After his first practice with his new team, Los Angeles Lakers center Andre Drummond was asked if he planned to play on Wednesday in a home contest against the Milwaukee Bucks.
“I am playing,” Drummond said.
Not only will Drummond be out on the court at the Staples Center on Wednesday, he’ll start, according to Los Angeles Lakers head coach Frank Vogel.
“We’ll keep an eye on his minutes,” Vogel said. “I don’t know what that’s going to look like. He does appear to be in really good shape. It’s clear that he’s worked really hard during this time he’s been off, but there’s no true simulation like playing in a game.”
The Lakers will be without superstar LeBron James for a seventh game this season as he works to return from a right, high-ankle sprain. Along with James, L.A.’s other superstar Anthony Davis will miss his 20th game in a row because of a right calf strain. Both remain out indefinitely.
It’s one of the reasons the Lakers looked to secure Drummond on the buyout market last week. The 6-10 center practiced for the first time with his new teammates on Tuesday.
The 27-year-old Drummond has not played since Feb. 12. He averaged 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in 25 starts for the Cavaliers this season.
So, what can the Lakers expect from Drummond, who will make his first start for L.A. on Wednesday? A center who approaches the game from a defensive mindset.
“My defensive game is going to help this team out a lot, with my quick feet and quick hands, being able to recover and play one through five,” Drummond said. “I think our defense is going to be really crazy when those guys come back. And I’m looking forward to it.”
Specifically, Drummond expects Davis to benefit because he can paly his more natural position of power forward more often.
“I think with me coming here, AD can slide to the four and play his true position and be very good at it, without taking the bumps and bruises I do at the five,” Drummond said. “So, I’m looking forward to having that tandem with him and being on the same court as him.”
Vogel said Drummond was very active during his first practice with the team on Tuesday.
“He had a million steals in one practice,” joked Vogel. “Maybe some of them were fouls. I think we were letting him get away with more than usual, but he has exceptional hands. In pick-and-roll defense and post defense and pressuring bigs that are trying to facilitate at the top of the key, I think that’s really going to be a strength of what he brings to the table defensively for us.”
Drummond said he stayed in Cleveland ttorain during his month or so away from the game.
“This past month has been crazy for me, jus figuring out how to stay in game shape,” Drummond said. “It’s always easy to stay in shape, but game shape is definitely a lot harder to do without playing full-contact, five-on-five. But I figured it out. My staff is great who I worked with. I had an incredible month of work where I’m ready to play today.”
According to ESPN’s Bobby Marks, the Lakers will pay Drummond $794,536 -- the amount he had to give back in his buyout with Cleveland.
So, essentially Drummond is an end-of-the-year rental and becomes a free agent at the end of the year.
While Vogel indicated the Lakers would like to keep Drummond beyond this season, the Lakers are pressed up against the salary cap and would need to do some finagling financially to make the big man a competitive offer for next season.
Drummond said he’s not concerned with where he will be beyond this season and will worry about where he will be after the season is over.
“When the time comes for the next decision, we’ll cross that bridge,” Drummond said. “But as of right now my main focus is to help this team win as many games as possible.”