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For Andre Drummond growth off the court could lead to him reaching potential on the court

Drummond’s candid assessment of his shortcomings, offseason surgery and trip to Africa offer perspective

Toronto Raptors v Detroit Pistons Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

When it comes to Andre Drummond just call me Fox Mulder. I want to believe.

Last season, though, Drummond made that extremely difficult. Offensively, his struggles from the post and at the free-throw line torpedoed his effectiveness, and he struggled mightily on defense to protect the rim and provide solid help defense.

The decision-making wasn’t there. The maturity wasn’t there. The consistent effort wasn’t there.

I was just a weird guy in the basement being faced with mountains of scientific evidence that aliens and the supernatural are bogus, and I just wanted a reason to believe again.

Could Drummond turn it all around just a year later? Could he make a sour fan base embrace him like they did just two seasons ago when he was an exciting, up-and-coming All-Star?

I’m not holding my breath about an efficient post-up game or any miracles at the free-throw line. But a focused, mature, engaged Andre Drummond is a dangerous player.

Perhaps we’ll see that player in 2017 when the Detroit Pistons christen Little Caesars Arena.

Drummond, for his part, is doing and saying the right things. And, not uncommon for a 24-year-old, perhaps a little life experience is helping him grow and mature.

“My play wasn’t where it was supposed to be and I take responsibility for that as well; I wasn’t playing up to my potential — and I can’t allow that to happen again,” he said on a conference call while on a trip to Africa.

“I’m not going to play with a filter anymore; I’m going to play the game I need to play to be a great player for my team,” Drummond said, per the Detroit News. “I feel like I’m in great shape and I can actually breathe. I don’t get tired as easily and I’m sleeping better. Everything has been a plus since I got that surgery.”

Wait, what?

Yeah, Drummond, had surgery to fix a deviated septum that was never repaired after breaking his nose at UConn. No, it doesn’t mean you can pin all or even most of Drummond’s struggles on breathing issues, but I do believe that breathing issues could impact his play to a large degree.

Drummond was inconsistent last season, playing great one night and invisible the next. Look, it’s straight up not easy to be a 7-foot-tall human being. And the ability to breathe goes a long way to getting that massive frame up and down the court for 30 minutes per night. Looking at photos of Drummond over the past few weeks and you see a person who has noticeably slimmed down since the end of the season.

Finally, let’s talk about maturity. Owning up to your own failures -- that’s a sign of maturity. Taking care of your body, including getting surgery to help fix breathing and conditioning issues — that’s a sign of maturity. And sometimes life experiences help you mature as well.

Drummond is in Africa taking part in charity work, basketball clinics and will take part in the NBA Africa Game Saturday at 11 a.m. Drummond seems to be taking the experience to heart.

As recounted by MLive:

"I think the experience outweighs the basketball part," Drummond said Thursday in a conference call with Detroit media members. "The stuff I saw today - we were building houses today - driving down these dirt roads and seeing the way these people live and the houses they're in, having no food, it crushed me.

"It was a very emotional day for me today. It even got to the point that a little kid that walked past me, I saw him eating a branch. It was hard for me to see so I went out of my way to give every supply that we had. Food, drinks, everything we had I gave it away to the kids."

I wouldn’t blame anyone for putting zero stock into any of this. Talk is cheap, after all. But I’ve seen things. I’ve seen Drummond look like the most electric, dominating big man in the NBA. I’ve seen in him sky for rebounds, block shots and slam home alley oops.

Like I said, I want to believe.