When the Sixers signed Andre Drummond ahead of the 2021-22 season everyone had to be careful. Though it was pre-Elon Musk’s Twitter, the chances it was a troll account still felt strong.
But it was real. Drummond, a two-time All-Star and four-time rebounding champ, was coming to Philadelphia to back up his longtime nemesis Joel Embiid.
Here’s the craziest part about it: it worked out quite well.
In 49 games with the Sixers, Drummond averaged 16.5 points and a whopping 23.9 rebounds per 100 possessions. As far as Embiid backups go, you’d be hard-pressed to name one better than Drummond.
Unfortunately, the UConn product’s tenure with the Sixers was cut short. He was part of the trade that brought James Harden to Philly and sent Ben Simmons to Brooklyn along with Seth Curry.
It sure sounds like if it were up to Drummond, he would’ve never left.
“I think just how much of a family this organization is,” Drummond said pregame Friday. “They welcomed me, they made me feel very comfortable when I got here. We just had a lot of fun as a team. We really cared about each other. We had one common goal which is to win as many games as possible and be great. Sad that we had to break things up in February.”
We learned that Doc Rivers was the biggest reason Drummond was willing to come to the Sixers at the league minimum. As a high schooler, Drummond played with Adam Jones, a young man that the Rivers’ family adopted. Since Rivers had known Drummond and his mom for so long, Drummond had always hoped to play for the long-time NBA coach.
They got their chance, albeit briefly. It didn’t sound like Rivers was eager to lose Drummond — especially in a deal where he was also losing his son-in-law Curry.
“He played his role, No. 1,” Rivers said. “He understood his role. He embraced it. He’s another one of those guys that’s just good in the locker room. Easy for guys to be around. He obviously wants to play just like everyone else on the team — there’s no player that doesn’t want to play. But on the nights that he played a lot, he was happy, and the nights that he didn’t he understood. And those guys are so valuable for your team.
“He also was a huge rebounder. I thought we took that for granted the way he rebounded the ball.”
Drummond always looked up to Rivers as a father figure — even when Rivers went super dad on him.
“I think for me it was a little more personal because I know him and I’ve known him since I was a kid,” Drummond said. “So when he coached me it felt like another like form of a father figure speaking to you. And when he spoke, his message always resonated, and it was always felt. So whenever he would say something to me I would always feel myself just being like, ‘Alright, I hear you man,’ like when your dad says something annoying to you and you’re like, ‘Alright, I get it, like get away from me.’”
Drummond had a successful close to the regular season, taking on an even larger role for the Nets. The postseason didn’t go as well as the Celtics were able to expose the big man in space defensively.
This past offseason, he signed a two-year deal (second year is a player option) worth $6.5 million with the Bulls. His time with Chicago has been up and down ... much like the Bulls themselves. In his return to the Wells Fargo Center, Drummond played just eight minutes as Nikola Vucevic, another former Sixer, had a big night with a triple-double.
“I think for me, I’m just trying to do the best I can,” Drummond said. “Control what I can control. Not really sure how to do anything else besides that. I can’t control what the coaching staff wants to do. I just go out there and do a job with whatever minutes they decide to give me. If that’s what they feel is best for the team. I just have to accept that and be a great teammate.”
It’s fair to wonder: would a reunion between Drummond and the Sixers make sense?
Montrezl Harrell has put together two solid outings in a row, but has been mostly underwhelming. It seems clear Rivers won’t give Paul Reed enough runway to learn if he can ever be a rotational NBA big. While Harrell has proven to be a more efficient offensive player, Drummond is still an elite rebounder and can offer much more on defense.
Our Dave Early wrote off reports that the Sixers could look to move a contract to fall below the tax, thus avoiding a future repeater tax bill. Furkan Korkmaz (signed for this season and next for over $10 million), who is out of the rotation, would make sense as a player to move.
Trading Korkmaz for Drummond could put the team below the tax while giving the Sixers a useful player in return. For what it’s worth, Bulls GM Marc Eversley was a part of the Sixers’ front office when Korkmaz was taken in the first round in 2016.
It sure sounds like Drummond would welcome such a scenario.
“I definitely miss playing here,” Drummond said. “Had a lot of fun playing for Doc ... The city of Philadelphia, the fan base is one of a kind, man. I loved it here.”