Posted Jun 29 2012 2:36AM
NEWARK, N.J. -- He climbed the six steps from the floor of the Prudential Center to the stage and the waiting congratulatory handshake from commissioner David Stern, wiped his teary eyes, released a heavy sigh, tapped his right hand on his heart a couple times and went down six other steps.
Then, an immediate shift. Andre Drummond, with reason to fire back, with reason to be disgusted Thursday night at lasting until the Pistons took him at No. 9, was complete composure.
No emotional promises to exact revenge.
No jabbing a finger in the direction of the seven clubs that passed on him after Anthony Davis predictably went No. 1 to the Hornets, the only team that doesn't face the prospect of being very sorry.
"Not at all," Drummond said in a quiet moment soon after being picked at No. 9 by the Pistons. "I'm just blessed that Detroit picked me up. I know that I'm going into a great organization. It's a great brotherhood out there. I just can't wait to be out there."
That's understandable -- it just became the perfect spot. Detroit is where Drummond will team with the very promising Greg Monroe for a big-man tandem loaded with potential. Detroit is where the president of basketball operations, Joe Dumars, is trying to build stability after years of turnover that stretched from the roster to the coaches to an ownership change.
It's the selection spot, ninth, that is especially right. Drummond was, in the view of many teams, the second-best talent in the draft, behind only Davis, with a mix of size and athleticism that reminded them of Amar'e Stoudemire at a similar stage. But there were serious questions about his passion to play after executives and scouts routinely left Connecticut games shaking their heads in frustration over wasted talent.
Now, he reaches the NBA with a lot to prove, whether he thinks so or not, whether he wants to use the motivation or not. He is a top-three talent who went ninth and was passed over by teams needing to add size -- Cleveland, Portland, Golden State -- before the Pistons capitalized. Of course he has a lot to prove.
"I didn't look at myself as being a top pick or anything like that," Drummond said. "I just looked at it as wherever I was going to go I was going to work my hardest. It doesn't matter wherever you go -- one, two, three, four, five on the list. Wherever I go, I'm going to work my hardest."
The emotional release, he said, was relief at being taken. His mother had been holding his hand through the first eight picks as they sat with the other top prospects in a cordoned area on the floor a couple dozen feet from the stage. She was telling him to be patient.
"As soon as Toronto went by (at No. 8) and Detroit came up, I started breaking down because I thought about all of the years I worked hard and all of the struggles I went through playing basketball, just everything I went through and just being here today. Hearing my name being called is the greatest thing in the world."
He wasn't alone in needing that perspective.
Jared Sullinger, a candidate for the top five if he had left Ohio State a year ago and on a path for at least the second half of the lottery after declaring for the draft this time, was not invited to Newark and lasted until No. 21 to the Celtics. He was losing momentum even before reports surfaced of being red-flagged by some teams because of a back problem.
Baylor's Perry Jones III, a likely lottery pick in 2011, did not go until the Thunder took him at 28 for depth at power forward with the ability to play small forward in situations. A talented, versatile frontcourt player in the Lamar Odom mold, NBA personnel departments had serious doubts about his focus, much like the Drummond case. He insisted it was a confidence issue, not a lack of desire to play, and that he would convince teams of his commitment. Apparently not.
Jones' college teammate, Quincy Miller had the most severe drop before the Nuggets took him 38th. Miller was the prime example of a prospect who should have stayed in school, to have a full season of not coming off knee surgery and a chance to be the focus of the Baylor attack. As it turned out, he wasn't even the first Quincy drafted from the school -- power forward Quincy Acy went 37th.
"Just being able to walk on stage and receive your hat in front of all these people on national TV and show your love for the organization, I think that's great," Miller said. "This is an experience you're only going to have once. You're going to be able to show your kids pictures of this. It is a great experience."
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