Joel Embiid on Andre Drummond: ‘He doesn’t play any defense’

Rod Beard
The Detroit News
Philadelphia 76ers center Joel Embiid is defended by Detroit Pistons center Andre Drummond during the second half.

Detroit — Two of the best young centers in the NBA traded shots on Monday night on the court, as the Pistons’ Andre Drummond and the Philadelphia 76ers Joel Embiid faced off for the first time at Little Caesars Arena.

Embiid, the 7-foot behemoth, is finally healthy enough to play consistently after sitting out his first two seasons and he notched just 31 games last season. He made a statement, posting 30 points and nine rebounds in the Sixers’ 97-86 win Monday, but he lobbed some more shots after the game, calling out Drummond’s defense.

Embiid told the Philadelphia Inquirer’s Keith Pompey that he prepared for Drummond by watching extra game video — and saw some holes in Drummond’s game.

“Defensively, he doesn’t play any defense,” Embiid told Pompey. “When we started the game, he was being aggressive and he was talking, too.

“So I was like (in my mind), ‘You want to do that? I’m going to kick your (butt) then.’ So that’s what I did.”

Embiid showed the versatility in his game, shooting 11-of-15 from the field, including a 3-pointer, and mixing his game between the perimeter and the paint. The Pistons had trouble guarding Embiid, as well as 6-foot-10 point-forward Ben Simmons, who posted a triple-double in his fourth career game: 14 points, 12 rebounds and 10 assists.

According to Embiid, the trash talk started early from Drummond and continued throughout the game, ramping up as the second half wore on. Drummond denied that assertion, saying he didn’t talk any more than any normal game.

“Everybody knows me — I talk (trash) to everybody; it’s just what I do,” Drummond said after Tuesday’s practice. “I don’t say anything extra to anybody. I talk the same to everybody, whether you’re my friend or anybody else.

“I don’t say anything extra because it’s Joel Embiid; I don’t need to do that. I just speak the way I speak. If he felt some type of way, that’s on him.”

Embiid has been a bit brash, winning fans with his personality and presence on social media, and Drummond acknowledged how difficult it was to guard Embiid for the first time, having only video to break down. Drummond said he figured things out better in the second half.

“You never know what you’re going to get when you’re guarding him. You never know if he’s going to turn and face-up and shoot or drive the basketball,” said Drummond, who had 14 points and 14 rebounds. “You have to be on your toes when you’re guarding him. He’s been in the league four years and only played 34 games, so you don’t know what to expect when you play against a guy like that.

“When you only see him on film, you don’t know what it’s like to actually play him. That first half was tough to get adjusted to him, but the second half, I did a better job on him.”

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Pistons coach Stan Van Gundy called Drummond’s defense on Embiid “mixed” with some positive points and some areas for improvement. The bigger issue was the team concept of defense, which didn’t go according to plan.

“Andre prevented him from getting the ball several times and got some steals on entry passes,” Van Gundy said. “We turned them over 21 times and Embiid had seven of those turnovers.

“He was 11-for-15 and shot the ball very well. We gave him too many easy buckets and there are plays that Andre watched that were too easy. There were some possessions that you’re doing (bad) things defensively too.”

The back-and-forth will fester for a few more weeks, until the second meeting this season, in Philadelphia, which Drummond already has circled on his calendar.

“See you Dec. 2,” Drummond posted on Twitter.