A Happy Return

Drummond’s productive return a great sign for Pistons future

Rookie Andre Drummond reminds George Blaha of other great Piston big men.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
What Lawrence Frank said after the Pistons almost beat the Bulls on the road the other day about Andre Drummond couldn’t ring more true: You can certainly see the impact he makes on the game and the difference he makes for the Pistons when he’s on the floor. The guy worked so hard when he was off and has such a positive attitude that I knew he would be ready when the Pistons finally did get him back – and, by the way, hats off to the coaches and everyone involved for being very, very careful with Andre. He’s a very important piece of the Pistons’ future and it would’ve been foolish to rush him back despite the fact, I believe, the Pistons would have avoided that rough stretch had he been able to come back sooner.

He’s an obvious game changer, but more power to the Pistons in the future because of the way they handled the stress fracture in Andre’s back and made sure he was ready to go whenever they put him back on the floor.

Andre’s effect on the game is great. The fact he scores is only a bonus, but the guy can score. If he gets the ball around the basket, with his hands and his strength, timing and leaping ability, he’s going to find a way to get it down more often than not. But he really reminds me of two of the all-time Pistons greats, Ben Wallace and Dennis Rodman, in what he’s able to do on the floor without being a scorer, per se.

I don’t think you can ever bring up someone with strength, agility and athletic ability plus a great, fighting spirit wearing Pistons blue and not mention Big Ben. He was a catalyst of the championship team and the near miss the following year. But the first guy that came to mind when I saw Andre was Dennis Rodman. He was – and no disrespect to either player – just a freak of nature. Guys like them, they don’t come along very often.

It has to do with God-given ability and the way the player handles it. There might be more guys out there than you think playing ball somewhere who didn’t use their ability in a way that allowed them to end up in the NBA, but those guys were not only blessed, they worked at it. You can’t ever say, despite his unique personality, that Dennis Rodman didn’t work his finger to the bone trying to get to the league and stay there for a long time.

Andre has been a tireless worker with an absolutely perfect attitude, so despite the fact he’s blessed, he’s worked at it and my hat’s off to him. He’s going to get so much better because he won’t stop working and trying to improve.

Dennis was a lot older than Andre when he got to the league, as was Ben Wallace. The upside here for Andre between now and the time he’s in his mid-20s could be amazing. He’s the kind of guy who comes along maybe once in a decade for a team. When I saw him and what he could do and how much fun he had on the floor doing it, I thought he might be Joe D’s Dennis Rodman. Jack McCloskey drafted Dennis and he was a diamond in the rough. Certainly Jack and Will Robinson and Stan Novak – for those of you who remember the Pistons scouts during the glory days – had spent a lot of time watching him, but he was a guy no one had ever heard of at the time.

In Andre’s case, that’s not true. People knew about Andre Drummond, but he was so young and, for some reason, people had questions about him. Maybe about his work ethic or about what they call his motor – meaning if he was capable of consistent energy on the court. Whoever took him, according to the experts, was taking a chance, just like whoever took Dennis Rodman was taking a chance. Yet I’m sure Joe thought the same thing Jack thought about Dennis: “How could I not take this guy?”

That’s the beauty of having a Joe Dumars as your president of basketball operations, a guy who’s been there, done that, played with the greatest athletes at the highest levels and won championships. I’m sure he knew in his heart that if he had an opportunity to get Andre at the ninth spot, he was going to do it.

I think it’s going to pay big dividends. There are no guarantees for 19-year-olds, but I don’t see anything so far that tells me Andre Drummond won’t get better and better and better. His attitude is too good and his willingness to work is tremendous. He wants to do the right thing. Heck, he wants to make everybody in the franchise and the community and the state of Michigan happy and right now he has the ability to do all of the above with what he does for the Pistons on and off the court and in the community. We’re lucky to have him.

The thing I really like about what Andre’s done since he came back after missing those 22 games is he looks like the same old Andre to me. I think the medical people were right, that with rest and rehab this would not be an issue in the future. It helps a lot of us exhale. The last thing you wanted was to have something happen to a guy with such a bright future. Not only would you feel bad for the Pistons, you’d feel bad for Andre most of all. He’s such a great young guy. There’s no reason he shouldn’t be a force in our league for a long, long time. He’ll be beyond a factor; he’ll be a force. Time will tell whether he’ll be a star player and an All-Star, but I certainly wouldn’t bet against him.