Drummond on Team USA roster cuts: ‘I don’t plan on going home’
CHICAGO – Team USA’s first exhibition game tonight against Brazil is a big moment for Andre Drummond and he admitted Friday that he’ll enter the game with a sense of the import hanging over him. But it won’t be his last moment.
With the horrific leg injury that will cost Paul George his season, followed by Kevin Durant’s withdrawal from competition and finally an injury scare during Thursday’s practice to DeMarcus Cousins – he’s fine, but won’t play vs. Brazil – Mike Krzyzewski is proceeding with caution in paring his roster past its current 16.
“Everybody here will go through New York (where Team USA plays the Dominican Republic and Puerto Rico next week), at least,” Krzyzewski said after Friday’s practice here. “We don’t have to turn our 12 (in) until the day before we start playing in Spain. We’ve got to be careful because we’ve had guys injured and before you let anyone go, you’ve got to be as sure as you can.”
With Cousins out vs. Brazil, more minutes will be available for Drummond and the player against whom he might well be competing for a roster spot, Mason Plumlee of Brooklyn. Though Drummond has two NBA seasons to Plumlee’s one, it must be remembered that Plumlee is nearly 3½ years older than Drummond, who turned 21 this week.
Krzyzewski said last week that Drummond will be a big part of USA Basketball’s future, but he might not be a part of its present given some of his comments about Cousins and Plumlee of late. He talked on Friday about the familiarity that Kyrie Irving and Plumlee have with his system, having played for him at Duke. And it seems like Cousins is all but set for one of the 12 roster spots.
When I asked Krzyzewski how the losses of Durant and George affected the offense and how that might in turn affect the selection of big men, he replied, “We were changing it a little bit because of the play of DeMarcus, anyway. We had started to put some things in.”
Drummond, for his part, is blocking all of that out and focusing on doing what he does best and making it difficult, if not impossible, for his name to appear on the cut list.
“I just control what I can do when I get on the floor and I’m going to contribute to the team,” he said. “Be an energy guy, run the floor, grab rebounds and finish strong around the rim when I do get the ball.”
Drummond was upbeat about his two days in Chicago – “I had a pretty solid couple of days,” he said – and Syracuse coach Jim Boeheim, a Team USA assistant, backed that up.
“I’m impressed,” he said. “He’s getting better and better. Big guys take time. Young big guys always take time and especially when they come out of college early. He’s physical. He gives you a physical presence out there that not many people can bring to the table. And he’s a good kid who works hard. He’s been fun to work with.”
Drummond wasn’t supposed to be ready to play as a rookie when the Pistons stole him with the No. 9 pick in 2012, but he wound up playing a major role as a rookie and cemented his place as one of the league’s future great big men. He wasn’t supposed to be a part of the United States national team just yet, either, but he’s ready for the future to be now.
“I don’t plan on going home,” he said of his ultimate fate with roster decisions looming. “I feel like I’ve done a pretty good job here these past couple of weeks really proving I could be a part of this team. We have a lot of great players out here. I’m not going to back down. I know what’s at stake. I want to win a gold medal.”