Role Reversal

Maxiell ready to mentor Drummond – and to beat him up

Jason Maxiell is prepared to mentor the incoming Pistons big men.
Allen Einstein/NBAE/Getty Images
Jason Maxiell came to the Pistons as a four-year college player at a nationally prominent program to a roster as loaded with frontcourt savvy and depth as just about any in modern NBA history. Ahead of him on the depth chart for Flip Saunders’ first season, 2005-06, were Ben Wallace, Rasheed Wallace, Antonio McDyess, Dale Davis and Darko Milicic, still considered a prospect of considerable potential at the time.

That team went 64-18. There was little opportunity for Maxiell to play, yet by season’s end he had managed to win the respect of all those hard-edged vets for his willingness to both listen and compete.

If there’s a measure of how fast the world turns over on an NBA player’s career, it’s that a mere seven years later the roles have completely reversed. Maxiell is now a Pistons graybeard and prepared to take Andre Drummond under his wing, in the same way the Wallaces and McDyess and Davis were so freely giving of their time and advice to him – once he proved worthy.

That’s the way it works: Vets – at least those that earn their reputation as “good teammates” – will always pay it forward with young players who are willing dues payers. Maxiell was. He saw evidence that Drummond will be during the few days he spent practicing with him during the run-up to the Orlando Pro Summer League.

“You look, you see how they take in certain things, you see how they react to criticism or put-downs,” Maxiell said after a spirited full-court run at the team’s practice facility Wednesday. “Do they shut down? Do they change what they did wrong? He responded the right way. He didn’t speak back, argue, cuss anybody like he knew everything. He took it in and worked on it and it was good to see that.”

Warning to Drummond: You’re going to be tested early and often when training camp rolls around.

“I’m going to beat him up at first, show him,” Maxiell grinned. “That’s part of the game. After he figures the game out, probably about another season, he’ll understand. There are tricks of the game. It’s not just about being physical and trying to dunk everything or block everything.”

It’s not just the 48 minutes of game time that can be overwhelming to young players – and Drummond isn’t just a rookie, he’s a rookie who just turned 19 less than a month ago – it’s the entirety of the NBA experience, complete with an 82-game schedule and an arduous travel itinerary.

“He has no idea,” Maxiell said. “Not at all. He’s going to start to find out in training camp. I tried to take it to him in Summer League practices. He asked questions and wanted to figure out things. It’s going to be fast. There are things he has to get used to. He’ll start to get there in training camp.”

Maxiell saw enough in Orlando to feel pretty certain that Drummond has a bright future, though.

“He’s raw. He needs work, but defensively he will be a threat. He will protect the rim. Physically, he’s pretty solid – he’s heavy down below, I guess you could say. With his size, he’s still athletic. He can run the court and jump. When he gets to the point where he can use his strength and weight on the offensive end to post up, he’ll be great.”

For now, Maxiell enters training camp as the incumbent starter up front next to Greg Monroe. Maxiell, who’ll turn 30 in February and is entering the last year of his contract, appeared in terrific shape for the first full-court action of the summer. (Rookies Kim English, Kyle Singler, Khris Middleton and Monroe were joined by ex-Piston Rasheed Wallace and four recent ex-college players from the area. Brandon Knight, recovering from a mild case of plantar fasciitis suffered last month, did conditioning and ballhandling drills.)

For the third straight summer, Maxiell is working out in Dallas with trainer Kenneth Roberson, who once counted Karl Malone among his clients, with heavy emphasis on track work – everything from a 7:15 mile followed by six consecutive 100-yard sprints.

“Trust me,” he said, “it hurts.”

He spent seven days last week training for the first time with Joe Abunassar in Las Vegas, joined there by teammates Tayshaun Prince, Austin Daye and Corey Maggette among other NBA players for morning weight-lifting and drills and afternoon scrimmaging.

Maxiell hired a personal chef this summer, as well, and has been on a low-carb, low-fat diet rich in vegetables, chicken and salmon. His weight is right where he wants it to be, 255 pounds. He’ll spend the rest of this week in Auburn Hills, then head back home to Dallas before returning the week before camp opens for more work. And he’s anticipating a much better start to the 2012-13 season than a year ago, when Lawrence Frank’s first season as coach was buried under a 4-20 start following a lockout-pinched off-season.

“I really am looking forward to a new season,” he said. “We’ll have a full season this year. We’ll come in and get a great run, get the West Coast trip out of the way, come back home, get settled in and get some home wins and get our taste buds back – get on a winning streak and go from there.”