Bulls big man Andre Drummond willing to accept minutes for now

The veteran has seen his playing time dwindle, despite an off-the-charts per-36 in the rebounding department. As coach Billy Donovan tries to find the groupings that work best together, Drummond plays the waiting game.

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Bulls center Andre Drummond dunks during a game against the Heat in October.

“For me it’s just a position I have to accept for the time being,’’ the Bulls’ Andre Drummond said of his lack of playing time. “My job is to do whatever it takes to help this team win, whether it’s playing 15 or playing 30 minutes.”

Marta Lavandier/AP

There’s a finesse to Bulls big man Andre Drummond’s game — when it’s called for.

The when-called-for part being the key.

At 6-10, 280 pounds, Drummond knows what the true foundation of his game is built on. He knows what pays the bills.

On most nights, that involves physically moving other grown men, reminding them that rebounds are his for the taking, and anything that happens to fall in the hands of someone else is simply on loan.

Brute force exemplified, except when it comes to making waves.

The Bulls are Drummond’s sixth team since the end of the 2020 season, so he understands that complaining about playing time or his role is something a younger Drummond might have done.

That doesn’t mean he’s thrilled with the situation over his last six games. Since getting just seven minutes in the loss to the Thunder on Nov. 25, Drummond has been handed single-digit minutes in three of the last five games. That included eight minutes in the victory Wednesday over the Wizards.

He averaged just under 17 minutes per game in the first month.

Coach Billy Donovan admittedly has leaned on a smaller second unit lately, which has severely cut into Drummond’s playing time.

“I have a lot of confidence in Andre, he’s been a really good guy,’’ Donovan said. “Like any of these players, they want to be out there on the floor. But you’re not going to be able to play everybody all the time.’’

But not everybody has a per-36 such as Drummond’s.

If he were to get 36 minutes a game, his rebounding numbers would be a career-best 19.4 per game, to go along with 16.6 points. He’d lead the NBA in rebounding.

“For me, it’s just a position I have to accept for the time being,’’ Drummond said. “My job is to do whatever it takes to help this team win, whether it’s playing 15 or playing 30 minutes. I said this before, earlier in the year — anyone who knows basketball and has seen me play knows what I’m capable of doing in 30-plus minutes. But that’s not what this team is asking of me.

“It’s to come off the bench, be a spark any way I can and try and help them win games. That’s what I have to accept.’’

There are two truths going on.

More playing time for Drummond has been better for the Bulls’ record, just not lately. Drummond and the second unit were dominant in the plus-minus category in the first six weeks of the season, but Drummond’s plus-minus has plummeted lately.

His minus-27 is the fourth-worst on the team. Zach LaVine (minus-36), -Patrick Williams (minus-95) and Ayo Dosunmu (minus-120) trail him.

The problem is the second unit also has undergone different looks the last few weeks, as Donovan continues searching for groupings that work. One of those made Alex Caruso a permanent starter.

The heart of that “Bench Mob ’22 version’’ was Caruso, Drummond and Goran Dragic. They had a chemistry that has changed.

“Goran and I played together before, so we had that chemistry,’’ Drummond said. “You put our three heads together, the three vets, Goran, myself and Alex, and it can be -incredible for us. We were taking it personal. Whoever was with us, we knew that we were better than the next five that were coming in for the opposing team.’’

Now, Drummond isn’t sure whom he’s going in with, and for how long. His hope is that as rotations settle in, that will change.

“I’ve learned to control what I can -control,’’ Drummond said. “Like I said, you just have to accept it.’’

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