Pistons coach Dwane Casey meets the media Tuesday in Ann Arbor. Clarence Tabb Jr., The Detroit News
Ann Arbor — For most fans, it started as just a passing fancy, with Andre Drummond taking some casual 3-pointers during halftime, passing the time before the third quarter began.
It was striking to see the 6-foot-10 center toy around with long jump shots, given the other holes in his game. After all, in his first five seasons, he had only shot more than 40 percent from the free-throw line once.
“Shoot some free throws,” a fan would inevitably yell from the stands.
Drummond generally shook off the criticism, tinkering with another part of his game that then-coach Stan Van Gundy never felt comfortable with unleashing. In his career, Drummond has made only five of his 30 3-point attempts.
That’s going to change this season.
Drummond is an element to his game, buoyed by a significant commitment to shooting 3-pointers in the offseason. It became a staple of his summer workouts — and with new coach Dwane Casey’s encouragement, Drummond could add to his offensive skill set.
“It’s something I’ve worked on my entire career and it’s not something I’m going to start jacking up randomly,” Drummond said Monday at media day. “There are going to be opportunity 3s and he’s given me the green light to shoot it if someone backs off me.
“My free throws are going to continue to get better; I made a great jump from last season. I’ve had (the 3-pointer) for six years but never had a coach that allowed me to shoot it. It’s something I’ve worked on consistently for a long time. Now is my time to really showcase it.”
Drummond said he shoots about 1,000 3-pointers in practice and hits about 40 percent. That’s still around his career free-throw percentage, which rose after he hit 61 percent last season. He’s been working on his form and release on jump shots, which has led to consistency in his 3-point shooting.
Casey has given Drummond the green light, just as he did with 7-foot center Jonas Valanciunas in recent years with the Toronto Raptors. It doesn’t mean that there’s going to be a flurry of fadeaways and Steph Curry-esque pull-ups on the horizon.
“He understands that he has the opportunity if he’s open. He’s worked his behind off with it. Teams are going to disrespect you like that,” Casey said. “Is he going to become Reggie Miller or Ray Allen? No.
“It’s about spacing and taking advantage of the analytical game. I learned that the hard way. It does open up the floor — two or three 3s a game is not out of the realm of possibility for Andre.”
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In Tuesday’s first day of training camp, Drummond finished the first session with a round of 3-pointers and didn’t look bad, as he knocked down most of his attempts. Translating that to game speed consistently, with a defender running at him, will be the next step in developing it.
Beyond his on-court improvement, Drummond is looking to expand his skill set and add more fire and intensity. One step toward that was doing some work with legendary big man Kevin Garnett, which he did during the summer, along with Henry Ellenson.
It paid dividends, making Drummond more hungry and enlightened about ways that he can improve his game.
“Working with KG is very intense. Everybody sees him on the court and knows his intensity — imagine doing that in the gym by yourself with the same intensity and screaming and yelling,” Drummond said. “It was great; I had a really good time. He showed me a lot of things I can add to my game and things I can take out to get to the basket quicker and some pointers on the mental aspect of the game to stay engaged and stay ready to go.”
It’s a lot for Drummond to process. He has led the league in rebounding two of the past three seasons and posted a career-best 3 assists last season. With his 3-point exploits taking him farther away from the rim, it could get difficult to put it all together and maintain the level of production he’s had.
He doesn’t see much difficulty in it — the key will be leaning on the staples that distinguish him and then adding in the others gradually.
“For me, it’s just figuring it out. I’m going to continue to do things that I’m great at first before adding those things earlier in the season: pick-and-roll, block shots, rebounds and offensive rebounds first,” Drummond said, “and as the season goes on, as I get more comfortable with it, I’ll start to add those in.”
That’ll now include 3-pointers, which Casey predicts could be about two or three a game.
As for the first game, Drummond is eager to get things started. When asked if he’ll try a 3-pointer in the opener, his reply: “Absolutely.”