The Detroit Pistons are coming off a disappointing season - one that raised significant questions about whether Andre Drummond is the type of player they envisioned when they gave him a massive contract.
Drummond admits 2016-17 wasn't good enough.
''It was like a roller coaster ride for me,'' Drummond said. ''Just an inconsistent year for us as an organization.''
The Pistons went 37-45 and missed the playoffs after making it in 2016. There were plenty of reasons for the team's decline - particularly an injury-riddled season for point guard Reggie Jackson - but Drummond is the player who may be under the most pressure to improve when the Pistons move into their new downtown arena later this year.
Drummond is set to play in Saturday's NBA Africa Game in South Africa, and he took part in a conference call this week. It's been an eventful year for the 23-year-old big man, who received a $130 million, five-year contract from the Pistons last offseason.
Less than a season after finalizing that deal, Drummond was already the subject of trade speculation.
''I never had to deal with that before,'' he said. ''I wasn't playing the way I was supposed to play.''
The Pistons took Drummond with the ninth pick in the 2012 draft, and he immediately impressed with his athleticism. Detroit hasn't been a destination for top free agents recently, and there's only so much the front office can accomplish with trades, so landing a player like Drummond in the latter half of the lottery was exactly what the franchise needed.
Drummond quickly developed into one of the game's top rebounders, and although he lacked some polish offensively, his size and quickness made him a major asset. He averaged 16.2 points and 14.8 rebounds per game in 2015-16, although his poor free throw shooting remained a concern.
Last season, Drummond continued to struggle with his free throws - and his averages dipped to 13.6 points and 13.8 rebounds. His 345 offensive rebounds were his fewest since his rookie season, and since he's so capable of dominating the boards, it's noticeable when he doesn't play with enough energy.
Drummond underwent a surgical procedure to correct a deviated septum - a displacement of bone and cartilage that divides the two nostrils. The operation can help improve air intake, and Drummond says he's noticing the benefits.
''I don't get tired as easy,'' Drummond said. ''I'm sleeping better.''
If Drummond comes back next season with improved endurance, that could help him start living up to expectations again - and help him put last season behind him.
''I wasn't playing up to my potential,'' he said. ''I can't allow that to happen again.''
NOTES: The Pistons signed Jason Maxiell to a contract, allowing him to retire as a member of the organization. The team announced that move Friday. Maxiell spent eight seasons with the Pistons and was part of three runs to the Eastern Conference finals. ''The best years of my professional career were spent in Detroit and it's important to me to retire as a Detroit Piston,'' Maxiell said. ''This is a special franchise with great tradition and history. I want to thank all the fans who supported me during my eight seasons representing Detroit.'' Maxiell was drafted by the Pistons in 2005, and after his eight seasons with them, he joined Orlando and Charlotte before signing overseas.
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