Joe Dumars played with Dennis Rodman and traded for Ben Wallace. He knows a thing or two about players with the rare ability to consistently make take-your-breath-away defensive plays.
He sees that quality in Andre Drummond. With all the caveats about the distance Drummond still must travel to match those players for durability and consistent impact, it’s so far, so good from Joe D’s perspective.
“He has the ability to make the ‘wow’ play,” Dumars said this week. “To have a guy who can make those plays, especially on the defensive end, certainly can be infectious to your team. We’ve seen that over the years here in Detroit. We’ve had guys who can make those incredible defensive plays and he’s shown early on that he has the ability to make those plays. That’s a big plus for us.”
Drummond’s playing time has ticked up to 18 minutes per game and he’s averaging 2.5 blocks per 36 minutes. With rare exceptions – Monday’s loss at Philadelphia when he managed just one rebound in a 15-minute stint – Drummond has produced consistently and the pre-draft questions about his “motor” now seem a distant memory.
But it was such a prevalent rap in the weeks leading to the June draft that Dumars was compelled to confront Drummond when the Pistons were invited by his agent, Rob Pelinka, to New York for a late-night meeting two days before the draft.
“When you’re doing your due diligence you have to ask the uncomfortable questions and you absolutely need to hear from that person directly,” he said. “That night in New York, I was direct and up front with him and he ducked no question. He looked me right in the eye and said that, ‘Having energy and playing hard will not be an issue for me. I love to play. I love playing.’ Those are the things you want to hear from a young big guy.
“I was up front with him. I said, ‘Here are the issues we have going into this draft. What kind of energy are you going to bring? Are you going to be a guy we can count on to impact a game when you get on the floor?’ Direct answers, right back to me, man to man, eye to eye, didn’t duck anything.”
Drummond’s sincerity helped convince the Pistons to take the plunge when he was still available with the No. 9 pick, but no one from Dumars on down held certain expectations that Drummond would be able to earn rotation minutes immediately. The first inkling that they gambled wisely came in the Orlando Summer League.
“Whenever you draft anyone, you take a leap of faith,” Dumars said. “For all your due diligence, you’re still taking a leap of faith. We felt comfortable after visiting with this kid, that at the very least, he liked the game, he likes playing, he likes being out on the court. We saw the raw talent and we were willing to make that investment into him, that he would get it.”
The way Drummond has so quickly endeared himself to teammates, coaches and support staff is another encouraging sign for Dumars. His eagerness to accept coaching and the vigor with which he’s undertaken the to-do list the Pistons have for developing his skills instill confidence that whatever his ceiling really is, he’ll get there someday.
“What people see is this raw talent that he brings,” Dumars said. “What people don’t see is the infectious personality that he has. That’s why you see so many people embracing him. That’s why he’s such a likeable guy. He has an infectious, great spirit about him that makes you root for him. He’s a guy you root for when he gets on the floor because he’s so open and pure and honest with you. That’s what people don’t see about him that we all – everybody, internally – know this kid has a great spirit about him.”