Nets center Andre Drummond dunks against the Grizzlies during the...

Nets center Andre Drummond dunks against the Grizzlies during the first half of an NBA game Wednesday in Memphis, Tenn. Credit: Brandon Dill

Andre Drummond wanted to clear the air.

Days after a quote of his saying he was “only here for the rest of the season” went viral, the Nets big man said his words were taken out of context, adding that he hopes to remain with the Nets despite being set to become an unrestricted free agent who will certainly demand more than the veteran minimum that he’s earning now.

“Would I love to be here? Absolutely,” Drummond told reporters at the Nets shootaround Tuesday. “Can I control that right now? No. I can only control what’s happening right now . . . Don’t misuse my words. That’s not fair to me and that’s not right, because I shouldn’t have to defend myself publicly, again, after I said the right thing. That’s not right.”

Drummond was referencing comments he made in Memphis Wednesday, when he was asked about Nic Claxton, who will be eligible for a qualifying offer at the end of the year. Claxton previously had expressed some surprise at not being traded, especially when the Nets brought in Drummond as part of the Ben Simmons trade in February.

“We need him,” Drummond told reporters there, referencing Claxton. “A guy that can come in and help, can start, come off the bench. He can do a little bit of everything. With a guy like that that’s so versatile, why would you trade somebody like that? And again, he’s a young big, too. And if we’re all being honest, I’m only here ‘til the rest of the season, so who knows what’s going to happen in the offseason?”

Aggregators picked up the latter half of the quote, and it spread quickly on Twitter, where Drummond responded in a since-deleted series of tweets. He accused one basketball Twitter account of “trying to capitalize on false info.”

“Use the whole quote,” Drummond told reporters Tuesday. “Don’t use the first half. That’s not right because that’s unfair to me and the staff here, because I never used those words in that context and you all know that. I said I respect Nic as a player, and I think it’s dumb for them to trade him because he still has two years left on his contract and we’re all aware of me being on a one-year. That’s evident. We know that.”

It is true, though, that it will be difficult for the Nets to re-sign Drummond, despite how much his contributions have meant to the team. They’re already over the salary cap, meaning they would only be able to sign him using non-Bird rights (120% of his $2.4 million salary, or $2.88 million) or the taxpayer mid-level exemption of $5.89 million.

Drummond, though, has what it takes to command much more than that. After playing limited minutes with the 76ers in the first part of the season, the 28-year-old center has more than proven he can still be a strong contributor as a full-time player. In 17 games with the Nets, he’s averaged 12.2 points and 9.8 rebounds, putting him in the same category as a guy like the Hawks' Clint Capela, who will make $18 million next year.

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