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.

 

Blake Griffin agrees to join Boston Celtics on one-year deal

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According to ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski, Blake Griffin has agreed to join the Boston Celtics on a one-year contract which will be fully guaranteed. The Celtics were desperate for frontcourt depth following injuries to Danilo Gallinari and Robert Williams, as Luke Kornet was even getting some run with the starting group at training camp.

You do have to wonder just how much the 33-year-old Griffin has left in the tank though. Last season with the Brooklyn Nets, Griffin only managed to play 17.1 minutes per game and his 3-point percentage dropped like a stone to 26%. He was also a major liability on defense, and the Celtics surely know that after Jaylen Brown drove by him with ease time and time again during the postseason.

Griffin was still an effective playmaker and that may make him a good fit with the second unit alongside the likes of Malcolm Brogdon, Derrick White and Grant Williams with all of these capable of handling the ball. Injuries and Father Time have zapped Griffin’s athleticism, but if anyone can squeeze the last bit of value out of him, I’d bet on Brad Stevens.

Highlights from Japan Game: Hachimura and Wiseman put on show, plus Suga and Curry

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The NBA preseason is officially here — and it started in Japan. The Golden State Warriors faced the Washington Wizards in front of a sold-out crowd at the Saitama Super Arena in Tokyo. In case you didn’t wake up at 6 am Eastern to watch a meaningless preseason NBA game (and if you did, we’re worried about you), here are a few highlights and notes from the night.

• The Wizards were there because they have the biggest Japanese star in the NBA, Rui Hachimura, and he was given a chance to shine. The crowd erupted when he did anything.

• The leading scorer on the night was the Warriors James Wiseman with 20 points on 8-of-11 shooting, plus nine boards.

• Dunk of the game goes to Kyle Kuzma.

Stephen Curry was doing Stephen Curry things.

• Stephen Curry also met Suga of BTS and gave him some game-worn kicks. This will win Twitter for the day.

• Oh, by the way, the Warriors won 96-87. As for the level of basketball, it looked like the first preseason game after a flight halfway around the world. The teams combined to shoot 11-of-47 in the first quarter (23.4%) and both were under 40% for the game.

Klay Thompson is sitting out both Warriors games in Japan.

TRIVIA TIME: Can you name the other two players currently in the NBA born in Japan?

Cam Thomas (Yokosuka) and Yuta Watanabe (Yokohama), both of the Brooklyn Nets (Watanabe is on a training camp deal and is not expected to make the roster). Both were raised much of their lives and went to high school and college in the United States.

Thunder rookie Holmgren trying to focus on learning NBA during rehab

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OKLAHOMA CITY (AP) — Thunder rookie Chet Holmgren is experiencing the rehab process for the first time.

The No. 2 pick in the 2022 NBA draft suffered a right foot injury during a pro-am game in August while defending as LeBron James drove to the basket on a fast break. He had surgery, and the Thunder declared him out for the season.

“I’ve never had a serious injury in my life, so I didn’t really know, I had nothing to base it off of and compare to,” Holmgren said Thursday. “So when it happened, I had to get it looked at and see how serious it was. I didn’t imagine anything like this.”

Holmgren, a versatile 7-footer who had great moments during summer league, is dealing with being sidelined as the Thunder start training camp this week.

“Definitely something that I really had to put my mind to and spend some time to think on,” he said. “And kind of come to some conclusions on things and really settle my mind so I could kind of stop focusing on what happened and focus in on what’s going to happen, what I’ve got to do to get where I need to be.”

Even without practicing, he has already left an impression on his teammates.

“He’s a great guy,” guard Lu Dort said. “I can already feel a connection with me and the rest of the team. He’s a pretty vocal guy, too. He talks a lot, and that’s good for the team.”

Holmgren said his only workout limitation is that he can’t put weight on the injured foot. So, that forces him to focus on other aspects of the game. Coach Mark Daigneault said Holmgren has been working hard on film study.

“It just comes down to putting my mental energy towards it, learning how to really be a professional in areas off the court,” Holmgren said. “I’ve dedicated so much time to really hustling at my craft on the court. Now, this event is making me step back and kind of rework how how I do things. And one of those ways is to become professional with watching film and speaking with coaches, trying to learn, watching what’s happening and really being engaged, in trying to get better with different avenues.”

Holmgren has spoken with Joel Embiid about his injury. Embiid, the reigning NBA scoring champion, was the No. 3 pick in 2014 before missing his first two seasons with foot issues.

Holmgren hopes he can recover as well as Embiid.

“What I’m trying to do right now is just kind of soak up all the knowledge of how things are done around here, how they’re going to be done going forward,” Holmgren said. “So when I’m ready to get get back in there, I can just kind of seamlessly plug myself in.”

Holmgren is expected to be ready for the start of next season. He said he’s trying to keep his thoughts positive.

“It all comes down to keeping a level head because there’s so many ups and downs,” he said. “Unfortunately, this is a down. But I’ve got to keep my head level and focus on getting better. And no matter what the circumstances are, that’s the goal.”

Daigneault believes Holmgren’s mindset will net positive results.

“We’d like him to be out here,” Daigneault said. “But since he’s not, we’re certainly going to make a lot of investments, and the thing that makes me the most optimistic about that is the approach that he takes.”

Houston acquires 2025 2nd-round pick in eight-player trade with Thunder

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ESPN’s Adrian Wojnarowski described this as a “cap-centric deal” since it helped the Thunder get around $10 million below the luxury tax, while Houston added a 2nd-round pick by taking on $1 million in cap space.

The Rockets acquired Derrick Favors, Ty Jerome, Moe Harkless, Theo Maledon and a protected 2025 2nd-round pick from the Hawks and sent David Nwaba, Sterling Brown, Trey Burke and Marquese Chriss to Oklahoma City.

The 2nd-rounder from Atlanta is protected 31-40, and it will become the second best 2026 2nd-round pick between the Mavericks, Thunder, and 76ers if it doesn’t convey in 2025.

A tweet from Jackson Gatlin of Locked On Rockets indicates that Houston will also receive $6.3 million in cash from the Thunder.

Previous reports indicated that Derrick Favors was unlikely to remain with the Thunder this season, while Ty Jerome wasn’t participating in training camp as his representatives worked with the team to find an exit strategy for him. Kelly Iko of The Athletic reported that Houston plans to waive Jerome. Harkless was traded for the third time this summer. He was dealt from Sacramento to Atlanta in July as part of the Kevin Huerter deal, and then was shipped to OKC for Vit Krejci earlier this week. Hopefully he’ll be able to settle in with Houston this season.

As he enters his seventh season, this will be the sixth team that Nwaba has suited up for. The journeyman has had a few solid seasons, including averaging 9.2 points, 3.9 rebounds, and 1.0 steals for Houston during the 2020-21 season. Among the players in the deal, he’s the most likely candidate to carve out a role on his new team next season.

Brown, Burke, and Chriss were already traded once this summer as part of the deal that said Christian Wood to Dallas. Now, they’ll be depth pieces in Oklahoma City if the team decides to keep them around.

Daily Thunder’s beat writer Brandon Rahbar pointed out that the trade wouldn’t have been possible without the Disabled Player Exception that the Thunder received because of Chet Holmgren’s injury.