Following the Sixers and Lakers’ offseason center swap, one doesn’t have to stretch far to identify parallels between Andre Drummond and Dwight Howard.
Both are physically imposing former All-Stars once regarded as among the league’s best big men who don’t take many jump shots, are subpar foul shooters and elite rebounders.
Drummond is quite a bit younger than the 35-year-old Howard, though — he’ll turn 28 next week — and, the Sixers would hope, a better overall player at the moment.
This season should be Drummond’s first as a backup since his rookie year with the 2012-13 Pistons. Sixers head coach Doc Rivers played a key role in persuading him to take that job and sign a one-year, veteran minimum deal.
“I think for me, making the decision to come to Philly is just based on Doc really having the faith in me to really help this team do something special — despite whatever my role is, me coming off the bench, being in the prime of my career — it doesn’t really matter,” Drummond said at a press conference Thursday via Zoom. “I think I can still be effective coming off the bench and backing up Joel (Embiid). I think it was a no-brainer.
“I’ve always wanted to play for Doc. I’ve known Doc since I was a kid; his son played on the same high school team. We’ve always had that relationship, so to have the chance to play for him, I just took the chance.”
To help the Sixers win games, Howard needed to be immensely impactful as a rebounder, shot blocker and interior scorer. The formula for Drummond appears similar on the surface, although he looks perhaps capable of more on defense. At a minimum, he'll be different. Drummond has consistently been one of the NBA’s best centers in terms of steal percentage, a trait that can of course produce increased transition opportunities.
“Defensively, I think it will be very fun for me to be active on the pick-and-rolls to get steals on the pocket passes,” he said, “be able to be aggressive and to trap the ball more — and even to drop back, be in a drop for the team, too, and rim protect.”
Drummond understands that being adventurous is often not the ideal approach for his team. He envisions no mid-career renaissance as a stretch five.
“At this point in my career, I think it’s pretty set in stone what my job description is,” he said. “I think in terms of adding different parts to my game, I think just little things — a lot of close-to-the-basket, soft-touch shots — things that I’ve worked on throughout my career outside of being the rebounding, rim-protecting big. Being able to make those short shots around the rim is something that I’ve worked on throughout my career.
“But I’m content with what my job is now. It’s brought me this far in the NBA, so in terms of revamping my whole game and becoming a different player, it’s something that I don’t foresee. I think at the end of the day, a strong, solid big is something that’s always needed in the NBA. I’m going to continue to work down that path and continue to try to be the best I can be.”
Indeed, Drummond focusing on what he does well, making a few more shots in the paint, accepting his limitations and trimming his turnover rate would all work just fine for the Sixers.
Though Drummond’s signing was a surprise, the questions he faced about his contentious history with Embiid — social media barbs, flops and all — were not.
He downplayed that rivalry, claiming there was “never any real beef.”
“I don’t think there’s anything to really hash out,” Drummond said. “Again, it’s the game of basketball. Trash talking is a part of the game. I don’t think it really has any meaning to it — at least to my knowledge. I don’t really care, but at the end of the day, I talk trash to everybody. It’s part of the game. I have no malice toward Joel. I’m excited to be on the same team as him and to make this work.”