With the Los Angeles Lakers making the signing of center Andre Drummond official, all eyes moved to when the big man would make his debut.
Drummond hasn’t featured in a game since mid-February when he last played for the Cleveland Cavaliers. He sat out games beyond that date as he and the Cavaliers mutually agreed he wouldn’t play as they sought out a trade to part ways.
Lakers head coach Frank Vogel recently said he’s unsure of Drummond’s availability moving forward, but it won’t be long before the 27-year-old center makes his first appearance with the Purple and Gold.
It appears that debut will come on Wednesday night against the Milwaukee Bucks as Drummond revealed during Tuesday’s practice that he is expecting to play.
Drummond discussed how practice time has helped him acclimate to the team during the Lakers’ two-day break.
“Today was great. Great first practice for me. Being out on the floor again after a month and change was an incredible feeling for me to be out there. The guys welcomed me with open arms, showed me the ropes and what it’s like to be a part of Lakers basketball. I’m excited for tomorrow’s game. That’s really it, I’m hyped.”
Drummond added that a majority of the practice was focused on getting him up to speed on the Lakers’ playbook.
“Today was mainly just plays, getting up and down a little bit, getting my wind going and making sure I’m 100 percent. Today was just a learning day.”
Once the Lakers acquired Drummond, there was a lot of speculation whether or not he would start, which would move Marc Gasol to the bench. Lakers head coach Frank Vogel confirmed that he is expected to be in the starting lineup.
“He’s going to start tomorrow night and we’ll keep an eye on his minutes. I don’t know exactly what that’s going to look like. He does appear to be in very good shape. It’s clear that he’s worked really hard during this time that he’s been off, but there’s no true simulation like playing a game,” Vogel said.
“We’ll recognize it’s been a while since he’s been in an NBA game and be sure not to overdo it and take a long-term approach with it, but he seems to be in very good shape.”
Having Drummond available for this matchup is an opportune sign for Los Angeles. The Bucks are currently scarce in interior depth, but with Giannis Antetokounmpo’s ability to drive the lane and attack the basket, having Drummond’s presence — he averaged 1.2 blocks a game with Cleveland this season — will help alter some shots and force Antetokounmpo to pass the ball out to the perimeter.
Drummond also bestows Vogel another option to score in the paint. Between Gasol and Montrezl Harrell, the two notable interior big men currently healthy, only Harrell is equipped with the abilities to convert on shots around the rim.
Gasol has primarily become a 3-point shooting big as his mobility has declined; he oftentimes roams the paint and operates out of the high post to find cutters heading to the basket. Harrell, on the other hand, wants the pick-and-roll play to either dunk or have an easy floater near the rim.
Drummond is another player who attempts the majority of his shots at the rim, and though his 47.4% field goal percentage is shaky, he grabs four offensive rebounds a game to have multiple attempts at scoring. Having that available as soon as possible is imperative for the Lakers.
Vogel discusses when and why Lakers pursued Drummond
It was no secret the Lakers desperately wanted to add additional talent to their frontcourt depth throughout the season. Once Drummond and Cleveland agreed he wouldn’t play, rumblings occurred, linking Drummond to join L.A. down the road.
Vogel explained when the Lakers’ interest in Drummond began to heat up.
“It’s tough to pick a certain point,” Vogel said. “Obviously, when they (Cleveland Cavaliers) did what they did in terms of they said they might consider a trade or a buyout. At that point, we started talking about him as a potential buyout candidate.
“There’s a lot of guys that fall into that category that we keep an eye out and see how things progress. We knew that as things got closer to the trade deadline, it because more real. I don’t know if there’s a certain date where we felt like this was going to happen. It just kept getting closer and closer as the buyout season came closer.”
Vogel also detailed how Drummond will help the Lakers on offense.
“He’s one of the most dominant rollers, lob catchers, post players, offensive rebounders in the game. Screeners,” Vogel said. “The list is long for how he’s going to contribute to our group. I do think he’s going to have an impact on our group right away offensively.”
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