Since joining the Lakers as a mid-season buyout free agent, Andre Drummond has consistently said the right things. He’s talked about how great the team’s chemistry is, and said he’s willing to sacrifice in order to help the Lakers win.
And when speaking with Mirin Fader of The Ringer, he left no doubt about the reason that Los Angeles appealed to him, and why he ultimately chose them during his first chance to experience unrestricted free agency.
It’s simple. He just wants a championship:
That’s the main reason why Drummond joined the Lakers: to win. After spending the first eight years of his career in Detroit—the team finished above .500 in only one of them—he was unceremoniously traded to Cleveland, where he once again found anything but stability. After just 33 games spread over two seasons, the cellar-dwelling Cavaliers made Drummond inactive until they could trade him and his $28.8 million salary, essentially saying they had no use for the big man. When no deal materialized after weeks of waiting, they released him. His worth, his future in the NBA, seemed in peril. Drummond yearned for a new home. For a place that valued him. A place that his game could bring value to.
“It was a chance to start over again,” Drummond says of his opportunity with the Lakers, who he signed with in March after clearing waivers. “I owed it to myself to be part of something bigger than me. To be part of a team that has a chance to win. And I believe that the Lakers can do that.”
To this point, the results have been mixed. The Lakers have done their best to coax the best out of Drummond and help him fit in with his new teammates, but the process hasn’t exactly been seamless so far. And to be fair, Drummond’s own teammates expected growing pains as he adjusted to a winning situation. He’s still only played a handful of games alongside both LeBron James and Anthony Davis.
But quotes like the one above — and the ones Drummond gave throughout Fader’s feature — paint the picture of a player who just wants to belong, that desperately wants to contribute to winning after a career spent toiling away for perennial losers. It’s is also encouraging that he’s continually talked about sacrifice. Because while saying one is willing to sacrifice and doing it are two different things, Drummond’s statements suggest that he will be willing to take a backseat for the Lakers if winning requires it. That can be seen in the way he’s cheered from the bench every time he’s been sidelined down the stretch.
Drummond obviously wants to help on the floor, and the Lakers clearly don’t want to bench him preemptively, but there are reasons to believe he’s willing to sit, if it comes to that. And after watching JaVale McGee go from every-game starter to seven-foot cheerleader for much of the playoffs last season, there are reasons to believe Vogel will go away from something if it isn’t working.
But if Drummond theoretically did cause a problem, or just plain can’t help this team? Well, then the Lakers won’t keep a player they likely couldn’t have afforded to retain anyway in free agency this summer, anyway. The Drummond experiment is worth continuing a little longer, especially if he’s willing to sit down in matchups where he can’t help the Lakers win. Because he has skills, and it still seems like there are at least a few teams left he can make a difference against.
And if he can’t? Then it will be time for him to sacrifice.