From the moment Andre Drummond joined the Los Angeles Lakers, there was a tendency to see him and Marc Gasol, if not as enemies, at least as competitors. Two titans clashing for a limited supply of minutes for traditional centers.
But that’s not how Drummond sees things, a viewpoint that was made clear by a somewhat-surprising admission about which teammate had helped him most since he joined the Lakers.
“Marc has probably been the biggest help for me since I got here, despite him moving to third center, or second center. I always go to him and ask him questions when it comes to the defensive aspects of the game and the spacing offensively, because he’s been here,” Drummond said.
Gasol, a prideful champion and career-long starter, was initially frustrated by his benching in favor of Drummond, but he quickly came to see things differently. In addition to helping his new teammate, Gasol spoke out about how the whole team needed to worry less about roles or minutes, and more about winning. Drummond said he was grateful for Gasol’s help, and even in the moments he’s been benched in favor of the veteran, he can be seen on the sidelines cheering and clapping louder than anyone for his teammate’s success.
“I admire his game, I got a chance to play against him for many years and just to know his knowledge of what it takes to be a winner,” Drummond said. “Just to get that insight from him on what I need to do to help this team on both ends of the court, he’s been very beneficial for me.”
It’s all part of the vaunted chemistry the Lakers put on full display in the bubble last season, but has been less visible this year, with far less cameras around and fewer opportunities for teammates to be around each other publicly due to the league’s health and safety protocols.
But it’s a chemistry that is still very much there, to a degree that even with less time to be around each other, Drummond still has felt the difference from his previous teams. In a must-read feature on his journey to the Lakers and this point of his career, Drummond told Mirin Fader of The Ringer that he’s never experienced this level of bonding with teammates in his time in the NBA:
With age comes wisdom. Drummond is more comfortable with himself now. He realizes that even though he is able to let things go now, his perfectionism is part of what still drives him. Which is why, when he was struggling early on to adjust to his new team’s system, scoring four points or fewer in three of his first five games, he was frustrated with himself. There was that perfectionism again. The one always coexisting with joy. Pushing him to be better, stronger.
“It’s because I care,” he says. So do his teammates. Drummond says the Lakers have a winning culture that goes beyond basketball. He notices how his new teammates always hang out outside of practice, a level of camaraderie he isn’t used to. “They do everything together,” he says. “Going to eat, simple things of being next to each other in the locker room, always communicating.”
That’s a revealing statement, especially in the context of how a new addition views this situation. While there has been outside concern at times that this Lakers group doesn’t have quite the intangible chemistry and connections of last year’s champs, Drummond seems to be feeling the love plenty as someone just walking into a new situation. So even if this team hasn’t gotten to bond quite as much as last year’s group — no preseason bonding trip in Vegas, less time together on flights and elsewhere — it’s clear they’re still very close.
Will that be enough for a roster that has barely gotten to play together during an expedited and injury-riddled year? We’ll see. But if the Lakers fall short, it pretty clearly won’t be due to any lack of closeness. This group is all-in for each other, now it’s just a matter of developing the on-court version of that chemistry in time to defend their title.