SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The hints are not found in the statistics, although those coming attractions can’t be overlooked either. Eight rebounds and two blocks in 19 minutes against the Suns in the second game. Seven boards and two blocks in 22 minutes against the Lakers in the third. For a raw 19 year old who would be a Connecticut sophomore had he stayed in college.
It’s the observations the first six weeks of training camp into exhibition play into the regular season. Andre Drummond, as the Pistons have noted early and often, clearly aware it is the pressing question surrounding their lottery pick, has been fully engaged and has brought the ideal attitude to his rookie season. He has been focused.
Exactly what a lot of teams doubt he can be long term, in other words.
That the Pistons are getting questions about whether a player is focused with his pro career just starting is why Drummond lasted until No. 9 in the draft when he was arguably the second-best prospect on the board. It wasn’t hard to find executives who left UConn games shaking their head over the latest Drummond disappearing act against an opponent he should have had as an hors d’oeuvre, an image of lacking the passion to play that carried to June and draft night.
Detroit could not let the slide continue and, with Greg Monroe already on board, picked Drummond with visions of as big-man tandem that would one day do serious damage. The front office has so far been rewarded with a Drummond who is aware of his reputation and seems intent on doing something about it.
This is only a start – five games, all losses after the 105-103 victory by the Kings on Wednesday night despite Monroe’s triple-double of 21 points, 12 rebounds and 11 assists – but a noteworthy one.
“That was a well-documented criticism of him,” Pistons coach Lawrence Frank said. “I haven’t really seen it. He’s an extremely hard worker, very, very focused, is prepared every day and wants to get better. That’s the only side that we’ve seen.”
Drummond is being brought along slowly, playing every game off the bench and at an average of 14.2 per. His roller-coaster ride has gone from a significant role in Phoenix and Los Angeles to just six minutes in Sacramento with one rebound, one block and no shots. But if he is locked in, his future is real.
“I feel that being in the NBA now, it’s an every-day thing,” Drummond said of maintaining his focus. “In college, you have to worry about classes, studying, exams. Being in the NBA, it’s the only thing I have to do now. Just play basketball 24-7 and get better each and every day.”