Drummond lifts Pistons in preseason opener

AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — There’s no anointing or Hall of Fame predicting going on right now, but it’s safe to say that Pistons rookie Andre Drummond is a very exciting prospect — a player unlike any they’ve had in a while.

The 19-year-old was the Pistons’ first-round draft pick this past June.

On Wednesday night, Drummond got his first game action, albeit the preseason, and his putback with 35 seconds remaining lifted the Pistons to a 101-99 victory over the Toronto Raptors.

Drummond entered the game for Greg Monroe with 2:50 left in the first quarter and quickly played to his strengths.

His first points came when he rebounded a Charlie Villanueva miss and laid the ball in.

Drummond scored his next basket on an alley-oop pass from Will Bynum, the first of three in the game.

“We’ve got a guy who can play above the rim, which we haven’t had in years,” Bynum said. “It makes the game that much more easy, just his presence out there on the court.”

At the beginning of the second quarter, Drummond had his first blocked shot, elevating his entire upper body above the rim.

“He blocked it like it was dropped from the building. I was looking for a cord,” coach Lawrence Frank said.

Drummond said he was more excited about his blocks than his alley-oop dunks.

“I’d definitely say blocking a shot because that turns into an extra possession for us,” Drummond said. “That’s when I get the dunks. Without the blocked shot, I get no dunk.”

Drummond finished with 12 points on 6-of-8 shooting, seven rebounds, two steals and two blocked shots in 22:37.

“He’s a finisher,” Frank said. “We have a guy who can dunk. That’s an added bonus. We’re able to throw it up and he can go get it.

“I thought our guards did a very good job of finding him. I thought it was a good first performance for him.”

Drummond acknowledged he had some nerves before the game.

“My teammates saw that, but they talked to me before the game,” Drummond said. “They said, just play the game, do the things you need to do, help us on the defensive end and things will start coming to you.

“When I got in the game, I just played hard, ran the floor, blocked shots and grabbed rebounds. Things started going my way.”

Drummond is going to be a nice complement to Monroe, whose game is the opposite of Drummond’s above-the-rim style and sheer athleticism.

Monroe started and had 17 points and 10 rebounds for his first double-double. He was impressed with his young teammate.

“I think he played real well,” Monroe said. “He did all the things coaches asked him to do, run the floor, rebound, blocked a couple shots, finished strong in the paint.

“It’s his first time in real NBA action. He did really good.”

Every game is not going to be like that for Drummond. At the NBA level, every player is talented, and there are quite a few big men who have plenty of tricks up their sleeves.

Plus there are long road trips and far many more games than you play in college. It can be grueling, especially for a rookie who is trying to learn the NBA game.

Frank isn’t too worried about the expectations of Drummond. He said it would be a long process, like it is for most rookies.

“Anyone can do it once in a while,” Frank said. “You don’t get to this league without talent. What usually separates players is the ability, one, to fight through fatigue and have greater will than skill; two, is the consistency of doing what you do — whatever your job is — and doing it every single night.”

Frank would probably have been pleased to hear what Drummond said after the game.

“Tomorrow, I got to get better,” he said. “Today’s over.”

One solid preseason game does not make you an NBA All-Star, but this one offered a glimpse of what could be an important, impact player for the Pistons in the not-too-distant future.