Trust between Drummond, Tom Gores puts Pistons in position to keep pushing forward

Pistons fans can thank Andre Drummond’s mother, Christine, for making him a basketball player. They can thank Tom Gores’ relationship with Christine Cameron’s son for the improved team Stan Van Gundy will be able to put around Drummond in coming seasons.

It was Drummond’s decision to delay signing his second NBA contract until after the Pistons had finished their other summer business that allowed the Pistons to both add Tobias Harris during the season and pick up free agents Jon Leuer, Ish Smith and Boban Marjanovic in the early days of July’s free agency period.

“We either wouldn’t have been able to do Tobias during the year, or if we had done Tobias, we wouldn’t have been able to add the people we added this summer,” Van Gundy said Friday as the Pistons formally announced Drummond’s five-year contract. “It goes to Andre’s character, his true commitment to the Detroit Pistons beyond just getting the contract, and Tom’s commitment and his relationship with Andre.”

The unique relationship Drummond has with Gores gave him the faith that putting off the extension he was eligible to sign last fall – guaranteeing his salary through 2021 season – instead of waiting until after the season. The decision carried a degree of risk that Drummond would get through the season without a critical injury.

“It’s been a pleasure to watch Andre from the time he first came into the league to where he is today, having matured into this incredible talent,” Gores said in a statement. “Beyond his evolution as a basketball player, it’s been equally rewarding watching him mature as a young man. Andre has the character and dedication to help our franchise achieve greatness. I’m proud of him and his family, the way they’ve embraced Detroit and the way Detroit has embraced them. I’m excited for all of us about the years to come.”

“He makes it his job to be involved – not even just me, but each player on our team,” Drummond said of Gores. “He puts his hand out and he tries to get a feel on everybody. Most teams aren’t like that. So the relationship I’ve built with him over the years is the reason why I took that decision to wait the year. I know I trusted him. I know he had faith in me, as well. Without that, it could’ve gone either way.”

In simpler terms, by delaying the extension until after July 1, the Pistons got to count Drummond’s cap hold – something a little north of $8 million – on their salary cap instead of his first-year salary for next season, which on a maximum deal will be somewhere around $22 million. Once the Pistons exhausted their cap space, they could formally re-sign Drummond and exceed the cap.

That extra $14 million allowed the Pistons the cushion they needed to address their off-season needs: a backup point guard in Smith, 28, who’ll quarterback the second unit and play at the faster pace Van Gundy wants; a power forward with size in Leuer, 6-foot-11, to complement Harris at the position; and a backup center in the 7-foot-3 Marjanovic to protect the Pistons in the event Aron Baynes leaves in free agency next summer, when the Pistons aren’t likely to have the cap space to find a suitable replacement.

All that depth and roster flexibility will give Van Gundy everything he needs, he believes, to counter whatever lineups opponents can conjure.

“I think we’ve got answers to small lineups, big lineups. Teams that want to play two point guards together, teams that want to play with no point guard,” Van Gundy said. “I don’t really think there’s anything that people can throw at us now that we don’t have good options on our roster to go to.”

Beaming a few feet away as Drummond and Van Gundy sat side by side were his mother and sister, Ariana. Drummond credited Christine with being a motivating force in his early days, “being on my back each and every day, just pushing me to be where I’m at now.”

He was asked if he could have imagined such a day when he first picked up a basketball.

“You can ask her that,” he said, nodding toward his mother. “You want to tell them what you used to call my games?”

“The comedy hour,” Christine grinned.

Nobody’s laughing any more, but there were smiles all around The Palace on Friday. Pistons fans figure to have a few more reasons to smile in the seasons ahead, too.