Drum Roll for Drummond

Pistons rookie opens eyes with 12-point, 7-board debut in win over Toronto

TEAM COLORS

The story of the game in Pistons red, white and blue

– The Pistons played a nearly flawless first quarter, leading Toronto 37-26 and shooting 70 percent while racking up 12 assists against just two turnovers. They placed six players in double figures and got a double-double from Greg Monroe with 17 points and 10 boards in 26 minutes. The line that will raise the most eyebrows around the NBA, though, belonged to rookie Andre Drummond. Expected to be too raw to challenge for a prominent role, Drummond didn’t look awed in the least, giving the Pistons 12 points, seven boards, two blocked shots and no turnovers in 22 impressive minutes.

BLUE COLLAR – Will Bynum did not have a memorable season a year ago and there was some doubt cast on his role when the Pistons brought Jonny Flynn and Terrence Williams to camp on non-guaranteed deals. One game doesn’t completely solidify things, of course, but Bynum made as strong a case to remain Brandon Knight’s backup as possible. In a sparkling first half, Bynum dished out five assists, including three lobs converted into dunks by Andre Drummond and Corey Maggette, and hit his only basket, a pretty runner. Bynum finished with eight points and seven assists.

RED FLAG – The Pistons have impressive depth, especially if a few of their rookies prove ready for minutes, and plenty of positional versatility. One area of concern is a lack of perimeter shooting. In an otherwise dominant first half, the Pistons led by only three points behind they were outscored 18-0 from the 3-point arc. The Raptors were 0 of 5 from the line in the fourth quarter, but still finished 11 of 25, outscoring the Pistons 33-0 from the 3-point line for the night. The Pistons finished 0 of 13.

Slava Kravtsov might yet prove more ready to shoulder a spot in Lawrence Frank’s rotation, but Andre Drummond gave tantalizing glimpses that the future could be every bit as bright as the grandest dreams of Pistons fans in his NBA debut.

Drummond had barely broken a sweat in Wednesday’s preseason opener, a 101-99 win over Toronto, before he’d made a handful of impressive plays.

A minute after entering late in the first quarter, Drummond speared an offensive rebound and scored on the put-back. On the next possession, he took Will Bynum’s perfect lob pass off of a pick-and-roll play to throw down a dunk.

He swatted an Ed Davis shot at the rim away with his left hand to start the second quarter, then a few possessions later he and Bynum teamed up for another lob dunk. A minute after that, Drummond created a turnover by using his 7-foot-6¼ wing span to deflect a Toronto pass that resulted in another Bynum lob dunk, this one to Corey Maggette.

Drummond finished with 12 points, seven boards and two blocked shots in 22 minutes. Perhaps equally impressive, he did not commit a foul or a turnover, evidence that the moment wasn’t too big for the 19-year-old rookie taken No. 9 by the Pistons in last June’s draft.

“I was nervous,” said Drummond, whose rebound of Will Bynum’s miss and put-back with 35 seconds left proved the winning basket. “My teammates saw that but talked to me before the game and just say, ‘Play the game and do the things you need to do. Help us on the defensive end and things will start coming to you.’ When I got in the game, I just played hard, ran the floor, blocked shots and grabbed rebounds, so things started going my way.”

“He’s a finisher,” Frank said. “We have a guy who can dunk. That’s an added bonus. You’re able to throw it up and he can go and get it.”

Eventually, the Pistons hope Drummond demands that the Pistons make him the starting center and allows Greg Monroe – who put up a 17-point, 10-rebound double-double in 25 minutes – to slide over to power forward. For now, when Drummond plays, Monroe sits and watches.

“He played real well,” Monroe said. “He did all the things coach asked him to do – ran the floor, rebounded, blocked a couple of shots, finished strong in the paint. For his first time in real NBA action, he did really well.”

Bynum, coming off an injury-riddled season in which he lost his grip on a rotation spot, made a strong statement in his bid to regain Frank’s trust, as well. In 22 minutes, he recorded eight points and seven assists. Having targets to dunk lob passes gives him another option, he said.

“It’s just making the right plays,” he said. “We have a guy who plays above the rim, which we haven’t had in years. It makes it that much easier out there to make reads. It’s not as compact. I have Charlie (Villanueva) popping, him rolling – it’s an easy decision for me. It makes the game that much easier, his presence out on the court.”

  • Frank wants to give 10 to 11 players about 18 to 26 minutes a game in the eight preseason games. The starters Wednesday were the same five who started the final 43 games of last season when healthy: Monroe, Brandon Knight (14 points, six assists, two turnovers), Rodney Stuckey (10 points, surviving an injury scare late in the first half when his right leg folded under Toronto’s Amir Johnson), Jason Maxiell (seven points, three boards) and Tayshaun Prince (six points, five boards).

    The second unit consisted of Jonas Jerebko (10 points, four boards), Villanueva (seven points, five boards), Maggette (10 points), Bynum and Drummond.

    Kyle Singler played the last six minutes and grabbed two rebounds.

  • The Pistons were outscored 33-0 from the 3-point line. Toronto was 11 of 26 but went 0 of 5 in the fourth quarter. The Pistons missed all 13 attempts.

    “I don’t look at the win or loss, I look at the fact they had 11 made 3s,” Frank said. “My concern is more our 3-point field-goal percentage defense.”