Drummond prepares to play full 48 for Pistons – just in case
Gregory Shamus (NBAE/Getty)
EAST LANSING – The candidates are Thon Maker, Markieff Morris and Christian Wood. The question is who’ll fill the role of backup center to Andre Drummond this season?
“Me,” Drummond says, shrugging his shoulders.
All 48 minutes this season?
“That’s what it looks like,” he said. “That’s what coach Casey told me. He said, ‘We need you to be on the floor as much as possible with Blake (Griffin) coning off the surgery.’ We’ve got to take it slow (with Griffin) early on in the season, so I’ll be playing a lot more.”
Drummond has become a conditioning devotee in recent off-seasons, pushing himself a little more each summer. He’s become conscientious about nutrition and reported to camp in what Casey called the best shape of his career.
He’d have done all of that again this summer in any case, but kicked it up a notch after Casey gave him the heads up.
“I took it really seriously this summer,” he said, “to take care of my body in the conditioning aspect to be able to stay on the floor for a long period of time. I’m excited for it.”
Casey isn’t really going to run Drummond into the ground. It’s doubtful Drummond plays much more, if any more, than the 33.5 minutes a game – just off his career peak of 33.7 the previous season – he averaged in Casey’s first season. But Drummond will be capable of playing 38 or more minutes on nights the Pistons need to push him, maybe even nights Drummond won’t come out of the game in the second half.
When he does, it remains to be seen how Casey patches together the backup spot. Maker, Morris and Wood are all legitimately in the running.
“Thon Maker’s going to have an opportunity to play a lot. Markieff Morris is going to have the opportunity to play a lot. Even Chris Wood is going to have the opportunity to play,” Drummond said. “I think we did a good job of bringing in some great guys to fill that position.”
Griffin had a unique perspective on the effect the absence of a sturdy veteran backup – like an Aron Baynes, Zaza Pachulia or Boban Marjanovic – figures to have on Drummond.
“I think there’s always a certain point in your career when you realize you’re not the young guy any more,” he said. “This is a good challenge for him to really kind of change the way he leads. I’m excited to see him step into that role. He’s been a leader because he’s been one of the best players on the team for a long time, but it’s a different type of leadership when you are actively taking people to the side and telling them, ‘Look out for this, this and this.’ I’m excited for him to do that. I think it brings on more ownership of a team. It’ll be good for his game.”
If Casey, indeed, goes easy on Griffin in the early going, that opens the door for more minutes for Morris – or, perhaps, Joe Johnson – at power forward. That could play to the advantage of Wood, freeing up more minutes at center, who is trying to stick after being picked up off waivers with a non-guaranteed contract.
Drummond said of Wood, “He’s a hell of a shooter – very underrated shooter. He can shoot the ball very well. He’s a tough kid, very skilled with the basketball when he’s under control. I think the only thing he needs to really improve on is the pick and roll offensively – when it’s time to roll and when it’s time to pop. Defensively, he plays the ball really well, too.”
Drummond said Maker’s progress over the off-season is real across the board.
“He’s gained a lot of weight, which is good. We need him to be strong down there, too, when he’s playing the five. His shooting has gotten a lot better, he’s gotten a lot tougher with the basketball, his finishing around the rim has gotten a lot better. His ability to catch the ball with tough passes has gotten a lot better, too. He works really hard, so he's only going to get better from here.”
If all of that holds true on Wood and Maker, the Pistons should be OK when Drummond goes to the bench. Just in case, Drummond is preparing as if he won’t go there all that often.