Archive → December, 2012
Before each game now, Andre Drummond write 27 “SH”s on his shoes – one for each victim in the Sandy Hook shooting. For Drummond, who was raised in Connecticut, the tragedy hits close to home. And though he’s aware that being an NBA player gives him a platform to pay tribute, that’s not why he’s expressing himself through his shoes.
“Even if I wasn’t here, I would still do something like that, anyway,” Drummond said. “That’s just the type of guy I am. I just love to show love to others.”
Newtown is close to Middletown, where Drummond grew up. He knows people from Newtown. He played high school basketball in Newtown. His connection is so deep, he called Newtown his hometown multiple times.
Like many of us, he’s not sure exactly what to say about the events of Dec. 14, so for now, 54 letters will have to do.
“It’s definitely a hard, hard thing to think about,” Drummond said.
“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.
- Teams: Detroit Pistons (8-21) at Washington Wizards (3-21)
- Date: December 22, 2012
- Time: 7:00 p.m.
- Television: FSD
What to look for
Jamal Crawford is one of my favorite current basketball players in the NBA. His crossovers and behind the back moves are wildly entertaining, especially when he follows one of them with a sweet hop step and underhanded layup. The crossover prince — Iverson will probably always be the king — has a bag of goodies he brings to the court, which help mask one of his biggest deficiencies: he takes some horrible shots at times.
The Michigan product has been known to take a few low percentage shots per game, but all is forgiven when they go in.
What does this have to do with the Wizards?
Imagine having two players with the same mentality, but without the same skill earning big minutes on the same team; in a nutshell those are the Washington Wizards.
Jordan Crawford and Martell Webster have the uncanny ability to take some of incredibly difficult shots regardless of the amount of defenders around them. In this case, one has to call it an ability, because consistently taking low percentage shots while consistently misfiring on them can’t be characterized in any other way, unless you would prefer the term “playground basketball”.
Jordan Crawford is converting 39.9 percent of his shots this season while Martell Webster is looking down on him by virtue of his 41.6 percent conversion rate from the field.
Oh but things get worse.
In addition to having two players that are more than unhappy to put the ball up at any chance they get, the Wizards have a roster full of players that find ways to regularly attempt to do things they cannot on offense. Whether it’s the big man firing a bullet pass to a cutting player that was open for a split second, or a perimeter player taking a jump shot after getting trapped hard in the pick-and-roll, Washington has built so many poor habits that it’s tough to consistently expect some solid offensive possessions.
The irony of it all of course is that they look much better on offense this season when compared to the days they had JaVale McGee, Andray Blatche and Nick Young on the team. That’s actually a compliment.
The Washington Wizards own the worst offensive efficiency in the NBA at 92.4 and there’s really no secret why.
The players have developed some awful tendencies in recent seasons and despite the changes made on the roster, the habits have remained.
Obviously, the absence of John Wall — sidelined with injury — doesn’t help, but he was also part of the team last season when this passed for typical Wizards execution.
As the contest unfolds tonight, pay attention to the Pistons’ offense in contrast to the their opponents and draw your own conclusions. Washington will probably be better at home and thus last night’s blowout may very well be a thing of the past, but the Wizards playground offense has no business being part of the NBA.
Read about the Wizards
As I’ve maintained all along, my hunch is that whatever cap space the Pistons clear – and it could be anywhere from $17 million to $25 million, based on what we know now – will be more likely used to facilitate trades than to be spent on free agents.
Langlois speaks with Joe Dumars on the record more than anyone else covering the Pistons, so it’s very possible he has solid information here. It’s also possible Langlois’ hunch is based more on his personal beliefs. I don’t know which is the case here, but it’s definitely worth being aware of what he said.
Andre Drummond didn’t have a driver’s license when he moved to Detroit this past summer. His mother, Christine Cameron, gave him rides so he could get around the city and train at the Pistons’ practice facility. She’s currently living with him and his younger sister, Ariana, just a short drive — which Drummond now can do on his own — from the Palace of Auburn Hills.
Drummond is 19 years old. His three favorite movies are March of the Penguins, Happy Feet and Happy Feet Two. Last year, he was the world’s largest Gumby for Halloween. Asked to sketch something for the NBA’s trading card partner at the Rookie Transition Program, he produced the bugged-out Kirby at the top of this post.
