By: Will Burchfield
Make no mistake, Andre Drummond is pumped to play alongside Blake Griffin.
The two have been friends for a long time, linked by the same agent and their respective endorsement deals with Jordan Brand. When Drummond found out about Monday’s blockbuster, he called Griffin right away.
“I talked to him immediately after the trade. He’s excited to be here, excited to play with us, and obviously when Reggie (Jackson) gets back he’s excited to play with him too,” Drummond said after the Pistons’ impressive 125-114 win over the Cavs on Tuesday night.
But Drummond isn’t interested in recreating Lob City, the high-flying alley-oop show the Clippers popularized in Los Angeles with Griffin, DeAndre Jordan and Chris Paul. He feels that would sell his ability short.
“I think I got a little more to my game than DeAndre does offensively,” Drummond said.
He added, “But I think it’s going to be a lot more fun (with Griffin on the team).”
Drummond is indeed a more versatile offensive player than Jordan. He’s turned into one of the best passing big men in the NBA, right alongside Griffin. Together, they give the Pistons a front court that very few opponents will be able to match.
Stanley Johnson, an earnest student of the game, can’t wait to see how it comes together.
“I’m a huge fan of Blake Griffin. That’s one of the guys I look at, like, this guy’s really, really, really good,” Johnson said. “I think our stance should be, let’s play around him. He’s a guy that I think is a one-in-a-million athlete and you have him paired with another one-in-a-million athlete with Andre. Now it’s like, let’s abuse that thing.”
In Johnson’s mind, having Griffin and Drummond on the floor at the same time will force the opponent’s hand. That will create more opportunities for the players around them.
“And you can kind of play it to where you’ll never not have them in the game. You got two of them,” said Johnson.
The Pistons didn’t need Griffin on Tuesday night, even with a ragtag lineup taking the floor. They defended well, pushed the ball in transition and outshot the Cavs down the stretch to snap an eight-game losing streak. But it won’t always be so pretty. When the game turns into a slow, half-court grind, Griffin’s one-on-one ability will prove invaluable.
Consider the Pistons’ loss to the Cavs on Sunday, Van Gundy said. A tie game with 7:30 to play turned into a 17-point Cleveland win largely because Detroit didn’t have an offensive foil to LeBron James.
“We’re right there, LeBron makes every play and we can’t respond at the other end. That’s where Blake makes the biggest difference. He’s been in that role, he likes that role,” said Van Gundy. “You can’t just play your normal defense. You’re going to force the defense to do something where he’s either going to be able to create a shot or create for other people.”
Griffin is expected to make his Pistons debut Thursday night versus the Grizzlies. Even though he wasn’t on the floor — or even in the building — Tuesday night, Van Gundy said the players seemed energized by the prospect of his arrival.
“My assistant coaches, certainly afterward, that’s what they were talking about,” Van Gundy said. “There’s a sort of new life and new confidence and everything else, so there was a different level of belief going (into the game).”