On a Monday afternoon, Andre Drummond conducted his first press conference as a member of the Los Angeles Lakers.
Drummond will provide a timely shot of energy for the Lakers, who could use any infusion of talent with LeBron James (sprained ankle) and Anthony Davis (calf strain) sidelined.
As you might expect, the 27-year old center — averaging 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in 25 games — said all the right things from a Lakers perspective. Here are five takeaways from the two-time All-Star’s introductory Zoom.
1) He’s ready to go for the Lakers
“It’s been almost a month and 10-plus days since I last played, so you can imagine the hunger and excitement I have to play and step on the court,” he said. “This whole experience has been a crazy time for me. But definitely, a blessing for me to focus on myself and get myself prepared for the next opportunity.”
“I used this time to get myself in the best shape possible. I’ve lost about 10 pounds. I could play right now.”
Drummond said whether he’ll suit up Wednesday for the Lakers versus the Milwaukee Bucks is “something we’ll have to discuss.” He’ll formally practice for the first time as a Laker on Tuesday. I’d look for him to come strong out of the gates.
“For Draymond to do that for me – a friend of mine, I’ve known Draymond for years – for him to do that, go out and talk about it, was really cool on his part and I was definitely honored to have guys support me during the satiation.”
FWIW: Drummond had nothing but positive things to say about the Cavs organization on Monday.
2) He’s focused on the present
Unsurprisingly, Drummond deflected questions about his future beyond this season with the Lakers.
“For me, I’m just focused on wearing a Lakers jersey right now. When the time comes for the next decision, we’ll cross that bridge. But as of right now, my main focus is helping this team win as many games as possible.”
Drummond took less money for a chance to start for a Finals contender ahead of free agency. He signed with the Lakers for $794,536 — the exact amount he gave back to Cleveland after they bought out the remainder of his $28 million salary for 2020-21.
Andre Drummond has a message for the Lakers Family 💜💛 pic.twitter.com/qLblIuRUm3
— Los Angeles Lakers (@Lakers) March 29, 2021
3) He’s not trying to “steal anyone’s shine”
The addition of Drummond relegates center Marc Gasol, who has started in all 37 of his appearances for the Lakers (Gasol declined to speak to the media on Sunday.)
Montrezl Harrell has been playing himself into the NBA Sixth Man of the Year discussion, but his 25.3 minutes per game are set to take a hit on the Lakers. Markieff Morris (playing his best basketball right now) will see his run diminished, too.
These are all proud veterans, and Lakers coach Frank Vogel will have to sensitively divvy up minutes depending on matchups and mood.
Drummond, for his part, isn’t here to cause any friction.
“Yeah, it’s a discussion I’ve had already,” Drummond said about his place in the rotation. “I know what it is, he knows what it is, the team knows what it is. I’m just here to help in whatever capacity, I’m not here to steal anybody’s shine. Just here to help this team win as many games as possible.”
4) He understands his role
Years as an underqualified offensive focal point for lottery teams crippled Drummond’s shot-selection and efficiency stats. Now, when James and Davis return to the Lakers, Drummond will be asked to work as an overqualified role player for the first time in his 10-year career.
“For me, I’m just here to help in any capacity,” he said. “I think playing with those guys can really benefit my game. Be able to allow them to play their game and have a third person to cause havoc in the paint.”
The two sidelined stars and Vogel reportedly pitched Drummond on their vision of him jelling with James and Davis. On some nights, he’ll be the fourth or fifth option for the Lakers, and his primary offensive duties will be hard screening, diving, and catching lobs.
In the meantime, Drummond’s old habits may come in handy, as the short-handed Lakers need anyone who can put the ball in the basket.
Ultimately, his true impact may come on the defensive end. The seven-footer has proven to be an above-average rim-protector when he’s committed, and he sounds motivated to own the paint with the Lakers.
“I think for me personally, I could have an immediate impact defensively for this team. Speaking to coach today, my defensive game is gonna help this team out a lot. With my quick feet, quick hands, being able to recover and play 1 through 5. “I think our defense is going to be really crazy when those guys come back and I’m looking forward to it.”
He specifically cited the burden he could take off Davis when they share the floor.
“I think for me coming here, I think AD could slide to the 4 and play his true position without taking all the bumps and bruises I take at the 5,” he said. “I look forward to being on the same court as him.”
(In big playoff minutes for the Lakers, Davis will slide to the five and Drummond — a historically bad free-throw shooter — will sit.)
Furthermore, the Lakers are one of the best rebounding teams in basketball when healthy, especially when James and Kyle Kuzma are aggressive on the glass. Since Davis was hurt, though, the Lakers have slid out of the top-10 in both defensive and offensive rebounding.
“He’s a rebounding machine,” said Morris. “But he’s scored better than what people think. Reads the floor well. He does a lot on the defensive and offensive end.”
One key for the Lakers to steal a few games and maintain a top-six seed is with easy buckets — and they aren’t making open threes. Converting turnovers and misses into transition opportunities is imperative. Drummond will help in that department.
At full strength, getting a board off the Lakers might be next to impossible.
“I got somebody to battle with on the boards now,” Kuzma said on Sunday. “So, I think that’s something that’s really, really going to stand out. Especially when we get AD back. Me, him and Drummond and Bron fighting for the boards, it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be tough for other teams.”
5) Drummond is ready to win
“Coming here, it’s all about sacrificing and doing what’s best for the team because over here, we’re trying to win championships,” Kuzma said.
Understandably, Drummond is eager to buy into that culture with the Lakers and truly affect a serious playoff race. Drummond’s teams have qualified for the postseason just twice in his career. He has eight playoff games under his belt, and hasn’t played meaningful hoops since 2019.
“For me personally, just having that playoff experience, but not that success, it’s something I was hungry for,” he said.
“I’m not here to do anything besides win.”