Team Hill's Andre Drummond of the Pistons dunks against Team Webber's Anthony Davis of the Pelicans during the Rising Stars Challenge. (Gerald Herbert / Associated Press)
New Orleans — From the opening moments of the Rookie Showcase, it was clear Andre Drummond had a little something extra for draft mate Anthony Davis, the first pick in the 2012 NBA draft.
Drummond tried to dunk on Davis, member of the host New Orleans Pelicans on the game’s first possession before being stripped on his way up by a defender. Another instance, he tried to back the lighter Davis down before being fouled.
For Drummond, it was the closest thing to Tiger Woods’ famous “Hello World” Nike commercial nearly two decades ago, as his 30 points and 25 rebounds in the showcase drew the attention of virtually everyone —especially Davis, who’s playing in the All-Star Game Sunday.
“Yeah, he was playing hard,” Davis said. “I was trying to save my legs for tomorrow, I didn’t want to use my energy and not having any for tomorrow.”
Drummond isn’t exactly toiling away in anonymity in Detroit, but he doesn’t have the benefit of playing on national TV every week, even if he’s long proven the predraft concerns about his game are completely unfounded.
Earning the respect amongst his peers is likely Drummond’s greatest victory from the weekend. He barely missed being selected as a reserve for the All-Star game (13.1 points, 13.0 rebounds, 1.9 blocks), and people are taking notice. No longer just one of the guys who has next, he’s pushing his way through the door quicker than anyone has expected.
“He’s up and coming. He’s not too far away from being in the Sunday game,” said Pacers All-Star forward Paul George. “His talent is off the roof. You saw it, 30 and 25, that’s putting up (Shaquille O’Neal) numbers. He’s got a bright future. He’s gonna be in the league a long time.”
George was the 10th pick in the 2010 NBA Draft, and it took a couple years before he emerged like a supernova in his third year, when he averaged 17.4 points and 7.6 rebounds as the Pacers advanced to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals.
The spot Drummond is in now, the road to stardom, is one George is familiar with. Every big game was a chance to introduce himself to those who didn’t know his name, and he had an extra gear of energy — like Drummond did Friday night.
“I was in the same position. And he’s gradually gonna get better,” George said. “He’s gonna learn. Just from being through experiences he’ll get better.”
Newly minted commissioner Adam Silver had his first performance in the big chair Saturday, filling the gigantic shoes left by the equally loved and hated David Stern, who stepped down on Feb. 1.
Safe to say, his stated intentions imply he’s ushering in a new day — referring to extending the age limit by another year, going forward with the sleeved jerseys and in the future, placing ads on NBA jerseys, much in the mold of soccer uniforms.
“It is my belief that if players have an opportunity to mature as players and as people, for a longer amount of time before they come into the league, it will lead to a better league,” Silver said.
He conveniently pointed out basketball is a team sport, making it more difficult to assess pro prospects than golf and tennis, where players can turn into a professional whenever they’re good enough.
How about teams being better at talent evaluation rather than leaning on a “one and done” rule in college? Certainly the league is getting younger, and players who come into the game with four years college experience have a scarlet letter of sorts on their foreheads, but an extra year of college likely won’t prepare them any more than a single collegiate season.
Unless Silver is doing anything about the NCAA keeping kids broke, and enforcing ridiculous rules with enormous penalties for the interchangeable “student-athletes,” then his suggestion falls on deaf ears.
There’s nothing wrong with wanting a better product on the floor, but Silver also fails to mention much of the anticipation surrounding this summer’s NBA Draft revolves around … one-and-done collegians.
The NBA can’t have it both ways, and truth be told, the ratio of successes to failures of those young players is more even than lopsided. Enforcing old stereotypes about young players being too immature — which at times they can be — is more unfair than encouraging meaningful conversation.
It was the most definitive talking point of his initial presser, as Silver referenced it without being prompted by the media, which means it’s certainly a point of emphasis whenever collective bargaining reopens — one hopes it’s more posturing than strategy.
For Silver to deal with anyone, the player’s union must select a new executive director to replace fired Billy Hunter, who left the union with a mess.
After a two and a half hour meeting, the union emerged with two candidates, according to a union source — David White, former director of the Screen Actors’ Guild — and attorney Michelle Roberts, from Washington D.C.
No decision was made, and the source was cautiously optimistic after both candidates put forth 30-minute presentations to the union. Neither have any sports experience, but the source said Roberts was impressive.