It Takes a Village

From top to bottom, Pistons pull together to help mold Andre Drummond

Nothing is done randomly in Lawrence Frank’s universe. So when the Pistons unveiled their spectacularly redone locker room as Frank’s first Pistons season opened, it wasn’t coincidence that Brandon Knight’s dressing stall was located adjacent to Greg Monroe’s. When the Pistons drafted 18-year-old Andre Drummond in June, Frank made certain he would be influenced by the two very serious young leaders taken in the two preceding drafts, and so Drummond’s locker is now right next to Knight’s.

It is instructive whose locker is next along that north wall in the horseshoe-shaped configuration: Corey Maggette’s.

When Drummond had his eye-opening NBA debut last week against Toronto, scoring 12 points and grabbing seven rebounds in 23 minutes, Maggette was first in line to make sure the rookie put the night in perspective.

“Hey, just calm down,” Maggette told him. “This is still the preseason. Guys are not playing at full strength. Let me tell you that, first of all. But you did what you were supposed to do and I’m proud of you. And your teammates are proud of you. This is the way you have to bring it the next game. Go home, talk to Ryan (Winters, Pistons video coordinator) to get some film of the stuff you did for preparation for this next game.”

Then Rodney Stuckey approached him with a similar message: great game, proud of you, now make sure you do it the same way the next time. Then Knight, followed by Monroe, followed by Tayshaun Prince.

It takes a village, after all, and the responsibility the Pistons are taking to make sure Drummond grows as an NBA player in the healthiest possible environment has rippled throughout the organization, from the front office to the coaching staff to his teammates to the support staff that has helped him with everything from finding a place to live to getting his driver’s license.

“The help of my veterans, Corey Maggette especially – he talks to me every second of the day,” Drummond said after his debut. “He just tells me, ‘Don’t let it scare you. Just do your thing. Go out there and play the game, do what the coaches tell you and everything will fall in line for you.’ That’s what I did today. Tomorrow I’ve got to get better. Today is over.”

Tomorrow for Drummond came Saturday night at Milwaukee. After just a cameo in Friday’s game at Toronto – it was fellow rookie Slava Kravtsov’s turn to audition for a rotation spot in Frank’s frontcourt that night – Drummond got his second extended run Saturday at Milwaukee. He was even better, giving the Pistons 19 points, 10 boards, two blocks and two assists in 25 minutes.

Drummond, again, went out of his way to credit his teammates for his success.

“The help of all my veterans keeps me grounded,” he said. “It keeps me going and motivated. Corey Maggette pulls me aside for every little thing and just talks to me, tries to get me better, drills me, keeps me focused on every single play, so when I go out there, I just have one main focus: go out and play as hard as I can.”

When Frank subbed in Terrence Williams for Drummond for the final possession of the first half, Drummond headed right to a seat next to Maggette on the bench. The veteran gave him a nod of affirmation for his 10-point, six-rebound stint to that point, and then proceeded to offer a stream of insight, Drummond listening intently and nodding every few seconds.

“I’m in his ear because I know what he’s going through,” said Maggette, who 13 years ago was himself a one-and-done college hot-shot. “I came in at the same age he came in. I know the things he’s thinking, his confidence level. If he’s not doing something right and people are getting on you, you’re not accustomed to guys getting on you like that, especially a coach and players. You have to approach it differently. That’s why we try to talk to him, keep his spirits high and just stay even-keeled. Just do the job that you have to do and everything else will take care of itself.”

It sounds like a simple concept, but when the world is whizzing by and every day brings a breadth of new experiences, it takes constant reinforcement to make sure it sticks. To Andre Drummond’s right in the locker room, he has two young peers who have recently walked those same steps. To his left, he has a veteran with shared roots and the wisdom of more than a decade’s perspective. He is enveloped in constant reinforcement. The village is rallying around the prodigy.