When Andre Drummond got an offensive rebound to give the Lakers a second chance at a possession late in the fourth quarter against the Charlotte Hornets, it was a moment that encapsulated the current state of his game.
The board showed the value of having arguably the best rebounder in NBA history on a roster that misses a ton of shots, with Drummond volleying the ball off the glass before corralling it. But then one of the warts of his game was on full display, too, with Drummond failing to notice that Jalen McDaniels was right next to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope, and turning the ball over on his ensuing pass attempt.
Drummond was hard on himself in the aftermath, punching a chair before teammate Wes Matthews came over to get in his ear and tell him it was going to be all right.
“That moment was a tough one for me, because not only could I have went back up and shot it, I just tried to make the right play, tried to hit (KCP) for the dagger three,” Drummond said. “But having my teammates come over and comfort me in that situation or allow me to keep my head down, telling me to get it back on defense — which I did the next possession, I got that steal on Cody Zeller — having guys like that in my ear is only going to help me be a player for this team.”
Right now, Drummond is putting a lot of pressure on himself. He clearly wants to prove he can contribute to winning basketball after spending his entire career so far with NBA also-rans and having his most recent organization, the Cleveland Cavaliers, essentially pay him to go away. He spent his time outside of the league working on his finishing at the rim, something he’s historically struggled with, but outside of his 8-15 game against the Nets, he’s shooting 10-25 (40%) from the field with the Lakers as a seven-foot center, and he’s turned the ball over 15 times in five games. His rebounding is as advertised (9.2 per game in just 22.6 minutes a night), but so are his efficiency issues.
No one has been more critical of the latter than Drummond himself.
“Offensively, this is probably the worst I’ve played in my career. I’m still trying to figure it out,” Drummond said.
The good news is that the Lakers aren’t always going to be asking this much of Drummond. Eventually, Anthony Davis and LeBron James will come back, and he will take on the reduced role he’s said he’s ready to sacrifice for. Head coach Frank Vogel highlighted both of those factors — as well as the specific opponents the Lakers have played — as reasons for his new starter’s struggles, issues he thinks are overblown.
“I think having LeBron out there (will help), and AD, two elite playmakers. The last two nights have been difficult challenges. We had a really stingy defense we played against the other night (the Knicks) that wasn’t letting our bigs get any post touches, and tonight (the Hornets) just played zone the whole game,” Vogel said on Tuesday. “It didn’t result in Drum having a high point total, but I don’t believe that he’s playing really poorly offensively, it’s just the nature of the last two opponents.”
Drummond also won’t always be dealing with an elbow injury, and his teammates and coaches are trying to help him adjust on the fly, as Matthews was in that fourth quarter. For now, while Drummond clearly is putting a lot of pressure on himself to be better on offense, it’s also not the end of the floor he’s most concerned about.
“I’m not allowing it to take me out of my game. I know why I’m here, which is to help the team defensively. Offensively it will come for me,” Drummond said. “I think for us as a team, we’re going to find a way to get it done when guys come back healthy. Because you’ve got to think, we’re playing with a different five every night when we’re stepping on the court, so you can’t expect us to have much chemistry when you don’t know who we’re playing each and every night. So we’re hanging our hat on defense and allowing that to project us to a win.”
Until their stars come back, that will likely be the formula for the Lakers. We can probably wait until then to fully judge what Drummond’s offense will look like when it matters, too.