“This morning, he texted me, ‘Hey, man. Let me know when you’re ready to leave,’” said Monroe, who played two years at Georgetown before the Pistons drafted him.
Though Drummond attended rival Connecticut, Monroe was happy to spend an enjoyable afternoon with his teammate. Together, they watched part of Georgetown’s 65-48 win over American before leaving to prepare for the Pistons’ 96-87 win over the Wizards.
“It was weird, because I was just on the same floor a couple months ago playing against them,” Drummond said. “Just seeing some of the guys I played against was real cool.”
Before the Pistons routed the Wizards – never trailing, building a 22-point lead and hanging on as boredom from crushing the same team for consecutive nights set in – I spent most of my time in the media room discussing Drummond with a couple guys who cover Georgetown.
They kept telling me how bad he played when Connecticut played at Georgetown year. I figured, hey, that might make a neat story tonight if he plays well in his return to the Verizon Center. Drummond the professional bears little resemblance to Drummond the collegian, and this would be a cool way to reinforce that. So, I looked up Drummond’s stats from the game.
18 points, 9-of-12 shooting, seven rebounds, two assists, one block, one turnover and two fouls in 32 minutes
I went back to my Georgetown buddies. Surely, they must have remembered the wrong game. Though were a bit surprised Drummond put up such impressive stats, they were undeterred. Henry Sims dominated Drummond, they said. So, I checked Sims’ numbers.
13 points, 4-of-10 shooting, four rebounds, three assists, two blocks, seven turnovers and four fouls in 31 minutes
I pressed them a little more, but they insist Drummond looked bad that day. And they’re probably right. Drummond has an incredible ability to play well and looked ordinary in the process. It’s the curse that comes with blending imposing size and breathtaking athleticism.
Tonight was probably another case. Drummond had four points and 11 rebounds. He’s scored more 19 times, and he’s rebounded less 23 times, so this balanced out to a pretty ordinary game by Drummond’s standards. But there’s no such thing as an ordinary game for Drummond, who’s the Pistons’ most important building block. Monroe is better, and Brandon Knight is also key – but nobody’s career has a wider array of possible outcomes than Drummond.
Every game is a learning experience not just for him, but us. I found myself watching Drummond off the ball many times, looking for even the smallest clues about why he doesn’t play more. And I found a few, mostly the number of times he was running back-and-forth near midcourt, a step behind both the offense and defense. I kept waiting for Lawrence Frank to yank Drummond, but it never happened. Drummond played his usual minutes, and even if that’s not quite as many as I’d like, I must credit Frank for sticking with the rookie.
“This was a good learning experience for Andre,” said Frank, who listed the key lessons as playing in a back-to-back, getting opportunities to finish powerfully at the rim and learning to positioning himself when the Wizards pressed.
And that didn’t even mention Nene.
“One of the most physical guys I’ve played against so far,” Drummond said. “In terms of going after rebounds, he made it tough for me to go after them. He made sure he hit me first before my move. He kind of stumbled my movement to get there. It was a great learning experience.”
For Drummond, it’s all been a great learning experience. He talk about how important the practices are – he says much more important the game minutes that we fret about – and he’s shown that whatever he’s doing is working.
As he sat with Monroe at the Georgetown game, Drummond reflected on how far he’s come since last playing on that court.
“A long way,” Drummond said.
Once again, Drummond leaves Washington with questions about how well he actually played. As with the Georgetown-Connecticut game Feb. 1, credible cases could be built that he played either good or badly. But his potential is still undeniably high. Frank even cited “the big beasts in this league” during the last 40 years when answering a question about Drummond.
Drummond isn’t there yet, but it’s a joy to watch and dissect these “ordinary” games as he progresses in that direction.