummond to work specifically on his conditioning and low-post moves this week.
He's played in two of his team's three games so far and has been dominant for extended stretches. After finishing with 12 points, 16 rebounds, six blocks and five steals in Sunday's summer league opener, Drummond shot six of 10 from the field Tuesday and leads the league in rebounding.
"I see a guy that's running, running, running, running," Trakh said after Tuesday's game. "My emphasis when we came down here is that, 'I want you to run.' Once he starts running, good things are going to happen. His low-post game is going to get better, no doubt about it. We're talking about a 19-year-old man whose upside is crazy high. When you look at him, it is so easy to forget he's 19 years old."
Drummond turns 20 next month, so he'll lose the teenage tag. But the man-child moniker will stick for a bit longer. It was this time a year ago when Drummond faced questions about his work ethic after his lone season at the University of Connecticut, seeing his status slip from a potential top overall pick to the ninth selection of the draft.
Drummond had yet to receive his driver's license when he was drafted. He arrived in Detroit determined to have his mother and a younger sister continue to live with him for the early stages of his NBA career. There wasn't a curfew in effect, but Christine Cameron constantly reminded him to avoid the temptation of staying out too late at night.
There was no need for a specific spending allowance for Drummond, but there were lectures about financial responsibility that came with being a millionaire teen.
By many accounts, Drummond embraced those lessons off the court and continues to be a sponge on the court.
Drummond has already made an impression on Wallace, a 17-year veteran who anchored the Pistons' 2004 title team.
"He's still young, he's still raw, and he's still depending on his athleticism a lot, which, to tell you the truth, a lot of 19-year-olds do," Wallace said. "But the thing I think will get 'Dre over is he's not one of those 'I know' guys. Like, everything you tell him, he's [not] like 'I know, I know.' Everything you tell him, he sucks it up. He might not like it, but he doesn't complain about it. He still does it."
Drummond stops short of saying he's ready to be a full-time starter, but he is ready to graduate to winning. His development was slowed last season when he missed 22 games with a midseason back injury that impacted his conditioning. He's working to get back on track.
"They're giving me a earful of what they think I need to be a better player and leader on the floor as well," Drummond said of advice from Wallace and Cheeks. "I'm getting a lot better with my conditioning, making smarter moves on the floor. I'm just here to be a leader and work on my game, work on my jump-hooks, my low-post game and just continue to get better. That's all that matters."
Drummond won't be a teenager much longer.
He's already displaying a grown man's game.
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