Atlanta — For Pistons center Andre Drummond, the crux of his offseason workout plan was about honing his offensive game and trying to make strides as he begins his fourth season.
During the summer, that workload included hundreds of free throws and intense work on his inside offensive moves. He’s shown some deft touch on baby hook shots with either the right or left hand, as well as a pump fake to keep defenders off balance.
Some of those moves were on display in the Pistons’ first two games, a win in the season opener on Tuesday night and Wednesday night’s 92-87 win over the Utah Jazz.
Drummond was tested in both games, facing the Hawks’ Al Horford and Jazz big man Rudy Gobert. The results were mixed, as Drummond finished with 18 points and 19 rebounds in the opener and followed with 18 points and 10 rebounds against the Jazz.
But the eye test showed that he still isn’t completely comfortable in the paint — at least not yet.
“In the beginning of the game, I was rushing the shots I was taking,” Drummond said Tuesday. “The defense (Horford) was playing was different; he was baiting me into trying to dip my shoulders and get off balance. I started to get adjusted and figuring it out.”
Drummond didn’t have rhythm on his hooks and hurried to get his shots off, not finishing with the right balance to help them fall. He finished 6-of-16 from the field but had 11 points in the critical third quarter, which helped the Pistons pull away against the Hawks.
He was a bit more measured on Wednesday, going 5-of-11 from the field.
More surprising has been Drummond’s success at the free-throw line. After converting 6 of 10 attempts in the opener, he hit his first six and finished 8-of-11 on Wednesday. The eight made free throws are one off his career high.
After shooting 39 percent from the line last season — his career high is a measly 42 percent in 2013-14 — he’s vowed to work on that part of his game, so that he can stay on the floor late in games and not become a liability.
“He makes six in the first half and shot three that didn’t look good at all then he comes back and hits two big ones,” Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy said. “It’s great for him to be 8-for-11; we’re seeing that in practice and it’s nice to see him bring it into the game — especially to do it at a crucial time like that was huge.”
Drummond has worked with shooting coach Dave Hopla to improve his mechanics on free throws, and the benefits are starting to show in the first two games, as he’s combined to go 14-of-21 (67 percent).
“Dave’s worked with him every day and Andre’s put in a lot of time. Those two have spent a lot of time together,” Van Gundy said. “It’s just having the confidence and going up and shooting it the same way every time.”
For Drummond, the early returns are positive, but he knows that he’ll have to continue to work and make the free-throw motion automatic so that it’s more instinctive than mechanical.
“I’ve been working on that since May so it’s really good to see how it’s coming through,” Drummond said. “I’m not really thinking much at the line, just shooting the shot we’ve been working on all summer. I missed a couple but started stringing them out.”
Drummond is regarded as one of the best rebounders in the league, but he’ll continue to work on his offensive production to augment his board work.
Although he has established some personal goals, Drummond insists that the team goals and turning around franchise into a playoff team are more important in his mind.
These two wins were just the first steps in the process.