His age isn’t immediately obvious looking at him, though. While the majority of rookies need to fill out their frames, Drummond’s draft preparation involved shedding extra weight so he could be lighter on his feet. Listed at 6’10 and 270 pounds, Drummond is easily the most physically imposing player in his draft class and on his team. He has center strength with wing player agility and athleticism. He covers ground on defense and scouts salivate. He dunks and blocks shots and fans fawn.
He did these things last year at UConn and the previous two at St. Thomas More high school. At each stage, though, the conversation surrounding him changed more than Drummond did.
Andre Drummond has tried a lot of things to improve his free-throw shoowing, and now he can add one more. He wore a modified bowling glove to shoot free throws after Friday’s shootaround, a first-time experiment, in an effort to stabilize his shooting wrist. The rookie center enters tonight’s game shooting 41 percent from the line.
I appreciate that Andre Drummond is trying unconventional methods, because conventional methods haven’t worked so far. If the glove is going to help, though, it didn’t show last night, when Drummond shot 1-of-4 from the free-throw line.
It was easy to get distracted during tonight’s laugher of a game between the Pistons and Wizards, and so I occupied myself by laughing at the way Washington’s players continuously ignored Wizards coach Randy Wittman. Wittman is definitely this year’s John Kuester. At one point, after Cartier Martin elbowed Andre Drummond in the throat, cameras showed Wittman clearly agitated, yelling something at Martin in the Washington huddle. Martin got a smirk on his face, shook his head a little and looked like he had about as much interest in what Wittman was saying as the Wizards did in playing a NBA game Friday. If Cartier Martin is showing you up, you are in definite Kuester territory.
As much as there has been to complain about Lawrence Frank this season, he’s clearly nowhere near Wizards territory when it comes to respect from the players. Players aren’t showing him up. They are generally playing pretty hard. When things are going bad, it’s always nice to get a reminder of what things look like when they’re going really bad. Thankfully, the Wizards provided that tonight. Here were a few other random things that stood out to me:
- Drummond, obviously, had a night filled with spectacular plays. He blocked five shots (career high), grabbed 14 rebounds (career high), had some trademark dunks, a couple of fantastic passes and even banked in a free throw. Weirdly, when he got tired in the first half after playing nine straight minutes, I saw something I never thought I would this season. Drummond was gassed and asked to come out of the game, and he clearly needed to … on the possession before he could get replaced, the Wizards got a couple of offensive rebounds that Drummond would normally get to and Kevin Seraphin hit a sweeping hook over him that Drummond would normally swat about 30 feet down the court. For once this season, Frank didn’t want to take Drummond out of the game. I had no idea how to react to that moment.
- When Martin elbowed Drummond and the announcers were looking at the replay, Greg Kelser said that Martin elbowed Drummond “right there on Front Street.” I have no relevant reason to point that out, other than it gives me a chance to link to one of my favorite videos, former Saginaw High coach Lou Dawkins using ‘Front Street’ and other awesome roasts of his players in this video report.
- Slava Kravtsov saw his first action of the season when the Wizards chose him to shoot free throws when Rodney Stuckey was injured and had to leave the game and couldn’t shoot his. Kravtsov was active, but it was definitely easy to see why he hasn’t played a lot — if he catches the ball on offense and doesn’t have a dunk, things get ugly. On one sequence, he had the ball in the paint, did about four pump fakes, pivoted, lost ground and put up a weak shot that was blocked. Somehow he did all of that without traveling, which was pretty miraculous.
This game basically proved what we already know — the Pistons are a bad team, but they’re not as bad as the few bottom feeders in the league. They are significantly better than the Wizards, and anything less than a repeat performance in tomorrow’s game will be a major disappointment.
Note: Technical difficulties tonight, so graphics won’t be in the grades
Jason Maxiell – C-
Maxiell made little impact tonight, but it’s hard to give anyone lower than a C- in a game the team won so easily. The positive, obviously, is that mediocre performances by Maxiell combined with great performances by Drummond are always positive as Drummond’s quest for more minutes continues
Greg Monroe – B+
Monroe had a typical solid performance, but the biggest positive — just one turnover. The occasionally sloppy Monroe made good passes all night and took care of the ball well.
Tayshaun Prince – C-
Prince had a poor shooting game, but was part of a perimeter defense that forced Washington’s guards and wings into some truly awful shooting performances.
