Auburn Hills — If there's anyone with a cure to Andre Drummond's recent woes, perhaps it is the coach from the other side of Wednesday's game, New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams.
Williams was an assistant coach with USA Basketball last summer, when they won the gold at the FIBA Basketball World Cup in Spain. Drummond's lack of playing time led to the two bonding — over daily wind sprints, no less.
"Yeah, I thought Dre was tremendous this summer," Williams said. "We spent a lot of time together. We ran a lot of sprints together and spent a lot of time talking, especially when he wasn't getting playing time early."
Drummond was coming off a strong second season, when many believed he was on the cusp of stardom, but he was the low man on the totem pole, playing behind Pelicans forward Anthony Davis, Denver Nuggets forward Kenneth Faried and Sacramento Kings center DeMarcus Cousins.
When the frustration of not playing began to wear on Drummond, he sought out Williams for counsel.
"I was able to talk to him about being a professional, learning how to deal with it," Williams said. "When he did get his chance to play, he opened up a lot of eyes. He was a guy we felt like we had to have on the squad. Worried about the bigs we may face."
Even though the situation never materialized to make Drummond a big contributor, he still took advantage of Williams' advice on how to prepare himself for the next season.
"Monty was great. He saw that I really wasn't playing that much but I enjoyed playing hard and I wanted to continue getting better," Drummond said.
"I pulled him aside one day and really asked him, what can I do to be better? Even if I'm not playing, what can I do to be better for when my season does come, that I'm prepared and ready to go?"
So Williams, who played for nine years (1994-2003), would work with Drummond before and after every practice, helping him develop his jump hook that appears to be the best move in Drummond's offensive arsenal thus far — then going through the grueling act of sprints.
Drummond's spirit and his speed impressed Williams.
"In that situation you learn a ton. With Dre he went through some adversity but he didn't stop working," Williams said. "He got down a little bit but he'd bounce right back. He was never a problem. We spent a lot of time together, just talking about how to handle certain situations.
"I just thought he was a really cool person to be around. You spend a lot of time running sprints, I didn't realize he was that fast. It's amazing a guy that big can move like that."
Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy would love to have Drummond's energy re-emerge, as it's been missing in action for the last several games — to the point where Van Gundy is pondering a lineup change to help with the slow starts.
"It's four games in a row where he hasn't brought a lot to the game," said Van Gundy of Drummond, who's averaging just 7.5 rebounds over the last four games. "And we need him, obviously. He hasn't given us a whole lot. Tonight (Wednesday) he didn't rebound. So we just sat him down."
Van Gundy certainly doesn't want to panic, and removing Drummond from the starting lineup would be extreme, but how would it fly in the locker room if Van Gundy pulled someone else from the starting lineup who doesn't have an energy problem?
It's a delicate balance, for sure, but it doesn't leave Van Gundy with many options aside from bringing Jodie Meeks to the starting lineup — except shooting guard Kentavious Caldwell-Pope is known for his energy.
It has Brandon Jennings pondering the prospect of being more aggressive early, which could be a dangerous proposition, especially since he wants to keep his teammates involved but wants to quell the slow starts.
"We all know what Andre is capable of doing," Jennings said. "He's the type that gets 15 (points) and 20 (rebounds) without having plays called for him. Andre has to get with himself and talk about it. I'm gonna try to talk to him, of course. We need him."
Maybe Williams can run Drummond through some wind sprints — or send him some smelling salts.
Pistons at Pacers
TV/radio: FSD/105.1 FM
Tip-off: 7 p.m. Friday, Bankers Life Fieldhouse, Indianapolis
Outlook: The Pacers have lost three of their last four games. ... Pistons F Greg Monroe is averaging 19.2 points and 13 rebounds in his last five games.