Bread and Butter
Drummond’s lob dunks to remain a staple of Pistons attack
Two nights after earning only six minutes at Sacramento in his fifth NBA game, Drummond put up 22 points and eight boards, hitting 8 of 10 shots, as the Pistons pushed Oklahoma City to the final minute before losing on the road.
Sitting on the Oklahoma City bench that night, Maurice Cheeks was struck by what could be.
“I saw his potential – we saw his potential,” Cheeks said after wrapping up the fourth day of a Pistons training camp where Drummond, by all accounts, has left his mark. “Even now, just watching him, the way he rebounds the ball, the way he runs the floor, the agility that he has is something special. Just watching him on a daily basis now, you see how special a player he can be because of his agility and his hands.”
Cheeks started grooming Drummond for an expanded role in Summer League last July by making sure he touched the ball frequently in the post. But he has no intention of abandoning the bread and butter of Drummond’s rookie-season repertoire, the pick and roll, punctuated by a lob dunk.
“Of course it’s going to be a big part of our game,” Drummond said. “Like Josh (Smith) said, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. We know we’re a good team with pick and rolls, so don’t stop doing it. But we’ve got to add more things to our game.”
“That’s one of the things he does,” Cheeks said. “Guards get inside the paint and throw the ball up and he’s always coming up with a dunk. That’s part of his agility, part of his athletic play and it becomes a big part of our game because of the way he can get up and down the floor and the way he can play above the rim.
“The way he can offensive rebound and finish at the rim, that’s going to be a major plus for us, because once he gets his hands on the ball, rarely does he now come away with the ball. When he gets his hands on the ball, he usually comes away with the ball.”
Drummond is eminently more comfortable in his second training camp than he was as a rookie. Even his teammates had little idea, based on what they saw before preseason games arrived, that Drummond was on course for anything close to his rookie-season production.
“For anybody just coming into the league, it was a little nerve-wracking at first,” he said. “But once I got a good feel for the game, it became a lot easier. This year, you could see everybody’s energy is all there. We’re all talking, yelling, clapping for each other, all rooting for each other – great energy. I know from my year experience, I feel good knowing I can help the younger guys, showing the path I took to have success the first year.”
Just as apparently as Drummond’s higher comfort level is his markedly improved conditioning. One of the reasons the Pistons parceled his minutes out in smaller doses in the first few months of last season was he became easily winded. That no longer is a concern.
“I’m not winded at all,” he said. “I feel great. I know last year I wasn’t in the best condition throughout the year, but I took the time this summer to lose a lot of weight and do a lot of running and my conditioning feels great. I’m at 284. That’s what I wanted to get to. When I got hurt last year, we all know I gained a few pounds and that was my goal, to get back where I needed to be.”