Making the Cut
Andre Drummond invited to compete for Team USA World Cup roster spot
But one rather important opinion on the matter wonders.
“I really got to see how hard guys played to play for our country,” Drummond said Thursday. “I’ve seen guys do things I’ve never seen before just to put ‘USA’ on your chest. For me, it was a learning experience. To see guys really take this seriously to represent our country was really a big deal.”
Drummond is guaranteed a similar experience this July as one of 28 NBA players named by USA Basketball as part of the player pool for the next three years, which encompasses the World Cup this summer in Spain and the 2016 Summer Olympics in Brazil. The roster Team USA will take to the World Cup will be determined after the team’s July minicamp in Las Vegas.
There Drummond will compete for a roster spot among a group of big men that includes Team USA veterans and gold-medal winners Dwight Howard and Tyson Chandler.
“Having those guys to battle against for a spot is going to be fun for me, knowing I can use them as a stepping stone and a margin to see where I’m at and how much more work I need to do,” Drummond said.
One name notable for its omission was that of DeAndre Jordan, who leads the NBA in rebounding at 13.9 per game and is third in blocked shots at 2.5 Drummond is third in rebounding at 12.6 and seventh in blocks at 1.8. Howard and Chandler have played the role of defensive intimidator/rebounder on past Team USAs and Jordan seemed Drummond’s biggest challenger to succeed him in that role. Omitting Jordan from the player pool for the ’14 World Cup and the ’16 Olympics opens a possible roster spot for Drummond, depending on the choices of Howard and Chandler, perhaps, who admitted his surprise at Jordan’s exclusion.
“He’s having a hell of a year,” Drummond said. “But everybody is going to get their chance. I’m sure he’s going to keep fighting and keep playing hard and his time will come.”
Jordan, 25, is five years older than Drummond, who is the youngest player on the 28-man roster. Two other members of Drummond’s 2012 draft class, Anthony Davis and Bradley Beal, also made the cut to 28. Both, like Drummond, are 20, though Drummond is five months younger than Davis and two months younger than Beal.
“Getting picked, that’s a blessing,” Drummond said. “Being one of the 28 guys chosen to represent our country or at least to try out, I’m real excited to go out for the training camp and show Coach K” – Duke and national team coach Mike Krzyzewski – “that I’m a good player to have on the team in a respectful way. You’ve got to be a positive role model on and off the court.”
Pistons coach Maurice Cheeks had been on the job only for about a month when he went to Las Vegas last July to watch Drummond and Pistons teammate Greg Monroe, who wasn’t among the 28 named to the player pool this week, compete at the minicamp. He’s seen Drummond’s game evolve even since that time and believes additional national team experience will hasten his already rapid development.
“Just going through players like that, who are pros and understand about playing, about preparing themselves for games and getting ready to play at a high level … that can only be a positive when you’re getting ready to play in a venue like he’s going to play in,” Cheeks said after Thursday’s practice. “It’s a great honor. It says a lot for him, that he’s still young and people like what he does. He’s just getting better.”
Drummond’s immediate focus is on turning the Pistons’ season around. Wednesday’s loss at Milwaukee sent them eight games under .500, matching the season’s nadir, with the first opportunity to reverse course coming Friday when New Orleans and one of Drummond’s Team USA teammates, Davis, the first pick in the 2012 draft, eight spots ahead of where the Pistons found Drummond waiting for them.
“Adding two young guys like myself and him, we bring a lot of energy,” Drummond said. “When we get on the court, we’re going to bring energy and a positive vibe to keep our guys going.”