Cleveland’s Andre Drummond drives to the basket against Milwaukee’s Giannis Antetokounmpo on Feb. 5. Drummond is the newest member of the Los Angeles Lakers. (Tony Dejak / Associated Press)
A smile crept across the face of Frank Vogel, the joy in his voice evident while the Lakers coach said how “thrilled” he was about the addition of 6-10 center Andre Drummond.
So much news surrounding the Lakers this season has been disheartening as they try to repeat as NBA champions.
There are the injured superstars — LeBron James recovering from a high right ankle sprain and Anthony Davis trying to come back from a strained right calf. Marc Gasol missed time because he was infected with the coronavirus and Dennis Schroder and Alex Caruso missed games while in the NBA’s health and safety protocols. There were the losing streaks, the malaise of playing a shortened season after a condensed offseason while in the middle of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Now the Lakers have some good news to wrap their heads around — Drummond decided to join their cause after he cleared waivers Sunday and signed with them following a buyout from the Cleveland Cavaliers.
“We’re all thrilled to add Andre Drummond, a player of his caliber to our team,” Vogel said on a videoconference Sunday night after the Lakers held on to defeat the Orlando Magic 96-93 at Staples Center. “He’s one of the best centers in the league, someone that every defensive coordinator is going to have to account for and to figure out how to handle him when they’re trying to slow down AD and Bron and our guards. I think he’s going to give us a big lift in the immediate future and then obviously when we get going. He can dominate the game on both sides of the ball. His physicality is something you have to account for.”
Lakers forward Markieff Morris played part of the 2019-20 season with Drummond when both were with the Detroit Pistons.
More than any of his Lakers’ teammates, Morris knows what the Lakers will get from Drummond.
“We gonna get a hard-working guy,” Morris said after producing a double-double with 12 points and 11 rebounds against the Magic. “He’s gonna come in, he’s gonna change the game a lot for us with his size, his rebounding ability and his ability to block shots. I think being around this type of team is gonna raise his level of play, just like it do everyone else, and he’s gonna be a great addition to the team.”
Drummond last played Feb. 12 for the Cavaliers, which chose to sideline him while exploring trade options.
The Lakers have Monday off and likely will practice Tuesday. The hope is to get Drummond up to speed on the Lakers’ schemes.
“I got somebody to battle with on the boards now,” Kyle Kuzma said after collecting 11 rebounds and scoring 21 points against the Magic for his 12th double-double of the season. “So, I think that’s something that’s really, really going to stand out. Especially when we get AD back. Me, him and Drummond and Bron fighting for the boards, it’s going to be tough. It’s going to be tough for other teams. If we can get him to buy in defensively, continue to do what he does on the boards and just keep it simple, I think it will bode well for us.”
Drummond had a picture of himself in a Lakers jersey with his hands wrapped around a basketball on his Instagram account Sunday.
“Back to work,” Drummond posted, along with two hearts, one in purple and the other in gold.
In 25 games with the Cavaliers this season, Drummond averaged a double-double of 17.5 points and 13.5 rebounds in 28.9 minutes per game. He also averaged 2.6 assists and 1.2 blocks.
Drummond, 27, has been a starter in 573 out of the 624 games he has played in over a nine-year career.
The Lakers start Gasol at center and have Montrezl Harrell as the backup. Gasol averages 19.8 minutes per game and Harrell 25.3.
After producing his eighth double-double of the season with 18 points and 11 rebounds in 28 minutes, Harrell was asked how Drummond could affect his role going forward.
“I haven’t thought about that,” Harrell said. “It’s not something for me to think about. It’s not in my control. So, everything that you just mentioned is everything that comes from the top office and coaching staff. It has nothing to do with me.
“I want to continue to keep playing the way that I play, bringing the energy that I bring and just hope my teammates feed off of it. We got a great player in Andre Drummond who is going to definitely help our team on both ends of the floor and help our organization overall. But it’s not something that I kind of wrap my mind on or jump in my head for me … because at the end of the day, I don’t have the answers.”
The decision on how to use three centers will be up to Vogel.
“All I can say is we’re gonna need them all,” Vogel said. “There’s no doubt in my mind we need all three of them for this playoff push that we’re about to endure. We have a really condensed second half of the season and every playoff series is different. We saw the flexibility that we have as a coaching staff from playoff series to playoff series that different guys’ skill sets match different opponents and I really believe we’re gonna need all three of those guys and I expect to use all three of them.”
This story originally appeared in Los Angeles Times.