It only took three minutes, 10 seconds into the 76ers’ preseason opener to realize Andre Drummond was an upgrade over Dwight Howard at backup center.
In that short amount of time, Drummond recorded back-to-back three-point plays against the Toronto Raptors as Joel Embiid had the night off to rest.
The 6-foot-10, 280-pounder went on to finish that night with a team-high 19 points to go with game-highs of 14 rebounds and four blocks.
“I’m here for one reason and one reason only,” Drummond said following the Oct. 4 game at Scotiabank Arena. “That’s to help this team in any capacity to play hard on both ends of the court, give it all I have, and play to exhaustion.”
Like Howard did on Nov. 21, 2020, Drummond signed a one-year veteran minimum deal with the Sixers on Aug. 4. Unlike the 35-year-old Howard, Drummond, 28, can still make a solid impact in the starting lineup. And he’s dependable.
Those are great things for the Sixers under the circumstances.
They need a dependable center for the next few games with Embiid in the NBA’s COVID-19 health and safety protocols after testing positive for the coronavirus on Monday. The four-time All-Star, who is vaccinated and symptomatic, could miss at least 10 days.
Drummond was the most recognizable Sixers player in a starting lineup that included Furkan Korkmaz, Paul Reed, Shake Milton and Tyrese Maxey in Tuesday’s 118-109 lose to the Milwaukee Bucks at the Wells Fargo Center. The undermanned Sixers (8-4) fought hard, but ran out of gas in what was their second loss in as many days.
On this night, Maxey paced them with a season-high 31 points. George Niang (21 points) and Milton (20) also provided solid scoring. But Drummond finished with 17 points, 20 rebounds, three assists, two blocks and one steal. It was his second straight 20-plus-rebound double-double of the season.
Charles Barkley was the last Sixer to post back-to-back 20-rebound games. Barkley had 21 against the Sacramento Kings on March 23, 1990. The next night, he had 20 versus the Washington Bullets.
Drummond also had 14 points and an NBA season-best 25 rebounds in Monday’s 103-96 home setback to the New York Knicks. In the process, he became the first Sixer to finish with at least 25 rebounds since Barkley did it on March 24, 1987 against the Chicago Bulls.
“I just got it like that,” Drummond said of rebounding. “It’s more so just something I pride myself in. I came to the NBA, and it’s something I wanted to be the best at. I strive for that. And I’m the best at it. So it’s nothing new that I haven’t done in my previous years.”
Monday marked the seventh time the four-time rebounding champion has hauled in at least 25 rebounds. The 10th-year veteran grabbed a career-high 29 against the Indiana Pacers on Nov. 3, 2015, as a Detroit Piston.
Drummond finished with 14 points and 15 rebounds while starting in place of a resting Embiid in a 113-103 victory over the Portland Trail Blazers on Nov. 1. As a Sixer, he’s averaging 7.6 points, 11.1 rebounds, 2.4 assists, 1.4 steals, and 20.9 minutes in 11 games with three starts.
Last season, Howard averaged 7.0 points, 8.4 rebounds, 0.4 of a steal and 17.3 minutes in 69 games with six starts. However, he didn’t expand his game. So the Sixers couldn’t use him too much with the starters on nights Embiid sat. It was also hard to depend on Howard due to his being a technical foul waiting to happen.
Drummond, on the other hand, has been impactful. He’s one of the best free-agent pickups this summer, especially for a bargain price of $2.4 million.
He was averaging 14.4 points, 13.7 rebounds, 1.4 steals, and 1.5 blocks and 30.7 minutes in 655 career games with 596 starts as of Monday.
Drummond knows dominating the boards is something he can do on a nightly basis given the circumstances.
“I love the role that I’m in now,” he said. “These nights are going to come where I have the opportunity to play like [Monday].
“But other than that, I’m just really here to win. It’s not really about the stats, everybody knows what I can put up numbers-wise. I’m here to win.”