The amount of friendship between NBA players is sometimes overstated. When players are necessarily linked to each other, and unlikely to depart from their franchise anytime soon, fans like to impress upon them a closeness that might not actually exist.
Of course the other side of this is when players flat-out dislike each other but aren’t allowed to say as much thanks to the colors on their jersey restricting them from being truthful.
Chemistry is a hard thing to balance in the NBA, and some teams seem to always do it right. The San Antonio Spurs, up until the fiasco with Kawhi Leonard, appeared to have a 100% success rate with integrating players into their system and culture. Other teams always seem to be dysfunctional, like the New York Knicks.
Of course, LeBron James is learning just how hard it is to have a poor team culture while playing in the Western Conference this season. The Los Angeles Lakers are all but eliminated from the playoffs already.
When it comes to the Detroit Pistons, Andre Drummond and Blake Griffin were never guaranteed to be great pals either on or off the court. Griffin was traded by the Los Angeles Clippers to Michigan after signing a major contract, and some instability thereafter with the Pistons never guaranteed any kind of success. Although the Pistons just barely have a winning record, they are currently the sixth seed in the East.
Part of that success is due to the friendship between Drummond and Griffin, which was recently highlighted in a feature published to The Athletic by James L. Edwards III. Griffin, now in his ninth season has provided some crucial veteran leadership provided to Drummond, who is still just 25 years old.
Via The Athletic:
“With that play in Atlanta, to touch on that … I’ve never had someone do that for me before. It was actually a play for him, and he told Reggie to get out and gave it to me,” Drummond told The Athletic. “For him to do that just shows the confidence he has in me to score the ball on somebody and make the right play. And when I didn’t shoot the right shot, you know, he got on me, ‘You’re stronger than him. You need to go through him.’ The next possession I came down and dunked on him. With guys like that, guys that give me confidence, we give each other confidence throughout the game, too.”
This is such an interesting quote because of the reticence of stars in this age to admit that they aren’t the number one option, or the top dog, and that maybe, just maybe, they could occasionally use some help, however it may come. Many guys have such a misplaced alpha attitude, and that Drummond was both grateful for the final shot in one instance and happy to share that Griffin plays a part in pumping him up in another is pretty cool.
Of course the same type of attitude is apparent from Griffin here given that he decided to give Drummond the final shot rather than take a play that was drawn up for him, a stark contrast to a league where 60 players seem like they all think they deserve their own team (whatever that’s supposed to mean).
Drummond is under contract through next season, with a player option for next. We will at least get to see these guys together for another run at the Eastern Conference playoffs. I’m glad they seem to like each other so much.