What can you tell me about the Detroit Pistons?
Do you know their starting five? How about their new coaches name, can you tell me that?
There are many who cannot. The Pistons are on the periphery for most Detroit fans, which is too bad. This proud franchise (one of only five to have won back-to-back titles) has been relegated to the back seat behind the Tigers, Red Wings, and (gasp!) even the Lions in recent seasons. Most Detroiters pay little attention to the red-white-and-blue.
But there’s a big reason that will soon change. He’s 7 feet tall, weights 270 pounds, and has the hands of a point guard. Drummond is also dating a former iCarly TV star, and he loves video games and Twitter. Which serves to tell us that he’s a typical 20-year old in many ways.
But there’s nothing typical about what he can do on the hardwood. Drummond, in his second season in the NBA, is headed for superstardom, and he might get there faster than anyone expected.
Very few 20 years olds are breaking records. It’s pretty early to be setting career bests and standards, too. But Big ‘Dre (dude needs a nickname, so why not start there?) isn’t letting age stop him from doing things few Pistons have done in a long time, or ever.
On Sunday in a win over the Philadelphia 76ers at The Palace, Drummond scored 31 points and scooped up 19 rebounds. He also had six steals, which put him in some rarefied air. The last player to reach all three of those marks in a single NBA game was Hakeem Olajuwon back in 1990. Yes, The Dream. Maybe Dre’s nickname should be New Dream?
It’s fitting that Drummond is drawing comparisons to Olajuwon, because this past off-season, Drummond worked on his inside moves with Hakeem. The Hall of Famer has become a mentor to the young Piston big man. The work has paid off, and it is impressing a lot of people, including those who see him every day.
“Joe Dumars] told me how good he was,” Detroit coach Maurice Cheeks said after Sunday’s victory. “But I didn’t know he was this good.”
The rest of the NBA will soon know how good Drummond is. How good he could become might scare the NBA. One opponent, Roy Hibbert of the Indiana Pacers, has already expressed his dismay at Drummond’s “confidence” on the court.
“He is a real good prospect, but it seemed like he was running his mouth a little bit tonight. He has a tremendous future, but I was a fan of his,” Hibbert said after the Pistons and Pacers faced each other in early November. Apparently, Andre was getting in Hibbert;s head a bit.
“If I lost a fan, I can’t be mad about it,” Drummond told Terry Foster of the Detroit News. “If he complained about me talking, that’s part of the game. I’m doing what I can do to get in his head, and it obviously worked because he noticed. So I was just trying to play my game and get into his.”
Still green, Drummond is developing his game, especially at the offensive end, where he gets a lot of his scoring opportunities off missed shots. Once he becomes more skilled at playing with his back to the basket, Drummond will be even more dangerous.
In his big game against the 76ers earlier this week, Drummond was a force close to the basket and even had his short jumper working. Like Olajuwon, what makes Drummond so special is how nimble he is for his size, and also how great his hands are. That helps him get steals as well as in passing the basketball. The Pistons haven’t had a man of Drummond’s size who could pass this well since the immortal Bob Lanier in the 1970s.
On the defensive end, Drummond is mature and he’s a menace. He is great at blocking shots, disrupting the passing lanes, and boxing big men out of the paint. His rebounding exploits haven’t been seen in Detroit since the era of Bill Laimbeer and The Worm, Dennis Rodman.
The last Piston to get 30 points and 20 rebounds was Rodman in 1991, when he went for 34/23 against the Nuggets. Rodman was a rebounding machine but he never had an offensive play ran for him. Drummond will slowly have this offense run around his skills in the paint, and as he develops who knows how far he can go.
On Tuesday, Drummond took down 18 rebounds against the Miami Heat as the Pistons shocked the two-time defending champions on their home court to snatch their fourth win in their last six games.
Right now, the Pistons, with a new coach and several new players on their roster, are searching for a formula that will point them in the direction they want to go. After stumbling out of the gate this season, recent victories have given them hope that with Drummond, Greg Monroe, and other young pieces, the team can get back to the playoffs. Brandon Jennings has asserted himself as the offensive catalyst, infusing the team with energy and banging down shots from long range.