By: Will Burchfield
It’s been a troublesome year for 23-year-old Andre Drummond.
Oh, it’s been a lucrative one too, make no mistake about that. Drummond’s five-year max contact kicked in for the 2016-17 season and he raked in a cool $22 million. But amid those garish earnings, Drummond struggled to make strides on the court and found himself engulfed in trade rumors.
It began in earnest at the trade deadline, when the big center was linked to at least four teams, and it has carried into the offseason. Things once again came to a boil in advance of Thursday night’s draft, with the latest rumor tying Drummond to the Kings.
Drummond flew in from Los Angeles for the Pistons’ draft party at The Palace, giving him a chance to discuss things with his coach.
“Andre was here tonight and I talked to him,” said Stan Van Gundy. “He’s still at an age where all that stuff bothers him.”
Drummond had apparently caught wind of the hearsay involving the Kings, who owned two top-10 picks in the draft.
“The rumor he specifically asked me about – Sacramento for the fifth pick I think is what he asked me about – I said, ‘No, that hasn’t been discussed.’ But I’m not gonna look him in the eye and say we’ll never trade you. I mean, we won 37 games (last year) so we’re gonna look to do anything we can to get better. That’s the reality of it and I reiterated that to him tonight,” said Van Gundy.
The Pistons head coach and president is a firm believer that any player in the league can be had for the right price.
“There’s no such thing as an untouchable guy, there’s just not, and so when you tell a guy (he’s untouchable) you’ve got a good chance of lying to him down the road — but it makes the situation at the time more comfortable,” said Van Gundy. “If I had just grabbed Andre tonight and said, ‘Hey, don’t worry big fella, we’ll never trade you,’ it would have made our interaction a lot more comfortable at the time (but) it’s total bullsh*t.
“People struggle with honesty. It’s uncomfortable for a lot of people, and so everybody just lies to each other and it’s comfortable until you figure out you got lied to and then it’s more painful. I think Andre gets it. I think it was tough at the trade deadline but now he gets it totally.”
This year was the first time in Drummond’s career that he was such a prominent name in trade rumors. Between the plateau in his production and his suddenly massive cap hit, many Pistons fans were in favor of shipping him out of town.
Van Gundy believes it took a toll on him emotionally.
“I think he was hurt at the trade deadline, I think it would be fair to characterize it that way. Now he’s been through it. Look, any of us would be bothered by it, but it’s a fact of life in the NBA. Two weeks ago he and Reggie (Jackson’s) names were both in trade rumors, on teams we hadn’t even talked to. These things come up.”
Given the rate at which rumors circulate in the press these days, Van Gundy makes it a point to level with his players.
“I talk about it with our team all the time, I try to be honest as I can,” he said. “At certain times of the year – the trade deadline, the draft, early part of July – there’s gonna be all those rumors, that’s just what you deal with. But I told Andre tonight and I’ve told our entire team, I’ll never, ever say to anyone, ‘Don’t worry, we’ll never trade you.’
“I know guys in this league who have had people tell them that and they‘ve been lied to. You may not like anything I say or do, but I’m not gonna lie to you.”
Van Gundy said general manager Jeff Bower has been active on the phones, talking to every team at least once a day in the lead-up to the draft. But he clarified the Pistons aren’t actively shopping any of their players.
“If you have an opportunity to do something that makes sense, you do it. But we don’t have that right now,” Van Gundy said.
He’s confident the Pistons can bounce back after a 37-45 season.
“I like our guys, I’ve said that many times. With better health and a little better focus, we can be a lot better next year with the same group. Does that mean we’re not gonna do our due diligence and try to find things that make us better? Not at all, we are always looking for ways to get better,” said Van Gundy.
Drummond arrived in Detroit on Thursday and plans to fly back to Los Angeles on Friday morning. He underwent surgery in May to repair a deviated septum and has since been cleared for conditioning.
“He looks great, he’s in great shape,” said Van Gundy. “I’m really happy with what he’s doing right now, as I am with all our guys.”