Dwight Howard posted up Andre Drummond.
Howard rebound over Drummond.
Howard passed around Drummond.
When it was all over, Howard had 35 points on 13-of-18 shooting, 19 rebounds and five assists in the Rockets win over the Pistons on Saturday.
Any talk that Howard has lost his place as the NBA’s best center should be iced for a while. Drummond, one of the top young challengers to the mantle, was completely overwhelmed in the matchup.
But the 20-year-old Pistons big man made his mark while talking to Howard after the game. Drummond on what he told Howard, via Vincent Goodwill of The Detroit News:
“I thanked him. I told him thank you for teaching me something,” Drummond said. “It was my first time playing him, it was definitely a learning experience for me.”
That’s an, um, interesting way to go. I can’t imagine Howard has been thanked many times by an opponent he just dominated.
But that’s just Drummond. He plays with good feelings rather than ill will. He doesn’t use a faux hate of his adversaries to motivate him. It just works for him.
And if getting dominated by Howard on Saturday works for him, Drummond should be in great shape going forward. He’s already, for my money, the best center in the Eastern Conference, though Roy Hibbert and Al Horford are close. Drummmond needs fine-tuning – Saturday proved that – but his physical skills give him such a head start.
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Drummond’s attitude, though? That’s just fine and dandy already. Refreshing even.
Drummond acts how he wants to act, even if it’s unconventional. He’s clearly not emulating other players just to emulate them.
Plus, it appears his cheerfulness is spreading. Howard, via Goodwill:
“I love Andre,” Howard said. “The way he’s been playing this year, I told him before the game, he’s having an amazing season, keep doing what he’s doing. He’ll be fine.”
That is true. If Drummond keeps doing what he’s doing, he’ll be fine.
But if he stops doing what he did Saturday, he’ll be great. And then rest of the league certainly won’t be thanking Howard for preparing a budding star to play even better.