When Andre Drummond signed with the Los Angeles Lakers in March, the hope was that he and Anthony Davis would form one of the most formidable front court pairings in the NBA. Unfortunately, due to a combination of injuries and a lack of time for them to develop any real chemistry on the court, that didn’t happen. In fact, Drummond wasn’t even on the court when the Lakers were facing elimination in Game 6.
Those factors, in conjunction with the fact that the Lakers won’t be able to make a competitive offer for Drummond in free agency, may lead one to believe that Drummond has played his last game in the purple and gold, and rightfully so. But Frank Vogel is still holding out onto hope that Drummond was more than just a half-season rental for his team.
“Dre was great for us,” Vogel said on Friday. “Let me start by saying that. We’re hopeful that he’s a Laker for a long time. He played well for us, and was a good culture fit. He fit in well with the guys and was very well-liked. We just ... We said it all all along: We were concerned about how much time we would have to build the cohesion necessary for the playoffs, and with AD being out and Bron really only getting two games with Drum before the playoffs began, we just didn’t have that time to build the cohesiveness that we wanted.
“And with our backs against the wall, our team struggling to score with AD out, we looked in another direction for offense, both with Marc starting to pull Ayton away from the basket, and we got a proven scorer in Montrezl Harrell that we decided to go to.
“But it wasn’t by anything that Drum did wrong. It was just trying to open up our offense and give ourselves the best chance to win, and my conversation with Drum was like ‘let’s do what we feel like is best to survive this series, and then continue to play out the vision that we have for you going forward in the playoffs.’ But we weren’t able to get past that Game 6.”
Vogel’s opinion of Drummond is important, but it’s not the most important one. Rob Pelinka, the team’s vice president of basketball operations and general manager, is the man that will be tasked with re-tooling — or, in this case, retaining — the talent on the roster and he was happy with what he saw from Drummond both on and off the court.
“Andre Drummond is a great young player,” Pelinka said on Friday. “Obviously he’s a couple years removed from being an All-Star. I had the privilege of representing him as his agent for a number of years and knew what he stood for: knew his character, knew his commitment to being a team player and putting the team first. And just his ability to rebound the ball and protect the rim and give us athleticism and size in the paint was an essential ingredient to add to the team, and something that we would do again and again.
“I think Andre’s time here was really good. We had a great exit interview today, and just talked about the fact that of course he had a couple months where he didn’t play, so when he got here there was a process of onboarding and getting in shape and getting acclimated to the guys. But we’re proud of some of the big games and big moments he had along the way, both in the regular season and the playoffs, and really appreciate his choosing the Lakers and the contributions he made to us.”
Does that mean Drummond will be back with the Lakers next season? No, because as an unrestricted free agent, Drummond will have the ability to choose his next team and, from a financial perspective, there will probably be better opportunities for him. But if for some reason he is interested in coming back, we’ll know that the interest is mutual.