A Goal to be Great

Pistons Drummond plans busy summer to build on breakout rookie season

Andre Drummond
Andre Drummond says he plans to use the summer to pick up where he left off after an impressive rookie campaign.
B. Sevald/Einstein (NBAE/Getty)
Among the many expectations Andre Drummond exceeded in his rookie season? Andre Drummond’s.

“Yeah, I definitely did,” he said. “I think I did a lot better than I thought I was going to do. I knew it was going to be tough coming in with a lot of bigger guys, more athletes. We all know I don’t have much of an offensive game as of yet, so I just used what I know I was good at to help my team win games and help me get more comfortable in the league.”

While Drummond’s rookie performance for the Pistons – he finished fourth in Rookie of the Year voting despite missing 22 games and starting only after he returned for the season’s final 10 games – might have surprised him, it didn’t fulfill him. A little success has only served to fuel his desire for a lot of success.

“I know when I start to get more adjusted to the league and learn different things, I’ll be a lot more successful and hopefully be one of the greatest players to play,” he said. “That’s my goal – to be great, never good.”

Drummond got back in the gym at the team’s practice facility this week after a quick visit home to Connecticut, working with strength coach Arnie Kander to launch a busy summer. He’ll head back to UConn shortly to take a four-week class and, while there, he’ll work out under the supervision of assistant coach Roy Rogers, who played a large role in getting Drummond prepared to play as a rookie with their work together last summer.

In June, Drummond will head to Los Angeles to train under the supervision of a back specialist who examined Drummond in March as he recovered from the stress fracture of the fifth lumbar vertabra that cost him those 22 games.

In early July, he’ll accompany the Pistons Summer League team to Orlando, though it’s yet to be determined if he’ll do more than practice with the team before the five-game schedule begins. And, he said, he also hopes to work with NBA Hall of Famer Hakeem Olajuwon, who has become something of a guru for his work with young big men from his Houston base. Drummond’s agent, Rob Pelinka, has gotten encouraging feedback from Olajuwon, Drummond said, on the likelihood of that coming together.

“It’s exciting to hear that he wants to help me out,” Drummond said. “That’s something we’ve talked about since when I first got here is to try to get with him, so we jumped on it quick. He goes back and forth from Africa to Houston so we’re trying to catch him at a good time. I just hear all great things about him. Who wouldn’t want to work with him?”

Drummond’s summer will be ambitious but he doesn’t go into it with grandiose delusions. He doesn’t expect to return a complete player, just a better one.

“You can’t try to do too much at one time,” he said. “That’s how you really mess yourself up. You can’t say, ‘All right, I just had a good year but I’m going to add five or six different things.’ You can’t do that. You’ve got to make sure you continue to get better at the things you’re known for, what you’re great at, like blocking shots. I need to get more conditioned so I can jump more, get my legs right, jump a little higher.

“There are different things I can add to my game. My form on my free throws. That’s one of the biggest things I’ve been working on. The time is going to come when I need to work on my offensive game, because one day they’re going to stop the stuff I do. But until they stop me, I’m going to keep doing what I do.”

He spent a good chunk of his workout with Kander this week, after a session in the weight room, on the mechanics of a face-up shot from the mid-range elbow area, using the backboard. Kander told me recently about the process involved in preparing Drummond for the next step in his evolution as breaking down all the components of a move and repeating them until they become reflexive, then putting it back together so it can be utilized at game speed with efficiency. That was the start of honing Drummond’s post game.

“Everybody wants one move they can go to every time,” he said. “That’s one thing I have to get the confidence to do. You’ve just got to build the confidence. The more time you put into it, the better you’ll get at it to do it in the game. I have no idea what (his bread-and-butter move) will be, I just know that when I do figure it out I’ll become great at it. Because I work hard, so I know whatever that move is I’m going to figure it out and become great at it.”