Detroit’s Andre Drummond acknowledges need to improve

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ASSOCIATED PRESS — 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.

 

Aging Pelicans’ owner couldn’t remember Anthony Davis’ name in deposition

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Tom Benson, the now 90-year-old owner of the New Orleans Pelicans and the NFL’s Saints, a few years back changed around the succession of control of the team after his passing — his wife Gayle will take control. Rita Benson LeBlanc, Benson’s granddaughter and former handpicked successor, sued saying Benson had been manipulated. After meeting privately with Benson, a judge ruled that while Benson suffered some “cognitive impairment” he was capable of making his own decisions and that Gayle remained the successor.

Benson has been sued multiple times since then, including by former Saints employee Rodney Henry, and the then-89-year-old Benson was deposed in that case last year.

Someone broke the gag order and sent a copy of the deposition to The Advocate of New Orleans, and it shows that Benson’s mental acuity is fading. He couldn’t remember who Anthony Davis was by name.

During another set of questions, apparently aimed at establishing how close Benson and Henry had been, Benson was shown a photo of the two men with Pelicans star Anthony Davis.

“Who is this?” Williams asked.

“It’s Rodney and a basketball player,” Benson said. “Oh, hell, I forget his name. Let me — he’s a great player for us. Tell me his name, and I will tell you yes or no.”

When asked “is it Anthony Davis,” Benson said yes. The man is 90, I’m not sure that we should expect much. He had the foresight to bring in people to run his businesses — including his sports teams — and set up a line of succession for when he does pass. Smart moves.

Would Benson’s mental state impact potential changes coming to the Pelicans? Probably not. New Orleans’ GM Dell Demps bet big on going big in a league trending smaller, pairing Davis and DeMarcus Cousins. If that doesn’t work out, plenty of people around the league expect a house cleaning on the basketball side with the Pelicans. Benson’s mental state, whatever it may be, does not impact that.

The deposition leak came from an anonymous source (and anonymous email account, the paper verified the document before publishing). Who leaked it? It may be nearly impossible to find out, but only one side benefits from all this becoming public. And it’s not Benson.

K.J. McDaniels signs with Raptors for camp, can he make roster?

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A few years back in Philadelphia, the athletic K.J. McDaniels was a highlight factory and looked like a guy who could develop into a role player on the wing in the NBA.

Except, he never actually developed. Houston gave him a chance (three years at a total of $10 million), and it didn’t work out, then last season Brooklyn had him for 20 games, but they decided to move on.

Now Toronto is going to give him a chance, reports Adrian Wojnarowski of ESPN.

McDaniels’ agent later confirmed the news. This is a training camp, make-good contract for McDaniels. But unlike a lot of those contracts being handed out around this time, there is space on the Raptors roster for a player or two.

McDaniels will compete with Alfonzo McKinnie, Kennedy Meeks, and Kyle Wiltjer for one of the final roster spots in Toronto. Of that group, I’d most likely want to keep McDaniels because of the shot blocking and his potential — but his outside shot has to improve.

The Raptors can carry 15 on the roster and very possibly will until at least Jan. 10, which is the date these partially guaranteed deals become fully guaranteed for the season. Toronto is flirting with the tax line, and ownership is not going to want to pay the tax for this team, so if they do carry 15 they likely will cut it to 14 by that date.

Watch James Harden do the #DriveByDunkChallenge from a speed boat (VIDEO)

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The #DriveByDunkChallenge has been a fun distraction this summer. If you don’t know what it is, it essentially involves NBA players jumping out of their cars to dunk on regular folks on community basketball hoops.

Players like Boston Celtics wing Jaylen Brown have led the charge in the social media video fad, and now it appears that Houston Rockets guard James Harden is setting a new trend.

That trend? Doing the #DriveByDunkChallenge from dang boat.

Yup, seriously.

Via Twitter:

I can’t think of anything more baller than dunking on somebody from a speed boat, so congrats to Harden for winning the NBA offseason.

Photoshop no more: here’s Gordon Hayward in a Boston Celtics uniform (PHOTO)

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I suppose it will take some time to get used to seeing Gordon Hayward in a Boston Celtics jersey. This photo is the first step on that journey.

In a photo posted to Hayward’s Instagram on Wednesday, many of us got our first look at the former Utah Jazz forward in his new digs.

Specifically, the new Celtics Nike jersey in green with the GE patch on the left shoulder.

Via Instagram:

🍀🔥

A post shared by @gdhayward on

There are still some serious doubts about whether the Celtics will be able to unseat the Cleveland Cavaliers in the Eastern Conference, but perhaps they won’t need to wait for long. Rumors are starting to trickle in about LeBron James leaving Ohio, so maybe by the time we are used to seeing Hayward in Celtics green next season they will have less competition out east.