Taste of pairing with Drummond boosts Monroe’s faith in their future
“It’s an unofficial attachment when it comes to big men playing together,” he told me this week. “You have to know where each other is on the court – spacing, movement. Learning where he’s going to be and his habits was the key this year as far as us moving forward. Summertime, we’ll work out. Once the season starts back up, we’ll get more acclimated. But I think we played very well and I think we’ll only get better with time.
“The plan is for us to move forward playing together, so I have to be as comfortable playing with him as anybody could be.”
The biggest takeaway for Monroe was the knowledge that it can not only work, but flourish. He didn’t really doubt that, but jumping in and experiencing a measure of success so soon confirmed it for him ahead of a summer in which he plans to concentrate foremost on improving his shooting range to further enhance the Monroe-Drummond synergy.
Monroe got an inkling of Drummond’s ceiling when he first glimpsed him last July in Orlando. Monroe participated in four days of practice before Summer League games started. But he left Florida uncertain of how soon Drummond could refine his obvious raw skills to the point where he could crack the rotation and start making an impact on outcomes.
“You saw what he could do,” Monroe said. “With anybody, there’s always a question of when they’re going to get to where you can use them. But he definitely progressed a lot faster than most people thought. That was just a testament to his hard work. He got in the gym. After Summer League, the whole summer, went to Vegas at the (Tim) Grgurich camp. He really played well there.
“In Orlando, if you would have asked me (if he would make an impact as a rookie), maybe I would have said no. But watching him work non-stop, from once he got drafted here to the beginning of the season to continuing throughout the season, I wasn’t surprised.”
Early in training camp, Monroe admits that Slava Kravtsov seemed more ready to help than Drummond, who didn’t turn 19 until a month after Summer League. Before the preseason schedule had ended, though, Drummond had convinced his teammates he was ready to play as a rookie.
Monroe saw hints of Drummond’s potential to develop a bread-and-butter post move through the course of the season, going against him in scrimmage sessions and working with him under assistant coach Roy Rogers.
“Being more comfortable with the ball,” Monroe identified as the next step for Drummond. “When he gets it in the post, knowing he has one or two spots right now where he’s comfortable scoring, because all that other stuff is always going to be there. He’s always going to be a beast on the boards. He’s always going to play above the rim. I just think him being more comfortable with the ball and getting that tenacity. He already has a motor, but just playing a little bit more angry. You hear that sometimes, ‘Just let him play a little more angry.’ Just being more comfortable with the ball.”
And, Monroe said, Drummond’s hook shot “looks really good.”
“He has a hook in his game. You just have to build that confidence to use it. We work on moves every day. I’ve seen him make a lot of hooks. It’s always that struggle as far as having that confidence in the games to actually use it. He’s a basketball player. He has skills. Now it’s just about maximizing them.”
The underpinning for Monroe’s confidence that he’ll have a productive union with Drummond is his faith in Drummond’s desire to get better and keep working to draw out his ability.
“He’s just having fun,” Monroe said. “That’s what makes him tick. At 19, you’re just playing, just having fun. He wants to win, obviously, but it’s just for the love of the game. Andre’s just a fun-loving guy. He’s definitely not emotionally unstable. He comes in every day with the same demeanor. He’s always smiling, always happy. He just plays hard.”