AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — The Detroit Pistons are using advanced technology to solve their biggest problem.
At Monday’s Media Day, All-Star center Andre Drummond revealed that he has turned to the worlds of virtual reality to try to fix his free throw issues.
Drummond is using a system called STRIVR to watch 360-degree video of himself shooting from the line. He dons a helmet and can focus on the shots that he makes.
“It’s more of positive reinforcement,” he said. “Kind of training your mind to think positively all the time. You’re not going to make every shot, but you still have that thought process that you’re making the shot.”
Of course, Drummond won’t have the equipment available during games, and that’s when things become a problem. He has always been a better free throw shooter in practice, but he tenses up in game situations.
The system, though, is supposed to let him tune out the stress.
“That’s all it is,” Drummond said. “It’s all mental. For me, it’s something to keep me level-headed. When I do miss that shot, I found that peace.”
Stan Van Gundy isn’t a big VR user himself, but he’s happy to see Drummond working toward a solution.
“Andre’s been very open about trying to find everything possible to help him improve at the free throw line, and he has wanted to do that,” Van Gundy said. “He has been willing to do as much as he possibly can, and that was one of the steps that he took.”
Drummond has to do something.
He is the worst free throw shooter in league history, hitting just 38 percent from the line in his first four seasons. That’s worse than the previous record of 41.4 percent, held by Drummond’s predecessor in Detroit — Ben Wallace.
Last season, Drummond managed just 35.5 percent from the line, and it became a massive problem as the season progressed. Teams began to intentionally foul him at ridiculous rates, including a bizarre game in Houston.
The Rockets put K.J. McDaniels on the floor to start the second half, and he fouled Drummond five times in 30 seconds. He ended up shooting 36 free throws in the game, and set a league record by missing 23 of them.
Drummond didn’t even get the usual break at the end of games, because he’s such a crucial part of Van Gundy’s offense. With the entire scheme built around he and Reggie Jackson running the pick-and-roll, teams are always able to grab him as he sets a screen.
The Cleveland Cavaliers exploited that in their four-game playoff sweep of the Pistons, driving Drummond to the bench at the end of close games. Without their best player on the floor, Detroit was helpless against the eventual NBA champions.
Every team in the NBA saw how Cleveland nullified Drummond, and the lack of a major rule change on intentional fouls means that he has to take care of it himself. That’s where his high-tech gear comes into play.
“It was cool. It was different, a change of pace,” Drummond said. “It’s just kind of looking at something through a lens. It was interesting, it really worked out. Now I do things that keep my mind in the clear.”
If it works, expect to see more NBA players looking like Darth Vader in their spare time.