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Cavaliers sitting ex-Piston Andre Drummond while pursuing trade for him

Tom Withers
Associated Press

Cleveland — Andre Drummond is on the trade block — and the bench.

The two-time All-Star center will be inactive for upcoming games as the Cleveland Cavaliers, who are struggling badly after a solid start and are intent on playing newly acquired center Jarrett Allen, try to deal Drummond.

Cleveland Cavaliers' Andre Drummond, left, shoots over Detroit Pistons' Mason Plumlee in the first half of an NBA basketball game, Wednesday, Jan. 27, 2021, in Cleveland.

Coach J.B. Bickerstaff said the decision to sit Drummond, one of the NBA’s leading rebounders at 13.5 per game, was difficult.

“Sometimes you’re forced into difficult positions that’s not easy to navigate, but in respect to Dre and all that he’s done and accomplished and as much as he’s helped us, we thought this was the fairest thing to do for him,” Bickerstaff said before the Cavs closed out a rough road trip Monday night at Golden State.

After the team met with Drummond and his agent, he was kept out Sunday’s game — the team called it “rest” — against the Los Angeles Clippers. Drummond will continue to stay on the sideline while the team tries to find a trade partner.

Bickerstaff said the Cavs will decide if the 27-year-old will remain around his teammates amid trade talks in the coming days.

The Cavs are shopping Drummond in advance of the March 25 trading deadline, and a person familiar with the team’s activity told the AP there is “nothing imminent” as far as a deal. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the talks.

Allen was acquired last month along with forward Taurean Prince, and the Cavs view the 6-foot-11 center as a core player moving forward. Drummond, on the other hand, is in the final year of a contract that will pay him $28.7 million this season, and there was no way the Cavs were going to be able to re-sign him as a free agent.

“None of us wanted it to come to this,” Bickerstaff said. “We had a good relationship. He liked it here in Cleveland. So, it’s not something that was easily decided upon and obviously we felt the same way about Dre. We have nothing but great things to say about him.

“A lot of our early success was on his back — on both ends of the floor. We tried to make it work to the extent of trying to play those guys together, but it just didn’t work out and again it’s not easy, more so than the basketball, the human-being aspect of it because I genuinely care about Dre and have a good relationship with him and so that makes it even more difficult.”

As the Cavs lost their seventh straight game Sunday, Drummond sat on Cleveland’s bench wearing a sweatshirt that had “Farewell” written on the front.

With Drummond leading the way, the Cavs started well — they were 8-7 on Jan. 22 — but have plummeted in the standings by losing 11 of 13.

Cleveland was beaten Sunday 128-111 by the Clippers, who were without stars Kawhi Leonard and Paul George because of injuries.

Although he has known his days with Cleveland were likely numbered, Drummond has continued to encourage his teammates. But after he played only 17 minutes on Friday in Portland and 16 in a previous loss at Denver, it became clear the Cavs were moving forward with giving Allen the majority of playing time.

Drummond’s age and ability to post double-doubles almost every game make him attractive to teams. But with the NBA’s focus on shooting 3-pointers, a player like Drummond — a prototypical center — can be viewed as a liability.

Bickerstaff experimented with Drummond and Allen playing together, but it didn’t work as the Cavs were consistently outscored on the perimeter. It hasn’t helped that five-time All-Star Kevin Love has played in only two games because of a calf strain.

Love has been progressing in rehab and could return soon.

Bickerstaff said he’s not worried about Drummond’s awkward situation being a distraction to the young Cavs.

“Again, it’s a matter of how you treat people, and that’s the environment that’s more important,” he said. “It’s not always going to be easy but you hope that the way that you treated them leading up to the difficult times, they understand where you’re coming from and who you are as an organization.

“It will impact each individual differently but we have to do our best to continue to build those relationships with all the guys and continue to hope that they buy into each other and what we’re trying to get done here.”