After months of drama, the Philadelphia 76ers opened the 2021-22 season last night against the New Orleans Pelicans. One question was on everyone’s mind: How would the Sixers look with newly signed backup center Andre Drummond?
Forget Ben Simmons. The Sixers always have a bunch of guys who can’t shoot. They can probably afford to lose one. But they’ve been searching for a backup big man since Joel Embiid’s emergence as a star, and every year Boban Marjanovic or Dwight Howard or whoever just doesn’t quite cut it in the playoffs. This year’s candidate is Andre Drummond, a former foil of Joel Embiid who just last year was decisively not the answer for the Los Angeles Lakers in the playoffs. I think I know how this one is going to go.
For now it’s the regular season, though, and Drummond is already drawing praise from Embiid. In the Sixers’ 117-97 win over the Pelicans, Drummond played 19 minutes, scored six points and grabbed 17 rebounds—a pretty solid total for a backup big. Drummond’s 17 boards is the seventh-highest total in a game as a reserve for the Sixers since the merger—and two of those performances were by Charles Barkley, in his rookie year. (Two others were by Kenny Thomas.)
But to me the highlight of Drummond’s first game as a Sixer was one of his four turnovers. This one came after Drummond made a really nice steal off an inbounds play, turned up court, actually sprinted away from his man and then, well:
Yeesh. I appreciate Sixers announcers Kate Scott and Alaa Abdelnaby half-heartedly praising Drummond’s Eurostep attempt. There is no way that comparing Drummond to Giannis Antetokounmpo could really scan as anything but sarcastic, at this point, but it’s true as far as it goes—he really was trying to do something that Giannis reliably actually does. It didn’t lead to a basket, but it did inspire a blog post. So who’s to say it was a failure, really?