Kyle Singler – B-
Singler rebounded well, he defended well, he shot OK, he moved without the ball … nothing to complain about with his performance.
Brandon Knight – B
Like Monroe, he took decent care of the basketball (just two turnovers), he had four assists and he got to the line seven times. He missed a couple of open jumpers that he’d normally make, but that was the only real complaint with his performance tonight.
Austin Daye – D
Daye looked fluid, took shots within the offense and took shots that he should be able to make. But for whatever reason, ‘shots that he should be able to make’ is about the only way to describe Daye anymore. He was 2-for-9 tonight and is just 4-for-17 since re-entering the rotation. He did get seven rebounds and two blocked shots tonight, so at least his poor shooting didn’t cause the other areas of his game to fall off too.
Andre Drummond – A
The Wizards didn’t pose much of a challenge for Drummond, but that’s exactly the type of opponent young players sometimes struggle with. Drummond should dominate the undisciplined team the Wizards put on the floor Friday. Washington definitely helped him out by foolishly challenging him and taking bad chances against him, and Drummond made them pay just about every time someone tested him.
Charlie Villanueva – C-
His best play was finishing off a great Drummond pass for a nice reverse layup. Villanueva didn’t play bad, but he did miss a couple of open jumpers that, as the designated shooter off the bench, he needs to hit.
Rodney Stuckey – A
Stuckey looked great, so hopefully the shot to the face he took in the second half that knocked him out of the game is nothing serious. Stuckey shot 4-for-6 and had five assists and just one turnover in 17 minutes.
Will Bynum – B
Bynum stepped in, shot well (4-for-7) and only turned the ball over once in Stuckey’s absence. He did take one wild three for some reason (there was still time on the shot clock), but other than that, he gave decent backup minutes tonight.
Slava Kravstov – C-
I’m happy Kravtsov finally saw game action, and stepping into the weird situation when Stuckey went out and couldn’t shoot free throws was an awkward way to debut, but he hopped off the bench and made 1-for-2 at the line. He also had a nice dunk. He’s obviously a major work in progress who showed deficiencies even against an inferior Washington lineup, but he’s on the team, so you might as well play him.
Jonas Jerebko – A
Jerebko made the best of his garbage time minutes, with three points, four rebounds and a steal in less than six minutes. If Daye keeps struggling shooting the ball, and Jerebko builds on this, he’ll be back in the rotation soon.
- Teams: Washington Wizards (3-20) at Detroit Pistons (7-21)
- Date: December 21, 2012
- Time: 7:30 p.m.
- Television: Fox Sports Detroit
What to look for
I answered a few questions for Kyle Weidie of TruthAboutIt.net about tonight’s game, so click through for those – especially why I think the matchup between Brandon Knight and Detroit native Jordan Crawford is crucial. But I think Kyle made the most interesting point:
Interestingly enough, the seven-win Pistons rank fifth in the NBA in fouls drawn on opponents per game (21.3)—after the Lakers, Timberwolves, Nuggets and Thunder, and just barely better than the Nets. Could spell trouble for a depleted Wizards squad, whether Bradley Beal and a sickly Jan Vesely are available or not. [NOTE:Beal is a game-time decision tonight.]
Beal and Nene are both out, so the Wizards are especially depleted. Hopefully, the Pistons can take advantage.
Read about the Wizards
If it tracks with the NBA calendar, the Pistons will host Washington on Friday night looking to snap not only a six-game losing streak but a season-long stigma of being unfailingly doomed to defeat when they trail after three quarters.
The Pistons are 0-17 in such circumstances
This is a great stat by Langlois, and I wanted to give it a little more context:
- The Pistons have the league’s worst record when trailing entering the fourth quarter – followed by the Hornets (0-15) and Wizards (1-18).
- NBA teams have a 61-302 (.202) record in such games this season.
- Obviously, a team’s deficit entering the fourth quarter matters a great deal, and the Pistons are near the median.
In fact, they felt the likeliest course was to possibly take one with the 39th pick and then trade the 44th pick away to bank a future asset.
“We had several phone calls from teams trying to trade back to 44 or trade up to get a second-round pick,” Dumars said. “We had contingency plans to move the pick. Once we drafted Middleton, we looked at the board and said, ‘We’re going to get a good player at 44. Forty-three goes off and we’re like, ‘Yeah, we’re taking Kim English.’ We would have moved the pick, but we weren’t going to pass on Kim English at 44.”