There’s no question Andre Drummond wanted much more than 49 games as a Sixer.
Sitting in the visitors’ locker room Friday night at Wells Fargo Center ahead of the Bulls’ matchup with the Sixers, the 29-year-old big man said he “definitely was blindsided” by his inclusion in the Sixers’ trade for James Harden.
He shared glowing memories of his time in Philadelphia.
“I think just how much of a family this organization is,” Drummond said. “They welcomed me. They made me feel very comfortable when I got here. We just had a lot of fun as a team. We really cared about each other. We had one common goal, which was to win as many games as possible and be great. It’s sad that we had to break things up in February.
“I definitely miss playing here. I had a lot of fun playing for (head coach Doc Rivers), somebody who I’ve known since I was a boy and have so much respect for. So to have the chance to play for him was awesome for me. And the city of Philadelphia, man — the fanbase is one of a kind. I loved it here.”
Drummond’s final day with the Sixers was odd. When reporters entered the team’s practice gym, it felt somewhat like a ghost town. Centers Joel Embiid, Charles Bassey and Drummond enjoyed a half-court shooting contest. Georges Niang jogged on the elliptical. Rivers canceled practice as the trade deadline crept closer.
“I’ve been a part of a lot of trade deadlines — 11 years straight,” Drummond said. “Any time a coach calls practice off, you know something’s about to happen. I didn’t know it was going to be me, obviously, but I knew somebody was being moved that day. It happens.”
Drummond played eight minutes in Chicago’s Zach LaVine-led win, posting six points and six rebounds. He’d sat out all night Wednesday and watched the Bulls snap the Nets’ 12-game winning streak.
“I think for me, I’m just trying to do the best I can and control what I can control. … I can’t control what the coaching staff wants to do,” Drummond said. “I just go out there and do a job with whatever minutes they decide to give me. If that’s what they feel is best for the team, I just have to accept that and be a great teammate.”
With the Sixers, Drummond had a more consistent role. Though he came off the bench for the first time since his rookie season, he almost always served as Embiid’s backup. The Sixers liked his work in that spot, too. An all-bench lineup of Shake Milton, Matisse Thybulle, Furkan Korkmaz, Niang and Drummond actually had a plus-19.1 net rating, according to Cleaning the Glass.
“He was great,” Niang said Friday morning of Drummond. “Obviously he brought some veteran leadership; hes been doing it for a while. He’s been an All-Star. He’s an elite rebounder. Definitely a guy that was huge when Joel wasn’t playing. He could step in as a starter and he was dominant on the second unit.”
The Sixers have gone smaller at backup center this year without Drummond, who joined Chicago on a two-year, $6.6 million contract with a player option in Year 2. PJ Tucker started Friday for a second consecutive game with Embiid sidelined because of left foot soreness . The Sixers waived Bassey in October, and Montrezl Harrell and Paul Reed have competed internally for playing time. Harrell has been favored lately and scored 36 points over his last two outings, though Reed closed against the Bulls as the Sixers sought for a comeback spark.
It still seems fair to call the situation fluid, and to say it’s quite likely Drummond would be happy if he winds up returning to the Sixers at some stage.
“I still talk to all the guys all the time,” he said. “It’s always family here.”