From coast to coast, Pistons young core putting in a busy, productive off-season

The core of Stan Van Gundy’s team is training at far-flung destinations so far this summer, but he’s monitoring it all – and delighted by the evidence of the work they’ve logged.

“All of our guys are really putting in the work and showing they’re serious about wanting to get better,” he said this week. “I’m really happy with what I’m seeing and hearing.”

Andre Drummond has been taking classes at UConn, but as soon as his academic day ends he heads to the gym where he finds two familiar faces – Pistons assistant coach Malik Allen and assistant strength coach Jordan Sabourin.

Drummond took two weeks off when the season ended in mid-April, then got to work. He’s lost about 15 pounds, Van Gundy said, and it was easy to see it when he made an appearance at Tuesday’s “The Art of Winning” event the Pistons held at the Detroit Institute of Arts where Van Gundy addressed the audience.

“This is my first summer really starting this early,” Drummond said at the DIA. “Usually I start right around now. When that last buzzer rang, I took two weeks off and when I came back I got myself packed for school and I hit the ground running from there. Every day after school I go right to the gym and work out with Malik and Jordan to get myself better and now it’s to the point where it’s a routine. I know what I’m doing every single day when I get in the gym, I know what I’m doing in the weight room. It’s a big summer – a really big summer.”

Drummond’s decision to get leaner grew from his everyday experience of playing for Van Gundy – who constantly implored the Pistons to sprint back defensively after every missed shot and push the ball offensively after every rebound – and from a postseason talk with his head coach.

“He wants us to run,” Drummond said. “He knows the type of athletes we have on our team and he knows what we’re capable of if we do run the ball. Reggie (Jackson) is willing to pass the ball up the floor to get that assist, knowing we have guys that can finish plays. When he does get on us like that, it comes to a point where you know he’s right. The more we slow the game down, it’s not good for us. The faster we play, the better for us.”

Another Pistons young player putting in work: Spencer Dinwiddie, coming off a solid rookie season, especially considering the late start he got as he recovered from January 2014 knee surgery.

“Charles (Klask) has been out (to Los Angeles, where Dinwiddie has been training in the Santa Monica area) and he’s really happy with Spencer’s progress,” Van Gundy said. “He said Spencer looks good.”

Klask said Dinwiddie told him he’s “never felt so explosive.” Dinwiddie will return to Auburn Hills in late June to work out at the practice facility before the Summer League team convenes in Orlando, Van Gundy said.

Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Jackson, meanwhile, have been pushing it hard in their off-season bases, Georgia and Florida, Van Gundy said. Assistant coach Bob Beyer will travel to Georgia to work with both Caldwell-Pope and Jodie Meeks. And assistant Tim Hardaway will soon go to Los Angeles, where Jackson will resume his off-season regimen.

Drummond says he’s been in touch with both Caldwell-Pope and Jackson frequently, encouraging and monitoring each other’s progress.

“I’ve spoken to Reggie and Kentavious every single day since that last buzzer rang in New York,” Drummond said. “Every day, checking each other. ‘Hey, you guys good? What’s going on with your day?’ We want to do this in the summertime. We want to get the guys together. It comes down to us three to really be the anchor of this team.”

Drummond has been the team’s youngest player each of his first three NBA seasons but probably won’t be this time around, depending on the identity of their lottery pick in the June 25 draft. In any case, Drummond is clearly growing into a leadership role and solidifying that status with the way he’s going about his business in the off-season.

“It’s just a mentality thing,” he said. “I just have the mindset right now that I don’t think it’s been there before. I’m just so tired of losing that it comes down to me and what I do on the floor. If I’m not in the best condition, the best playing shape, I can’t really do nothing for my team. I’m really taking this summer seriously.”

Drummond will soon shift his training base to California for a six-week stint at the P3 training facility in Santa Barbara. Allen will set up shop with him there for most of that time, Van Gundy said.

“I’ve added a lot of new things to my arsenal,” Drummond said. “A lot of new parts to my game. I’ve been working on my footwork a lot. Obviously, I’ve slimmed down a lot, too, working on my conditioning to be able to run a lot more than I was doing throughout the season last year. My main focus is to continue to polish my post game and work from there.”

With the chance that Greg Monroe leaves in free agency, Van Gundy has told Drummond to be prepared to shoulder a heavier load no matter which way that plays out.

“He told me, ‘You’re going to be playing a lot more next year.’ He sees a lot of things in me that sometimes I don’t even see. For him to say that to me, it brings me up a little bit, makes me want to work that much harder, knowing I have my head coach behind my back, that I could really do some things for this team.”

Van Gundy said he expects the bulk of the team to gather in Auburn Hills for most of September, as they did last year. If Drummond and his teammates make as much of the next three months as they have of the last six weeks, the expectation level at 6 Championship Drive will be at its highest in many seasons.