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Henry Ellenson talks rookie year, Andre Drummond, Avery Bradley and learning Dirk Nowitzki’s moves

Says with a weaker East ‘it’s ours for the taking.’

NBA: Detroit Pistons at Memphis Grizzlies Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports

Henry Ellenson dropped into Detroit’s lap in the NBA draft, and his combination of size and shooting ability is certainly intriguing in a league predicated on stretchy, versatile offenses with potent perimeter shooting.

The big man from Marquette barely played in his rookie year, however, and with such a big man log jam in Detroit he is sometimes the forgotten man.

In a new interview published on Hoops Hype, Ellenson opened up about his rookie year, his prediction for the Pistons, and a lot about defense. Here are some highlights, but you should read the whole thing.

On the playoffs

We’ve seen several stars like Paul George, Jimmy Butler and Paul Millsap move from the East to the West, and their former teams might fall out of the playoff mix. It seems like the final few seeds in the East are up for grabs and the conference is a bit wide open aside from the top few teams. Is this an opportunity for you guys to step up and potentially make some noise in the East?

HE: It’s exciting to see how open the East is now. I feel like it’s ours for the taking. But the thing is, everyone is saying that now. Everyone is saying that the East is weaker now so you have a number of teams saying, “Oh, we can go make the playoffs now.” I think it’s going to be competitive no matter what. But I feel confident in our team and I think it’s ours for the taking. We have the talent – there’s no doubt about it – with guys like Reggie [Jackson], Tobias [Harris], Dre [Drummond], Avery [Bradley] and the list goes on. We have the talent to go do this and I’m excited about this season. But like I said, everyone in the East thinks that they can make the playoffs now, so it’s going to be that much more competitive.

On learning from Beno Udrih

Who are some of the veterans who helped you – on and off the court – as you adjusted to the NBA?

HE: Last year, my vet was Beno Udrih and he was a lot of fun. He was the oldest guy on the team and I was the youngest guy on the team. When we were on the road, he’d take me out to restaurants and stuff like that. He really took me under his wing. He’d help me during practice and was always teaching me different things. He taught me some of the things that Dirk [Nowitzki] does and passed on different things he picked up from other good players he’s played with or seen a lot of. He taught me a lot of little things about the game too, like being in the right spots, how to be most effective in the pick-and-pop. After every play, he’d pull me to the side and tell me different things to help me improve. I’d always listen because he’s been in the league for 13 years and he’s had success. He was a guy who really helped me out a lot last year.

On getting better

What are some specific aspects of your game that you’re trying to improve this summer and what’s a typical day of training like for you?

HE: This offseason, I’ve been in Detroit a lot. Every morning, I go lift for an hour so I can get my legs and core stronger. I’m the youngest guy on the team, but that’s no excuse; I need to be stronger, I need to be able to compete and I need to hold my own. I’ve been doing a lot of squats and work on my lower body. I’ve really been working hard in the weight room. Then, for my on-court workout, I’m making sure I’m as versatile as possible. I’m not a one-dimensional player – I want to be able to do as many things as possible – so I’m always trying to expand my skill set. Shooting is another area I’m focused on because last year, as a team, that’s something we didn’t do as well as we should have. I know being able to knock down shots when I’m open is important and I think my shooting could be a way for me to get some minutes. I felt like during Summer League, I was able to show that my shot has improved. These last few weeks, I’ve been working on getting my guide hand off a little sooner so that the ball comes off of my right hand a little bit cleaner. I’ve made some minor tweaks like that, but they make a big difference.

On Andre Drummond

Andre Drummond is one of the best centers in the NBA. How much did it help you being able to go against him in practice and what do you think of his potential? He just turned 24 years old!

HE: Man, Andre Drummond… I’ve never seen a player like him. Everyone talks about his size, but they don’t realize how skilled he is, how well he moves and how nimble he can be. I think the sky is the limit for him. Being able to go up against a guy like that during practice is only going to make me better. We had four-on-four and three-on-three games going on in the gym yesterday and I was going up against him. I went up for layup and he swatted that to the sidelines. The next time, I was able to go high off the glass and get a bucket, but experiencing stuff like that and going against a player like Andre only makes you better.