AUBURN HILLS, Mich. (AP) — Andre Drummond has his huge contract with Detroit, and an extra season of waiting seems to have worked out fine.
The Pistons finalized their five-year contract for $130 million with the NBA rebounding leader, and they held a news conference with Drummond on Friday. Stan Van Gundy, Detroit’s coach and team president, said Drummond’s willingness to wait a little while before receiving this deal gave the team the flexibility needed to acquire other players.
"I think it goes to Andre’s character, his true commitment to the Detroit Pistons — beyond just getting the contract," Van Gundy said.
Drummond was a restricted free agent, but the Pistons were able to keep him with this new maximum contract. Detroit could exceed the salary cap this offseason to sign Drummond because he was already playing for the Pistons — but if they had given the 6-foot-11 center this deal last offseason, it would have used up valuable cap space.
Detroit traded for Tobias Harris during the 2015-16 season and made the playoffs for the first time since 2009. The Pistons have also signed free agents Ish Smith, Jon Leuer and Boban Marjanovic this offseason.
Van Gundy said the Pistons couldn’t have done all that if they hadn’t been able to wait on Drummond’s deal.
"We either, number one, wouldn’t have been able to do Tobias Harris during the year," Van Gundy said. "Or, if we had done Tobias, we wouldn’t have been able to add the people that we added this summer."
Detroit drafted Drummond out of UConn with the No. 9 pick in 2012, and he made an immediate impact with his size and athleticism. The 22-year-old Drummond led the league in rebounding last season and averaged a career-high 16.2 points per game.
It’s been clear for a while that Drummond could be a cornerstone for the Detroit franchise — the type of player that’s been hard for the Pistons to acquire via free agency. The question was when this type of contract would get done. There was some risk for Drummond in waiting, but he made it through last season healthy.
"I wanted to take that chance at making my team better," Drummond said. "At the end of the day, the money will be there."
Van Gundy said the relationship between Drummond and owner Tom Gores was an important factor in the way the situation unfolded.
"It’s been a pleasure to watch Andre from the time he first came into the league to where he is today, having matured into this incredible talent. Beyond his evolution as a basketball player, it’s been equally rewarding watching him mature as a young man," Gores said in a statement. "Andre has the character and dedication to help our franchise achieve greatness. I’m proud of him and his family, the way they’ve embraced Detroit and the way Detroit has embraced them."
The only major problem with Drummond’s offensive game is his sub 40 percent free throw shooting, which has caused Van Gundy to bench him late in games. The league is changing the rules on deliberate away-from-the-play fouls — owners agreed to extend the prohibition on the fouls from the last two minutes of the game to the last two minutes of each period.
"I’m going to try real hard not to get fined here," Van Gundy said. "I’ll just say, I don’t think it changed a whole lot, and we never counted on it changing a whole lot."
NOTES: Van Gundy said second-round draft pick Michael Gbinije is still on track to compete at the Olympics for Nigeria despite a sprained right ankle that kept him out most of summer league.