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Will Andre Drummond end Nets ‘center-by-committee?’

Sacramento Kings v Brooklyn Nets Photo by Steven Ryan/Getty Images

For years, Andre Drummond was a workhorse, averaging better than 30 minutes a game. He’s also been very durable, missing few games Then, first with the Lakers at the end of last season and again with the 76ers at the beginning of this one, his numbers dropped, precipitously in Philly. Now, following the James Harden-for-Ben Simmons blockbuster trade, he’s been starting with the Nets. It’s been an adjustment, the 28-year-old admits.

“Tired,” Drummond told the media before the break when asked how he’s feeling. “Coming from a different situation, coming off the bench and playing limited minutes, to playing the minutes I normally used to play, just get myself back in that playing shape again.

“So from the moment I’ve got here, I condition in the morning and I condition after the game. So by the time the [All-Star] break is over, I should be back to normal again, just getting myself back in that speed and that mode again.”

The numbers indeed tell the story, as Brian Lewis writes Tuesday...

Before the trade, Drummond was averaging a career-low 18.4 minutes as Joel Embiid’s backup, but still managing to muster 8.8 rebounds per game. He’s seen that bumped up to 12.3 boards in 21.7 minutes through his first three games as a Net.

And it’s working...

The Nets were 18th in overall rebounding percentage (49.5) through Feb. 13, and just 27th in defensive rebounding (70.6). But since Drummond’s debut they’ve been sixth in both categories.

In the Nets game vs. the Knicks, Drummond showed just what he can do. In 22 minutes, he grabbed 19 boards — five offensive — and scored 11 points, more in line with his history and the Nets’ hope for him.

“The biggest thing is that we’ve struggled to rebound the ball, and he’s a natural rebounder,” Steve Nash said. “He also is a big that can protect the rim. He’s good defensively and can be a presence offensively; he’s good at getting into actions, rolling, playing above the rim.

“He fills needs that our group is looking for, and we’re excited for him to continue to get more comfortable in the way we play and also really get in great shape. He’s going to play more minutes for us as far as the way we project things to go, so he’s used to [backing up Embiid], but we’re asking him to play more.”

Daryl Morey, the Sixers GM, admitted that he didn’t want to give up Drummond who filled in for Joel Embiid when the MVP candidate went down with COVID.

In Brooklyn, Drummond has moved into the 5 spot, which has been more of a revolving door with all the Nets injuries, illnesses and disappointments. The big losers so far are the Nets young bigs: Day’Ron Sharpe, who’s dropped out of the rotation after starting eight games, and Nic Claxton who hasn’t played a second since the trade and who the Nets shopped before the deadline, per Zach Lowe.

Claxton lost a champion when Harden was traded. Who can forget what could be the Nets play of the year, when on Christmas Day, Harden found Claxton with an alley-oop over LeBron James to win the game...

As Lewis points out, Claxton shot .661 with Harden and just .581 without him according to the Elias Sports Bureau. And in what looked like a fond farewell, Claxton posted this picture on Instagram...

There’s also the future to think about with Drummond, who will be an unrestricted free agent in summer (without Bird Rights), and Claxton, who will be restricted, meaning the Nets can, if they want, match any offer he receives elsewhere.

“We’ll see how it all pans out. We’ve had that center by committee for a little while now,” Nash said. “Andre brings a totally different look for us at center with his physicality, natural rebounding.”