Another Level

Kander’s ambitious summer plans designed to bring out best in Drummond

Andre Drummond
Arnie Kander has ambitious summer plans designed to bring out the best in Andre Drummond
Dan Lippitt (NBAE/Getty)
There are certain players Arnie Kander doesn’t want to see for a month. Brandon Knight, dealing with plantar fasciitis that stretches back to last summer, is one of them. Kyle Singler, who’s had precious little time off since signing to play in Spain in the summer of 2011, is another.

Andre Drummond is on a different list. Because he’s the youngest player on the team, still a teenager. Because until last summer, he’d never really been in a supervised weight-training program. Because just a few months under the eye of the Pistons’ esteemed strength coach in the months between last June’s draft and the October opening of training camp produced such dramatic results.

“I go back to last summer,” Kander said. “There are certain things I measure – stride length, stopping angles, how quick getting up, speed getting down the court, change of direction, how quick sideline to sideline – the level of improvement was off the charts. Everyone heard the word ‘potential,’ but it went way beyond that for me. Because when I saw the focus, the commitment, the dedication, potential becomes very easy to attain if you’re willing to put the work in and he did that all season. For me, he’s not even a piece of clay. He’s beyond a piece of clay.”

I asked Kander if he merely saw Drummond’s test results without knowing his identity, what physical profile would he have expected of the player who produced those numbers.

“Maybe somebody 6-6, 235 – that mid-range guy who’s really quick, really agile, can explode off the floor, run the court with incredible speed, great lateral movement,” he said. “You just don’t see guys that big quick lateral and great vertical.”

And Kander has some outside-the-box ideas in mind to further mold Drummond, who stands nearly 7 feet and weighs about 295 pounds with a body fat index that hovers around 5 to 6 percent.

He’s picked out some sandy hill trails near his Oakland County home to run this summer. There will be days later in the summer, after Kander has built up leg endurance in Drummond and a number of other young players who’ll be filtering back to Auburn Hills soon, when they’ll head out en masse to a local track or run on outdoor courses Kander will map out. He’ll make him dribble a soccer ball up and down a basketball court – yeah, with his feet. And Drummond will also spend a fair amount of time in the pool over the summer.

“On the court, there’s things he’ll be working on with the coaches and there are things in my stuff I want to incorporate – a little more rhythm and balance for basketball-related stuff,” Kander said. “He’s incredible for alley oops, incredible for blocked shots and other things, like showing on defense. Now add on some of the individual skill work, incorporating things in there to get his body more agile to get in those positions, get his nervous system a little bit better so he can get into those.”

The art to that process, Kander says, is to slow down players – young players, particularly – to break down every component of a movement, then put it back together so they can play fast but efficiently.

“There’s a method to it all,” he said. “Developing reflexes requires slowing everything way, way down and learning things at a very slow speed. Some of it is in the weight room. Some of it is functional workouts. And then we put the basketball in the hand and everything connects.”

Running hills is a part of that process. While running on a basketball court, Kander said, players can get away without precisely proper technique before tiring. But on a hill, poor running technique will lead to almost immediate fatigue. The takeaway for Drummond out of the pool will be in using both sides of his body equally. With soccer, essentially, more of the same – using both feet, both sides of the body learning to work in harmony.

“Because he’s 19, you’re working on a little bit of everything,” he said. “We’ll take his conditioning to another level. What he does requires a tremendous amount of energy. He’s not a guy that just kind of jogs the middle. You jump high, it takes a lot of energy. You have to land, which requires a lot of energy. It takes a tremendous amount of summer work. That’s really when you make those changes. From last summer to the season, he made huge strides – body changes, physiological changes. I expect the same.”

Their summer started on Wednesday, Drummond back in the gym after spending about a week back in his native Connecticut. Check out Friday’s True Blue Pistons, when Drummond will talk about his plans and goals for the summer.