Auburn Hills — Center Andre Drummond doesn’t care he lost a fan following the Pistons’ 99-91 loss Tuesday night to the Indiana Pacers.
Drummond stands 6-foot-10 and weighs 270 pounds. Pacers center Roy Hibbert is 7-2 and 290. They fought for position and bumped and bruised one another in an old-school exchange that would have made Bill Laimbeer proud.
It was a wonderful inside battle that reminded you of the 1970s and 1980s in the NBA, when giant gladiators fought for position in the paint. There were some jabs during the game, but Hibbert saved the biggest one for after.
“To tell you the truth I was a fan of his until tonight,” Hibbert said Tuesday. “He is a real good prospect, but it seemed like he was running his mouth a little bit tonight. He has a tremendous future, but I was a fan of his. I thought he was supposed to have a breakout year this year. Best of luck to him. He can dunk the ball real well and he can block shots and he can rebound. He is going to have a bright future — but I was a fan of his.”
Hibbert doesn’t like yapping on the court. Drummond knows that and admits to trying to agitate him. It was nothing personal. He was simply doing his job and does not care that his fan club lost a member.
“If I lost a fan, I can’t be mad about it,” Drummond said. “If he complained about me talking, that is part of the game. I’m doing what I can do to get in his head, and it obviously worked because he noticed. So I was just trying to play my game and get into his.”
This is Drummond’s second season with the Pistons and he has a new style of basketball — it’s called “bust their head open.” It doesn’t mean being violent or malicious. But he is a happy-go-lucky guy off the court, and he can’t be that way on the court. He has been told he needs a tougher attitude.
Drummond is a nice guy who is learning to grit his teeth and fight for what belongs to him.
“My intention is not to knock somebody down,” Drummond said. “If somebody falls, they fall. I’m going for the blocked shot and not to hurt anybody.”
Hibbert said Drummond is going about it the wrong way. He did not like the trash talk but refused to say what angered him. Maybe it was Drummond standing up to a man that the league considers a star now in his fifth season. He helped the Pacers come within a game of unseating the Miami Heat in the playoffs, and his game has progressed to old-school toughness.
Hibbert finished with eight points, 10 rebounds and seven blocked shots. Drummond countered with six points, nine rebounds and just one block as foul trouble plagued him. He brought it strong and often fended off Hibbert with sharp pushes. Both were guilty of hand-to-hand combat.
Hibbert did not like the way Drummond played, but Pacers coach Frank Vogel did.
“The guy is a monster,” Vogel said of Drummond. “He’s taken a giant leap from year one to year two. A giant leap. I believe he has to be a candidate as to who is most improved player. I think he is somebody who has to be in the conversation. He looks like a different player. It looks like he was just getting his feet wet (last season), an athlete who wasn’t sure if he belonged in this league. This year he looks like a big-time player.”
Hibbert said he will remember the talk next time the two teams play.
“If he goes about his business a certain way, then I am going to go about my business a certain way,” Hibbert said. “And if he wants to go down that path and start it that way that’s fine. There is no love lost and the best to him.”
“My goal was to not make it easy for him,” Drummond said. “It was to make it harder to get his shots, like it will throughout the season. The jump hook I tried to bang him to get him off his spot — that is what we worked on in practice. If he is mad about that, then he needs to get used to it.”
The rematch is Dec. 16 in Indianapolis.