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Andre Drummond to make Lakers debut Wednesday as starter

Andre Drummond, ball in hand, and Mason Plumlee.
Andre Drummond drives against Pistons center Mason Plumlee while playing for the Cavaliers this season.
(Tony Dejak / Associated Press)

In seven short and sweet words, Lakers coach Frank Vogel provided the plan for newly acquired center Andre Drummond for Wednesday night’s game against the Milwaukee Bucks at Staples Center.

“Yeah, he’s going to start tomorrow night,” Vogel said on a videoconference after practice Tuesday.

Drummond will make his Lakers debut starting in place of Marc Gasol, and it will be the first time Drummond has played in a game since Feb. 12, when he had eight points, five rebounds, two assists and one steal in 17 minutes with the Cleveland Cavaliers.

Although the 6-foot-10 Drummond said he has been working out and is in “great” shape, he did just sign with the Lakers on Sunday after clearing waivers following a buyout from Cleveland.

“We’ll keep an eye on his minutes,” Vogel said. “I don’t know exactly what that’s gonna 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 in a game. So, we’ll recognize that it’s been a while since he’s been in an NBA game and be sure not to overdo it, but we’ll take a long-term approach with it. But he seems to be in very good shape.”

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By adding former All-Star center Andre Drummond, the Lakers have fewer minutes for someone else, likely Marc Gasol. A look at what might happen.

For Drummond, his first day of practice with the Lakers was exciting on several levels.

He finally gets to play basketball again. He’s playing on a Lakers team that is trying to repeat as NBA champions. He is playing with two former teammates from the Detroit Pistons — Kentavious Caldwell-Pope and Markieff Morris. And Drummond eventually will play with LeBron James (high right ankle sprain) and Anthony Davis (strained right calf).

“It was a great day,” Drummond, on a videoconference, said about his first practice. “Being out on the floor again after a month and some 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, 27, gives the Lakers size, strength, athleticism, defense and a phenomenal rebounder. He averaged 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in 25 games with the Cavaliers this season. Over his nine-year career, he has averaged 13.8 rebounds, with a career-high 16.0 during the 2017-18 season in Detroit.

“The level of excitement for me is at an all-time high,” he said. “Being off for a month and a couple of days, it’s crazy for basketball. Especially for me, never being in this situation. And having the opportunity to play again, I’m blessed and honored and excited to take this opportunity and make the most of it.”

Drummond was impressive in practice, Vogel said, getting steals at a high clip and raising the Lakers’ enthusiasm.

“Yeah, he looked great,” Vogel said. “I thought our group felt the sort of uptick in energy, having a guy like that come to our team this season, someone we know can help us. A good guy that’s gonna fit in with our chemistry and everything, and he played really well.

“He does what he does. He offensive rebounds, he runs the floor extremely well. Stole the ball several times using his active hands, and everything we thought we were gonna get in him, he showed in practice today. We’re excited about rolling him out there.”

When the season is over, Drummond will be an unrestricted free agent able to sign with any team, including the Lakers.

So, this is a good opportunity for both Drummond and the Lakers to see how they work together.

New Lakers center Andre Drummond had his first news conference Monday and made it clear why he joined: ‘I’m not here to do anything besides win.’

“We want him to help us during this championship run this season, but we’re hopeful that he’s a Laker for a long time to come,” Vogel said. “That’s what we’re envisioning, that he’s gonna be a key piece for us, both in the short term and the long term.”

For now, Vogel has to figure how to play Drummond, Montrezl Harrell and Gasol, who could be the odd man out in the rotation.

“These guys respect him so much,” Vogel said about Gasol. “He’s been a true pro in handling this. We’re gonna need all three of our centers throughout this playoff push, this championship run, hopefully. And he’s a true pro.”

UP NEXT

VS. MILWAUKEE

When: Wednesday, 7 p.m.

On the air: TV — Spectrum SportsNet, ESPN; Radio — 710, 1330.

Update: The Lakers are looking to extend their winning streak to three games. The Bucks will be playing a back-to-back game, having lost to the Clippers on Monday night at Staples Center for their third straight defeat. Giannis Antetokounmpo is fifth in the NBA in scoring (28.4) and sixth in rebounds (11.4), and is averaging 6.3 assists and 1.3 blocks.


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