AUBURN HILLS – Reggie Jackson came through his first no-holds-barred training camp practice with flying colors Friday, but all he wanted to talk about was Andre Drummond.
Two bits of good news for the Pistons in that:
One, Jackson wasn’t particularly unburdened by clearing that hurdle in his return from last year’s nagging left knee tendinosis because that’s how confident he is in the results of the deliberate off-season protocol Pistons trainers established for him, and …
Two, Drummond’s been downright dominant in camp so far.
“He’s been a freak amongst men out here,” Jackson said. “Every rebound is his. He’s trying to break the rim every time he gets it. He’s trying to protect the paint. He’s running hard. … He’s been playing tremendously well.”
Drummond is a lean 280 pounds after losing 35 pounds, he said, over the summer. He had surgery to repair damage to his nose that limited his breathing to one nostril and that – coupled with what he called off-season “soul searching” – has him dialed in to a greater degree than at any time in his five-plus years since the Pistons drafted him.
“I feel fantastic,” he said. “The two-a-days aren’t grueling on my body. I’m taking the necessary steps to take my recovery a lot more seriously than I did in previous years. It’s really boiled down to I’m being a professional. I’m taking the necessary steps to make sure I’m at my best.”
There’s a different vibe in training camp this year by unanimous anecdotal evidence and Stan Van Gundy feels Drummond’s influence is a contributing factor.
“He’s been great,” Van Gundy said after Friday’s practice. “They see him running and defending and challenging shots. I think that’s where they see it more than anything. They see him being a force around the basket. I think everybody’s noticed it and just been locked in to doing the right thing. He’s been really good.”
Drummond, who turned 24 last month, further revealed signs of the maturity others have observed in him when he talked about what caused his summer reflection – the sting of last season.
“The season I had last year, that’s just not who I am. That’s not the player I am, the way I acted on the floor and the way I was toward my teammates. My overall play wasn’t who I was. A lot of soul searching this summer, really found myself and it feels good to be back.”
At the players retreat held in early August in Las Vegas during a dinner where cell phones were turned off, Jackson addressed Drummond directly and expressed the need for him to emerge as the team’s leading voice and most consistent force. Jackson, with Drummond at his side, gave a condensed version of it again on Friday.
After extolling Drummond’s sterling week of camp, Jackson said this: “He knows that’s what I expect from him this season. This is what I’m going to hold him accountable for. He’s been great and really reaching his potential. Because we’re only going to be as good as our best player and that’s Andre Drummond.”