Last season was what nobody wanted but perhaps it is the thing everybody needed.
This Detroit Pistons team is young, inexperienced and relying on a 24-year-old to lead them to relevance, the playoffs and, eventually, contention.
It was not a burden Andre Drummond was prepared to bear. Coming off of a 44-win season, up-and-coming status and a “competitive sweep” at the hands of the Cleveland Cavaliers, everyone expected Detroit to take the next step last year.
Instead, they took such a giant step back it would make even Boban Marjanovic jealous.
Yes, Reggie Jackson was injured, but that only gets you so far. Drummond didn’t hold up his end of the bargain -- especially after signing a massive maximum contract in the offseason.
It is something Drummond freely admits.
“The year I had last year is not who I was,” Drummond said at Pistons media day. “That’s not the player I’m supposed to represent for this city.”
The honeymoon was decidedly over. For a player who has seen a lot come easily to him on the basketball court due to the immense gifts he was blessed with, it was getting hard fast.
Even more stark was the care free young player’s acknowledgement that this is an opportunity that could easily be squandered.
“Everybody’s window is short in this league.”
That is why Drummond finally got nasal surgery that he had been putting off for years. That is why he said he focused more on what he put into his body and completely changed his eating habits. Perhaps not coincidentally he also says he dropped “30-some pounds” and currently sits at 285.
He also mentioned repeatedly his and his teammates’ commitment to professionalism and being ready.
He wasn’t deadly serious, and he hadn’t lost his playful attitude, but you could tell young Mr. Drummond had some additional perspective he did not have at this time last year.
The kind of perspective that only comes from failure.
Drummond’s window isn’t closing, but he’s in danger of not opening it as wide as it could be, and it seems that is something he understands.
“This year was a really good year to just lock in and be a professional,” Drummond said.
It all came as part of a theme — control what you can control and things tend to take care of themselves. Surgery was something he could control. Focus is something he could control. Professionalism. Diet. And, most importantly, effort.
“Energy is something I can bring every night. A lot of hard work, energy and effort,” he said about his game plan coming into the season.
His coach likes to say when Drummond is locked in he can accomplish anything on the court. He said it again at media day.
Being able to breathe and losing 30 pounds certainly helps. But locking in is as much of a mental exercise as it is a physical one, if not more so. Drummond was not locked in last year, and his game and his team suffered for it.
Luckily, nobody knows that better than Andre, and it looks like he’s doing something about it.