Van Gundy not frustrated, but not patient, with Drummond’s FTs

James Hawkins
The Detroit News
Andre Drummond shoots a free throw during a game against the Hawks in March.

Auburn Hills – Coach Stan Van Gundy was blunt when he said Andre Drummond made the decision to bench him for the final 5:22 against the Bulls on Saturday an easy one.

Drummond shot 1-for-10 from the free-throw line, a dismal effort that followed a 2-for-10 performance against the Mavericks on Friday.

In the 23 games where he’s attempted at least 10 free throws, Drummond has shot 50 percent or better only five times. That includes Jan. 20 when he set an NBA single-game record with 23 missed free throws (13-for-36) in a win over the Rockets, topping the previous mark of 22 set by Wilt Chamberlain in 1967 that was matched by Clippers center DeAndre Jordan earlier this season.

For a team clinging onto the eighth and final playoff spot in the Eastern Conference, Drummond has left Van Gundy with no other choice but to sit one of the team’s best players and turn to reserve Aron Baynes to help close out critical games that go down to the wire.

“There’s nothing to get frustrated with,” Van Gundy said following the team’s practice on Monday. “(Drummond’s) going up to the line trying to make free throws. If he doesn’t, you make whatever adjustments you have to make and substitutions as a coach.

“Andre actually played well in the Chicago game. I thought he played really hard defensively. Free throws were a struggle and I didn’t figure we could give away possessions, so we got him out of the game, but I wasn’t frustrated.”

Van Gundy said he can’t pinpoint what’s led to Drummond’s recent troubles, whether it’s something to do with his mechanics, confidence or psyche.

“There’s a lot of things going on,” Van Gundy said.

Van Gundy added he was unsure if the mounting pressure to snap the franchise’s six-year postseason drought and reach the playoffs has had an impact or if it’s merely just another rough patch in a long line of rough patches.

“I don’t know about that. That’s hard to tell,” he said. “He’s had a lot of these stretches in two years I’ve been here so I would say no, but I don’t really know.”

Drummond is 19-for-61 (31.1 percent) from the stripe over the last 10 games and is shooting a career-worst 35.4 percent for the season. During that same span, Baynes is 28-for-31 (90.3 percent) and is connecting at 74.5 percent on the year.

The Monday Drive: Pistons finally relevant again late in season

“Aron is a good, solid player. We’ve been really happy with what he’s done all year and that’s why we went out and got him,” Van Gundy said.

“You see these problems coming up and we needed a guy who was a starting-caliber guy who could finish games, and Aron has certainly shown he can do that when he needs to.”

With five games to go and their magic number down to three, the Pistons (41-36) enter a back-to-back on the road against the Heat and Magic, where every single point in crunch time could loom large.

“Miami has won seven of their last eight home games, averaged over 110 (points) in those games and they had Dwyane Wade rested for the last two games, so I’ve seen that act before when he’s rested,” Van Gundy said.

“Then we play Orlando, who’s won four out of five and is averaging 118 in those five. With (Nikola) Vucevic back, they beat Chicago by 22 and won in Indiana by 20, so that’s what we’re up against and we better be ready because both of those teams are playing great basketball.”

Friendly wager

Two players who definitely will be tuned in to Monday night’s NCAA Tournament final between North Carolina and Villanova are Reggie Bullock and rookie Darrun Hilliard.

But there’s more than just bragging rights at stake. Bullock, who played at UNC from 2010-13, and Hilliard, who capped his four-year career at Villanova in 2015, have a wager on the game.

Neither Bullock nor Hilliard delved into specifics, but Bullock said it doesn’t involve clothing. Hilliard won a bet with Marcus Morris, who attended Kansas, earlier in the Tournament and Morris had to wear Hilliard’s college jersey during a practice.

“Nah, we ain’t going to wear each other’s jerseys,” Bullock said. “Just a little side bet we’re doing.”

Hilliard admitted he’s envious seeing Villanova reach the title game, especially being a year removed from the program.

“Yeah, I’m a little jealous, I ain’t going to lie,” Hilliard said. “I wish I could’ve did what they’ve done. They’re doing things I could never said I did. I could never say I went to the Final Four, never say I went to the national championship and I’m just happy for them.”

Hilliard added he hadn’t finalized any plans for the game, but they more than likely won’t include Bullock.

“I don’t know if I’m going to watch it with Reg. We might get into a fight or something. I don’t think that’s a good idea,” Hilliard said. “Me and Marcus might watch it somewhere cause he’s going for ‘Nova now since Kansas is out. I don’t know where we’ll watch it, but I don’t think I’m going to watch it with Reg cause it might get ugly.”

Pistons at Heat

Tip-off: 8 p.m. Tuesday, AmericanAirlines Arena, Miami

TV/radio: TNT/WMGC

Outlook: The Pistons hold a 2-0 advantage in the season series. … Dwyane Wade (19.2 points) and Hassan Whiteside (14.1 points, 11.8 rebounds) lead the Heat (44-32).

jhawkins@detroitnews.com

Twitter @jamesbhawkins