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Andre Drummond's improved free-throw shooting a difference-maker for surging Detroit Pistons

Last season, the league helped out guys like Andre Drummond by taking the last-two-minutes penalty for intentional, away-from-the-ball fouls and applying it in all four quarters. The league’s worst foul shooters saw the league’s biggest drops in free throw rates from 2015-16 to ’16-17, with Drummond’s free-throw attempts per game dropping from 7.2 to 4.4.

This year, Drummond has helped himself. After shooting a brutal 38 percent from the line over his first five seasons, Drummond is 28-for-36 (78 percent) this year. (And he made 16 of his 20 attempts in the preseason.) It’s a great story for Drummond and a difference-maker for the Pistons, who are in second place in the Eastern Conference at 6-3.

ESPN‘s Nick Friedell spoke to Drummond about his improvement after he shot 14-for-16 from the line in the Pistons’ win over Milwaukee on Friday.

“Obviously [the Bucks’] idea was, ‘We’ll just let him catch the ball and then we’ll hammer him.’ I don’t think that strategy is going to work this year,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I don’t. A night like tonight, that’s not a fluke. If you’re a 35 percent shooter in your career and you go 8-for-16, ah, maybe you just had a good night, but 14-for-16? And you saw them, they all looked good. It wasn’t banking them in.”

Drummond notes a renewed focus at the line and in his mental approach as reasons why he has improved so dramatically. He spent time working with two different trainers over the summer so he could find a difference this season at the charity stripe.

“It’s just a testament, over the years, not even just the summer, just throughout the years, the hard work I’ve put in to finding something that really works,” Drummond said after the game. “And me feeling mentally strong if I do miss a shot to come back and knock down the next [ones] after that. It’s just a mental toughness thing — being ready all the time to shoot the same shot.”

Drummond has the same routine each time he goes to the line now. He takes a deep breath, stares toward the rim and then bends his knees even lower than he has in the past. It’s a recipe that has served him well during the first month of the season.