Andre Drummond cares about winning, not stats -- although his are impressive

LOS ANGELES -- Andre Drummond sat in front of his locker with his head down.

It had been 40 minutes since the Los Angeles Clippers beat the Detroit Pistons on Saturday, and Drummond was the last one left in the visiting locker room at Staples Center, which had quickly cleared out with the team staying in Los Angeles for the night.

Drummond, however, was in no rush to leave -- even after Pistons owner Tom Gores appeared and gave him a hug, then instructed anyone within earshot to behave in Hollywood. Drummond smiled politely but didn't move while equipment managers cleaned up around his 6-foot-11, 279-pound frame.

Nearly an hour after the game, Drummond finally looked up and raised his eyebrows at the lone reporter in the room, and then shook his head.

Drummond had finished with 18 points and 19 rebounds, but a gaudy stat line -- now commonplace for him -- doesn't mean much to him in a losing effort.

Drummond is off to a historic start this season, averaging 18.5 points and 19 rebounds per game. He is the first player since Kareem Abdul-Jabbar in 1975-76 to record at least 185 points and 190 rebounds through the first 10 games of a season. He is also the first player since Wilt Chamberlain in 1970-71 to average at least 20 points and 20 rebounds through the first six games of a season.

"It's a cool accomplishment, but I'd rather win games," Drummond said. "That's all I want to do -- win games. Stats will come. That's the player I am. But I would rather win games. It looks cool if you're averaging 20 and 20, but if you're losing games, it's not the same feeling."

Despite being just 22 years old and in his fourth season in the league, Drummond talks about winning with the same urgency as a veteran chasing an elusive title at the end of his career. After three losing seasons to start his NBA journey, Drummond is more interested in building a winner than anything else.

He proved that last summer when he agreed not to pursue the contract extension for which he was eligible. Because of that, the Pistons will have an additional $13 million in salary-cap space to pursue free agents next summer before they make Drummond the highest-paid player in franchise history.

"I want to help this team out, and I want to win," he said, "so it was an easy decision to make."

It also shows that Drummond has bought into the long-term plan of Pistons head coach and president of basketball operations Stan Van Gundy.

"It showed his commitment to winning," said Van Gundy, the fourth head coach of Drummond's young career. "When he looks at the facts and sees we're going to have almost an additional $13 million to spend to build our roster even more, that's important. I think that's a great sign for a guy's commitment to winning."

It was clear to the Pistons early in offseason that their young center was primed to blossom. Drummond worked out on both coasts with multiple trainers under the watchful eye of the team.

"He did everything, but it was really driven by him," Van Gundy said. "He wanted to work, and really all we did was made sure we had coaches with him all the time. Our staff spent a lot of time with him. [Assistant coach] Malik Allen and our assistant strength coach Jordan Sabourin were with him virtually all the time. He just worked on very basic things -- footwork in the low post, things like that. He put in a lot of time, and he got himself in great shape."

For a guy who loves being on the computer and eating pizza, it wasn't always easy. But Drummond realized that if he craved to play on a winner, he had to put in the effort.

"I wanted to get in shape early," Drummond said. "I also wanted to work on my back-to-the-basket game and free throws. I just wanted to get mentally and physically prepared for a long, grueling season. It starts with me, and I wanted to be ready."

It hasn't taken long for the rest of the league to take notice of Drummond, who averaged more than 13 points and 13 rebounds per game over the past two seasons. Although free throws remain a weakness (he is shooting 40.3 percent from the line, actually a slight improvement over last season), Drummond leads the league in rebounding, points in the paint, second-chance points and double-doubles.

"He is taking his game to a whole new stratosphere," Kobe Bryant said Sunday after Drummond registered 17 points and 17 rebounds in the Pistons' 97-85 loss to the Lakers. "I told him before the game just to keep going. It's amazing. I feel like you've done a good job if you're getting 17 rebounds. That's crazy."

Lakers coach Byron Scott likened Drummond to "a more athletic Moses Malone," while Clippers coach Doc Rivers said Drummond looks like Van Gundy's next great center, following in the footsteps of Alonzo Mourning, Shaquille O'Neal and Dwight Howard.

"I just watch him and I think Stan has done an amazing job with him," Rivers said. "You can see he understands body position now. He's always been big and he's always been athletic, and now he knows how to move."

Drummond's rebounding technique reminds Rivers of one of the best rebounders the game has ever seen.

"He's doing the old Dennis Rodman, where you go under the rim and barrel your way back and with his body," Rivers said. "I don't know how you stop that, and that's been taught. Give him credit, because he's teachable and he's worked on it; and give Stan credit because it's been taught."

"I've worked for this moment for the past three years, and right now is my time to lead this team."
Pistons center Andre Drummond

Though he's young, Drummond is the longest-tenured player on a roster that has been entirely revamped since Van Gundy was hired by the Pistons on May 14, 2014. Drummond is embracing his role as a leader.

"I've worked for this moment for the past three years, and right now is my time to lead this team," said Drummond, who played one year at Connecticut before the Pistons took him with the ninth overall pick in the 2012 draft. "I've been around for a long time and I got to see the ins and outs of this team, and I became a leader over time. Last year, I kind of took a step, and this season I'm more of a vocal leader."

It's more than just talk. During the offseason, Drummond, along with Pistons guards Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Reggie Jackson, helped set up team training sessions in Las Vegas with UFC fighters Forrest Griffin, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Stefan Struve.

"When Pope, Reggie and I decided to come together," Drummond said, "we said we should do something team oriented this offseason and really get to know everybody, and we decided to go to Vegas and work out as a team. And we did some stuff with the UFC, and we really got a chance to bond without the coaching staff; it was just us."

As productive as that experience was, the Pistons' winless four-game trip through California after their 5-1 start showed Drummond how much room for growth there is for the team.

"We have seven new guys, so it's going to be a building process, but I think we're starting to come around," he said. "We've lost the last four games, but it's not something we need to hang our heads about. We have to get ready for our next game. We'll get there."