DETROIT – Andre Drummond isn’t eligible to become a free agent until the summer of 2020, but that didn’t stop him from trying out a second job a couple days before Christmas. The Pistons big man visited a Meijer on Eight Mile for the second year in a row, but rather than follow a few shoppers around and treat them to some holiday cheer, this year he grabbed a pricing gun and learned how to be a cashier for a couple hours.
“How am I doing?” Drummond asked. “I’m nervous, but I want to be efficient.”
The woman training him, Angela, shortened her name to Angel on her name tag and let Drummond wear it for the day. After ringing up customers in aisle 30 (he found a lot more luck with the gun – the practice in Fortnite has really paid off – than the scanner), “Angel” let them know their total, then casually revealed he was footing the bill.
Drummond played it off in a deadpan style that would make teammate Blake Griffin proud. For those who didn’t quite recognize him and questioned why there were cameras around, he said he was a reality star. He told others he was transitioning into another career. The smirks quickly turned to wonder as those holding their credit cards and cash were told to put them away. There weren’t autographs, just hugs and a few tears.
“Being here for seven years, I do see Detroit as home.” Drummond, decked out in a Jordan Brand hoodie and glasses, said in the break room. “So everything I do, I always think about what I can do to help the people in the city first. I always do things like this, come down to Eight Mile. I mean, I’ll go anywhere, just to give a helping hand out here in the city and just to touch somebody’s life for that one day.”
Drummond’s sister, Ariana, and mother, Christine, were with him, needling him about his work ethic on the job, telling him to put away his phone, and teasing him if he struggled scanning an item. (He had the hardest time with the produce codes, as anyone would.) But when his “shift” ended, the talk turned to dinner and where they would go to spend time together. Having his family close to him, and having them invest in Detroit as much as he has, has helped Drummond grow immeasurably. And when he needs guidance, Drummonds turns to Christine, who continues to shape him as he is coming into his own on and off the court.
“I am who I am now and I think anybody who comes across me will tell you the same thing,” Drummond said. “I don’t plan on changing much. I just try to be a good person and help people who need to be helped and just show my character in the way I was raised from my mom. How giving I am, I got that from my mom too. I’ll give anybody anything that is in need of it and I wouldn’t think twice about it. And that’s the biggest trait my mom has, too, is she’s just a caregiver. Even just little things like being there for teammates who are having a rough stretch, just taking them out to dinner and talking to them or finding a way to get their mind off of that possession. I’m always the guy to come around and do those things for these people.”
Drummond wears his love for his family on his body in a series of tattoos that have spread from his back to his arms. His back has both Ariana’s and Christine’s names, as well as artwork that includes a Bible verse and a portrait of Bob Marley honoring his Jamaican heritage. His arm sleeve is dedicated to his children, and he has matching tattoos with his closest friends.
He keeps his circle tight, which gives him the energy that fuels him as he seeks to make his third All-Star team and push the Pistons into playoff contention.
Individually, Drummond has never been stronger on the court. A lot was made of his “beer diet” in the offseason, but the weight loss and commitment to nutrition – he’s switched to Blue Moon over Miller Light for those calories – left him more mobile and agile. He’s averaging 17.9 points and 15.9 rebounds, and assuming he stays on the court (and stays away from avocados), he’ll easily win another rebounding title. He does what he does at such an elite level, it doesn’t matter what revolution the NBA undergoes.
“The game changes every year,” Drummond said. “It goes from being big man dominant, to guard play, to three point shooting, to big men shooting threes. And in today’s year, in the game this year, the big men are starting to come back again where they’re making an impact in the paint. So I think it’s pretty cool that I stayed the course my whole career and didn’t switch and try to go along with the game. I just played consistently and it worked out for my team. So, obviously, it was going to come back eventually.”
Drummond held onto a piece of advice that stuck with him from his high school days playing under Jere Quinn at St. Thomas More high school in Connecticut. Quinn told him to “find one thing that you can be remembered by,” and for Drummond, that meant becoming an all-time prolific rebounder.
“I took it upon myself to master the art of rebounding and be the best there is,” Drummond said. “I think it’s instinct for me. It’s just timing, being there at the right time, knowing when to go and when not to go, who you’re going against, who I can bully, who I can use my quickness around. So it’s all just a game inside a game for me when I’m out there playing.”
That game inside the game has Drummond set for a huge payday in the offseason, and it’s hard to imagine the Pistons not being in on that. Although Drummond has a player option for 2020-21, with the projected free agent class as small as it is, it’ll likely be a mere formality to decline that option — he’s said in the past that his intention is to hit the market this upcoming summer. The Pistons might not be where they want to be record-wise, but they’ve put the work in developing and trusting Drummond as he’s come into his prime, and free agents the likes of Drummond aren’t often considering the Motor City from the bounce.
“Coming here was life changing for me and I feel like I owe it to Detroit to give it the best I have while I’m here,” Drummond said. “Just play hard each and every night, give it the best I have and try to put my team in a good position to win and obviously make an attempt to win a championship here. That would be huge for me. Seven years ago, we were in a tough spot when we were building and we built our way back to being a playoff-contending team. So it makes sense to try and win a championship.”
For Drummond, he still mentions he’s got “a long way to go” to become the player he wants to be remembered as. But he lets himself take a moment to acknowledge the situation he’s in, as well as the patience and investment the Pistons have made in him to grow into himself.
“Growing up I had no idea I’d be here,” Drummond said. “It’s truly a blessing — and hard work I’ve put in — and just this team taking a chance on me here in Detroit. Picking me at nine and giving me the opportunity to showcase myself for this long. It’s almost kind of surreal. Like every time I step on the court, I’ll be like, ‘I’m still here.'”