Auburn Hills – It was a moment Andre Drummond and his mom talked about since he was drafted out of Connecticut with the Pistons’ ninth overall pick in 2012.
On Thursday night, all those discussions came to fruition when Drummond was selected to his first All-Star Game as an Eastern Conference reserve.
“(My mom) was real excited for me,” Drummond said after the team’s shoot-around prior to Friday’s game against the Cleveland Cavaliers. “For this day to come four years into my career, she wasn’t expecting it to be this early and nor was I. It’s a big surprise for both of us.”
Drummond is averaging career-highs in points (17.3) and rebounds (15.2) per game and has played a key role for the Pistons, who are on track to snap a six-year playoff drought and finish above .500 for the first time in seven seasons. Entering Friday’s game, the Pistons hold the No. 6 seed in the East with a 25-21 record.
“I’ve been through the whole rebuilding part,” said Drummond, who leads the league with 38 double-doubles and 20 games with at least 15 points and 15 rebounds. “Things are starting to turn around for us and good things like this are starting to happen for us.
“A lot of faith came from my teammates, coaching staff and ownership. They believed in me and I gave my all.”
Although he wasn’t voted as an East starter by the fans, Drummond was humbled to be picked by league coaches to play in the exhibition at Toronto’s Air Canada Centre on Feb. 14, making him the first Pistons All-Star since Allen Iverson in 2009 and first player drafted by the franchise to earn the honor since Grant Hill in 2000.
“It feels good to know that they really recognize the hard work I’ve put in and work my team put in winning games,” he said. “Without winning games, there would be no All-Star Game for me.”
Drummond, 22, added he was one of those kids who grew up watching the All-Star Game each year. And after seeing his friends and former UConn players take part, he wanted to be one of those guys.
“Me and my mom would always talk about one day it’ll come. Just keep playing hard, keep working hard and last night that day finally came,” Drummond said. “It’s like we finally did it, but we can’t settle. We got to do it again.”
Jackson left out
Pistons guard Reggie Jackson made a solid case to earn his first All-Star nod, averaging 19.3 points and 6.5 assists in his first full year as a starter. But he failed to make the cut due to a logjam at the guard position in the East.
“I talked to him this morning to see how he was and he’s fine. He didn’t expect to make it,” coach Stan Van Gundy said. “I think with Andre making it, we weren’t going to get two people. And there’s a lot of good point guards in the East.”
Van Gundy said while Jackson has reason to be disappointed, so do others like Atlanta Hawks’ Jeff Teague, Charlotte Hornets’ Kemba Walker, Chicago Bulls’ Pau Gasol and Cavaliers’ Kevin Love.
“There’s always eight or nine guys you can make a pretty solid case for that they should be on the All-Star team,” he said. “In baseball, every team has to have somebody. There’s 15 teams in the conference and we only pick 12 guys. It’s a hard All-Star Game to make, which makes it a great honor and also means a lot of worthy people are going to get left out.”
Praising Big Ben
The time LeBron James and Ben Wallace spent as teammates on the Cavaliers was brief, but it didn’t stop James from watching the Pistons retire Wallace’s No. 3 jersey on Jan. 16.
Wallace was part of a three-team, 11-player blockbuster trade that sent him and Joe Smith from the Chicago Bulls and the Seattle SuperSonics’ Wally Szczerbiak
and Delonte West to the Cavs in February 2008. Wallace helped the Cavs reach the Eastern Conference semifinals that year and the Eastern Conference finals the following season before returning to Detroit to finish out his career.
“He was great. One of the best guys, one of the best competitors,” James said before the Cavs morning shoot-around. “Smart guy, very cerebral and you can understand why size didn’t matter to him at all. He’s still to this day a good friend of mine.
“I sat at home and watched the whole thing; every speech all the way till the banner went up into the rafters. It was great. I got so much respect for him.”