LAS VEGAS — What beef?
That’s what Andre Drummond will likely ask those who recall his role as an on-court nemesis of Joel Embiid. When Drummond played for the Detroit Pistons, Embiid was successful trash talking him and the results are well-documented.
“I think for me, there never was any real beef,” said Drummond, who signed a one-year veteran minimum salary contract for around $2.9 million with the Sixers on Wednesday. “It’s the game of basketball. We’re both competitors in the way that we play.
“Sometimes we we talk. I don’t think it ever went any further than that. I don’t think there’s any real beef or any kind of malice toward the team.”
He noted they’re on the same team now, and that the past trash talking isn’t really something he’s thinking about or going to let bother him.
Perhaps, but joining the Sixers on a veteran-minimum deal as Embiid’s backup is surprising.
The nine-year veteran was named to his second NBA All-Star team as recently as 2018. He’s also a four-time rebounding champion.
“I think for me, making the decision to come to Philly was just based off of Doc [Rivers] really having the faith in me helping this team do something special despite whatever my role is,” he said. “You know of me coming off the bench being [in the prime] of my career doesn’t matter.
“I think I can still be effective coming off and backing up Joel. I think it was a no-brainer. I’ve always wanted to play for him since I was kid.”
At St. Thomas More School in Connecticut, Drummond was teammate of Rivers’ legally adopted son, Adam Jones.
“So we’ve always had that relationship,” Drummond said of Rivers. “So to have the chance to play for him, I just took the chance.”
Drummond had hoped to get a lucrative deal in free agency.
There was some thought that he would re-sign with the Los Angeles Lakers, which he played 21 games for last season. But Los Angeles made changes to their roster via trade and in free agency and it didn’t make sense for Drummond to return. (One of the Lakers moves involved signing former Sixers center Dwight Howard to a veteran minimum deal. Howard was a member of the Lakers’ 2020 NBA title team.)
“So I just took the next best thing after that,” Drummond said. “It was come to Philly. I think it’s a great fit.”
The 6-foot-10, 280-pounder didn’t disclose if he received offers for a bigger role in free agency, but he did provide details on his mindset as a backup center.
“In life, things change and it’s nothing that is affecting me at all or making me feel any type of way,” Drummond said. “That’s the role that has been given to me, and it’s something I have accepted and willing to do if it’s in the best of the team.
“It has to get done.”
Drummond has career averages of 14.5 points, 13.7 rebounds and 1.5 blocks in 645 games with 594 starts.
He was having an All-Star caliber campaign in Cleveland this past season before the Cavs acquired Jarrett Allen in a trade from the Brooklyn Nets in January. Drummond averaged 17.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 1.6 steals, and 1.2 blocks in 25 games played with the Cavs. Cleveland, however, took him out of the lineup to give Allen more playing time.
Drummond last played for the Cavaliers on Feb. 12 and the team was unsuccessful in finding a trade partner. Part of the holdup was finding a team willing to take in his $27.9 million salary for last season.
So following the trade deadline, Cleveland bought him out of his deal and he signed with the Lakers.
In Philly, Drummond is a good insurance policy for Embiid, who has yet to play a full season since being drafted third in 2014.
Embiid could miss around 20 games this season because of load management and injuries.
Drummond could be a force as a backup center. He’ll also be a quality replacement for Embiid in the starting lineup on the night’s the MVP runner-up doesn’t play.
Drummond, who turns 28 on Tuesday, is excited to team up with Embiid.
“Joel is already one of the best centers in the NBA,” he said. “To be alongside of him, I think it is going to be a long night for a lot of teams, just getting beat up in the game between he and I. There’s not much that we can’t do.”