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Sixers center Andre Drummond is excited to be back and knows exactly why he’s here: ‘I want to win’

Drummond remains one of the NBA’s best rebounders.

Andre Drummond rejoins the Sixers after playing 49 games for the franchise during the 2021-22 campaign.
Andre Drummond rejoins the Sixers after playing 49 games for the franchise during the 2021-22 campaign.Read moreJose F. Moreno / Staff Photographer

The question from a reporter wasn’t fully finished being asked Tuesday afternoon before Andre Drummond had an answer.

The former Sixers center turned newest Sixers center didn’t qualify for the main portion of the 2024 NBA playoffs, his Chicago Bulls being bounced from the play-in portion, so he saw what everyone else saw. The Sixers struggled mightily when Joel Embiid was off the floor, especially in the rebounding department. They were eliminated by the New York Knicks in the first round of the playoffs because they had no answer for the minutes Embiid needed to spend on the bench catching his breath.

There were maybe some rebound issues …

“I think that’s why I’m here,” Drummond, cutting off the question, said with a smile. “To eliminate a lot of those issues.”

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Embiid once called Drummond the best backup he’s had in his career, and the Sixers brought him back on a two-year, $10 million-plus deal to fill that role again after spending 49 games with the team during the 2021-22 season.

“It feels like home,” Drummond said. “It feels good to be back. I’m excited to try again and be here for the entire journey.”

There were a number of factors that resulted in the Sixers’ early exit from the playoffs. Replace Tobias Harris with Paul George, and maybe it’s a different series. The same can probably be said for Drummond over Paul Reed, the backup center the Sixers recently waived.

Drummond, listed at 6-foot-11, 279 pounds, will be 31 years old before the 2024-25 season begins. He is a two-time NBA All-Star and four-time rebounding champ. And while he’s no longer a consistent starter, Drummond still rebounds at an elite level. With the Bulls last season, Drummond pulled in 9.1 rebounds per game while playing just 17.2 minutes, the most rebounds per minute (0.529) in the NBA. For historical context, Bill Russell is the all-time leader in that category at 0.53 rebounds per minute, according to StatMuse. Drummond is fourth all-time at 0.45.

It’s hard to imagine the Knicks would have had the massive advantage in second-chance points they had during the first-round series if the Sixers had Drummond.

“I pride myself on that,” he said. “I set out for that from my rookie year, to be the best there ever was to do it. And I still stand on that to this day, that I’m the best rebounder to ever play this game.”

He just does it with a little less frequency now. Drummond was the ninth pick in the 2012 draft by the Detroit Pistons, where he spent the first seven-plus seasons of his career, six as a full-time starter. And he was a starter for the Los Angeles Lakers and Cleveland Cavaliers as recently as 2021. He played just 12.7 minutes per game in 2022-23 before playing a little more often last season.

“That ship has sailed,” Drummond said. “I don’t really care anymore. That ego is gone. I’m here to win basketball games, man. I think individually I’ve done everything I physically can to make my career what it is. But I’m at the point now where I want to win.”

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The Sixers have had a splashy offseason with George highlighting a group of additions that includes Drummond, Caleb Martin, Eric Gordon, and the re-signing of Kelly Oubre Jr. Drummond’s has a chance to be arguably the most impactful because the backup center role is a unique one in Philadelphia right now. Embiid has never played a full season and probably never will. The Sixers will likely need Drummond to start some games and will need different things from him on different nights.

“I am still, in my mind, a starter in this league,” Drummond said. “So that’s what he’s getting, a starter to come replace him so he doesn’t have to carry that load for all 82 games so we can get him when we really need him, which is the playoffs.”

Drummond was reminded Tuesday about Embiid praising him in the past, which comes with some irony. When Embiid first entered the league, his battles with Drummond in Detroit were physical and fiery at times. Drummond came to the Sixers as a free agent in 2021 and averaged 8.8 rebounds and 6.1 points in 18.4 minutes per game before going to Brooklyn in the February 2022 trade for James Harden. The two stayed in contact after that, Drummond said. When returning to Philadelphia this offseason became a possibility, he said Embiid reached out with a FaceTime call, and Embiid’s excitement was a major factor in his decision to return to the Sixers.

“They know what to expect from me,” Drummond said. “You’re getting a dog. You’re getting exactly what you’re looking for. I don’t back down from anybody and I’m here to put a fire under some people’s [butts]. ”