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Lakers are front-runners to sign Andre Drummond, beat Cavaliers to stop skid

The Lakers' Dennis Schroder goes up for a shot as the Cleveland Cavaliers' Darius Garland defends March 26, 2021.
The Lakers’ Dennis Schroder goes up for a shot as the Cleveland Cavaliers’ Darius Garland defends Friday night. Schroder had 17 points and seven assists in the Lakers’ 100-86 win.
(Mark J. Terrill / Associated Press)

On Thursday night, Lakers point guard Dennis Schroder talked about running the offense for a team that almost traded him hours earlier.

“It’s a crazy business,” Schroder said.

How’s this for certifiable?

On Friday, hours before they lost to the Lakers 100-86 at Staples Center, the Cleveland Cavaliers made a move that might tilt the NBA’s championship race and deliver the defending champions a high-impact center.

Unable to find a trade partner by the deadline, the Cavaliers paid two-time All-Star Andre Drummond to go work for someone else. Cleveland officially bought the 27-year-old center out of the remainder of his $27-million contract, making him an unrestricted free agent once he clears waivers.

Hornets GM Mitch Kupchak says he’s not ruling out LaMelo Ball returning this season, while Cleveland has bought out the contract of Andre Drummond.

The Lakers are considered front-runners for Drummond, according to league sources, though there’s serious competition from a list of teams including the Boston Celtics, who just traded their starting center.

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The New York Knicks, the Brooklyn Nets and the Clippers are also believed to be among Drummond’s suitors.

In addition to Drummond, former All-Star LaMarcus Aldridge and Memphis’ Gorgui Dieng have been released. League sources believe Miami is the favorite to sign Aldridge.

Highlights from the Lakers’ 100-86 win over the Cleveland Cavaliers on Friday night.

Drummond became expendable once the Cavaliers acquired Jarrett Allen from Brooklyn this season as part of the James Harden trade. Even before that, Drummond was viewed as a player on a nearly unmovable contract, Cleveland getting him from Detroit for a second-round pick and two players no longer in the NBA.

In 25 games with the Cavaliers this season, Drummond averaged 17.5 points, 13.5 rebounds, 1.6 steals and 1.2 blocks. A career 46.7% free-throw shooter, he was a career-worst 47.4% from the field. He hasn’t played since Feb. 12, when the Cavaliers committed to either trading or releasing him.

Still, Cleveland coach J.B. Bickerstaff said he thought Drummond would be a valuable piece for a contender.

“He has the ability to single-handedly shut down the paint with his intelligence, being in the right spot, and his ability to defensive rebound the ball.

“And then on the offensive end, he’s a threat,” Bickerstaff said on a videoconference before Friday’s game. “You gotta send bodies to him when he’s in the pick-and-roll to keep him off the glass or keep him from finishing. So I think he’d be an asset, big time, to any contender.

“We know in the playoffs, defense is gonna get it done. Like I said, he can single-handedly impact and change a game on that side of the floor for sure.”

The assumption is that the Lakers can offer Drummond two things that any free agent would want: the ability to showcase his talents to earn a contract next offseason, and the chance to win.

With the Lakers missing LeBron James and Anthony Davis because of injuries — Davis, despite being cleared to increase some intensity in his on-court work, is still not close to returning from his calf injury — there is seemingly an offensive void to be filled in the team’s frontcourt.

The Lakers' Montrezl Harrell dunks against the Cleveland Cavaliers on March 26, 2021.
The Lakers’ Montrezl Harrell, who had 24 points and 10 rebounds, dunks against Cleveland.
(Associated Press)

But for the last two games, the Lakers have had the services of the two centers they signed this past offseason, Marc Gasol and Montrezl Harrell. Gasol started for the second straight game after recovering from COVID-19. Harrell led the Lakers with 24 points and 10 rebounds to help them snap a four-game losing streak.

And if the Lakers are desperate for a change, coach Frank Vogel isn’t selling it.

“I’m very happy with both of those guys. There was a little bit of a slow start and those guys getting acclimated to our system, but we had the No. 1 defense in the league with those two guys anchoring it,” Vogel said. “Marc has been out for the better part of three weeks or so. And both of those guys are going to help us win a championship.”

Marc Gasol said he did everything right and still became infected with COVID-19. The Lakers center finally returned to the court Thursday.

Asked directly about big men on the buyout market, Vogel stood behind the players he currently has playing center.

“Right now, we have Marc and Trezz, and those are our centers. And those are the guys who we’re committed to,” he said. “If that changes, then we’ll comment on that at that time.”

Times staff writer Broderick Turner contributed to this report.


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