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All-Star Big Man Andre Drummond is Prepared for Take-Off in Cleveland
All year, the Cavaliers have been celebrating their 50th season and honoring some of their all-time great players and eras. Many of the key players from the past were members of the “Miracle of Richfield” squad.
To a man, they’ll tell you that the player that took their squad from a scrappy crew to a true contender was center Nate Thurmond. If you need further proof, look to the rafters the next time you visit Rocket Mortgage FieldHouse.
Thurmond – a Hall of Fame big man – wasn’t in Cleveland long, but it was long enough for the Akron native to change the trajectory of the franchise forever.
The comparisons to Cleveland’s acquisition of Thurmond to the Cavs’ Deadline Deal steal this past Thursday – nabbing All-Star center Andre Drummond in exchange for Brandon Knight, John Henson and a future second rounder – doesn’t align perfectly.
Thurmond was on his career’s back nine while the 26-year-old Drummond is in squarely his prime. Thurmond arrived in early November; Drummond just before the All-Star Break. And these Cavs aren’t quite on the cusp of Playoff contention like Bill Fitch’s 1975-76 squad was. (But that could all change, too.)
The Cavaliers came into the Deadline having dropped 12 of their last 13 games – including a Wednesday night thriller in OKC – but there’s a distinctly different vibe heading into the final two games before the break. Heading into the second half, things suddenly feel less like a re-build … and more like a build.
”It's just that, sometimes, it's one guy; it's like if you add a great clean-up hitter or a great leadoff hitter,” beamed Coach John Beilein. “There's just that one thing that just changes the whole dynamic. And we hope that's what happens.”
Beilein inherits the game’s most dominant rebounder and the top traditional center in the Eastern Conference.
The 26-year-old leads the league in total rebounds per game (15.5), offensive rebounds per game (4.6), defensive rebounds per game (11.2), double-doubles (42), double-digit rebound games (10), games of 15-plus rebounds (28), 20-rebounds games (12), 15-point/15-rebound games (22), 20-point/20-rebound games (9).
Over a three-day, two-game period against our beloved Cavaliers early last month, the man averaged 25.5 points and 21.5 rebounds.
But Drummond has more in common with the Cavaliers than punishing them in the low post four times a year. He’s got an existing relationship with five-time All-Star Kevin Love.
”Dre's a guy I've known for a long time, we have the same agent,” said Love. “He plays extremely hard and has crazy production, so he's going to be – along with T-Top, Larry and myself – it’s going to be a pretty formidable frontcourt.
”We're going to be able to make a lot of good things happen, rebound the ball at a high clip – and then we have a number of skill guys that can play different ways. So, it makes us more competitive. We add an All-Star-level player to the team and it definitely looks good.”
”Kevin and I have a great relationship,” said Drummond. “When the trade came through, he was the first person to call me and truly was ecstatic to have me here, because we both were talking about how we didn't know what was going to happen at the Trade Deadline. So to be here with him, someone I've had relationship with for a long time was great.”
Love’s game, like Thompson’s and Nance’s, will be altered with the arrival of Drummond. For starters, the man who scored a career-high 35 points against him last month – Tristan Thompson – will be back to a reserve role.
”Roles change -- throughout the course of the season, throughout your career,” shrugged Thompson after Friday’s practice. “At the end of the day, control what you can control, which is when your number is called, be ready to play. And I'm ready for whatever position coach puts me in, to be myself and however I can help this team win more ballgames. That's all that matters to me.”
Drummond’s numbers are staggering.
He’s posted 402 double-doubles since 2012-13 and has 81 20-plus rebound games since then. He’s on pace to lead the league in rebounding for the fourth time and in total rebounds for the sixth consecutive season.
After playing in 60 games in his rookie season, Drummond’s never played fewer than 78 games in any year since.
"My excitement is genuine, I'm really happy to be here. The (Cavs) record, it doesn't faze me. I know I can do a lot of things here to help us improve and get ready for the next season."
Cavaliers center Andre Drummond
The Cavaliers were able to land Drummond and his prolific production without having to sacrifice an iota of their molecular structure. John Henson and Brandon Knight were nice players and good guys, but they combined for just over 650 minutes of floor time this season.
It’ll also be interesting to see how the addition of Drummond will affect the Cavaliers’ young backcourt of Collin Sexton, Darius Garland and Kevin Porter Jr. on both ends of the floor. More rebounds leads to more run-outs. On the defensive end, they can pressure the ball knowing what’s behind them.
With the guards, the young guards, I'm definitely looking forward to working with them and shedding some insight both on offense and defense,” said Drummond. “I was given some film on them today, to sit on and really watch how they play, so I know what I'm working with, but I think really helped him out.
”Communication is definitely gonna be huge with them. I know they're young and still learning, but if I can help them get past that curve a little bit early, I think we'll be very good.”
Fans won’t have long to wait. The Andre Drummond Era begins in Cleveland on Sunday night when the Clippers roll into town. The Cavs and Pistons have wrapped up their season series, but we’re still going to see a motivated big man for the final 30 contests.
There’s a feeling that things are about to turn around. And Drummond definitely delivered that vibe as the Wine & Gold geared up on Saturday afternoon.
”You know, for me, just coming to an organization that wants me to be here, that's what it really boils down to,” said Drummond. “My excitement is genuine, I'm really happy to be here. The (Cavs) record, it doesn't faze me. I know I can do a lot of things here to help us improve and get ready for the next season.
”It doesn't faze me because I see a bright future here in Cleveland. You know, the young guys here are really, really good. And with the addition of myself and Kevin being healthy, I think we can do really special things here.”