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Signs point to likelihood of Drummond’s return vs. Toronto

After missing 22 games to a back injury, rookie Andre Drummond could suit up for the Pistons on Friday against the Raptors.
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Lawrence Frank wouldn’t commit to Andre Drummond being in uniform and available to play when Toronto comes to The Palace on Friday, but he certainly circled close to such an admission.

“In terms of tomorrow, I’ll give you that answer tomorrow,” Frank said after a Thursday practice he described as one with “good spirit, good energy, good effort” – perhaps, in some measure, because Drummond was again a full participant and spent a good chunk of it playing alongside Greg Monroe.

“We may want to create a competitive situation where we may not want to tell Toronto exactly what we’re doing,” Frank grinned. “That may be a part of it, too.”

Drummond has gone through three shootarounds and three full practices over the last 11 days. Here’s what Frank had to say about bringing a player back after missing as much time as Drummond has – the initial injury occurred on Feb. 3, though the diagnosis wasn’t learned until later that week: “You need to have practices. A guy’s out almost two months, after one practice you can’t say, ‘Go in there.’ After two practices, you can’t go in there. Now, as you get to three and four, now you can legitimately start to see.”

Drummond has said since last week that he felt “great” and was pain-free. He says he feels ready to play and feels his conditioning is sufficient to get thrown back into the mix for more than cameo appearances. Frank said his minutes would be built up gradually, though he wouldn’t say whether that would mean Drummond must come off the bench initially.

“When you’re out the amount of time he’s been out, it’s going to take a while to get your legs back,” Frank said. “You even see with (Pau) Gasol coming back, it’s going to take time. We’ll build it up and read it. We’ll take it game by game and see where it’s at. He’s making great progress, he’s taking hits, he’s running the floor. Every day, his conditioning is getting better. But let’s get to tomorrow.”

Monroe agreed with Drummond’s assessment that an observer who hadn’t known Drummond had missed time wouldn’t be able to tell any different by watching practice.

“He’s moving well,” Monroe said. “We’re practicing with contact and he hasn’t had any problem doing that. He’s definitely playing above the rim, moving around very well. From what I see, he definitely looks like he’s fully healed. He’s been doing everything he was doing before he got hurt.”

Asked whether he has been practicing against Drummond or with him over the past week, Monroe said, “Both. We definitely got a lot of work in today together.”

Drummond has missed 22 games and the Pistons have suffered. Their defensive statistics have gone up as their win total has plunged. After winning four of six without Drummond at first, the Pistons have since gone 2-14. They’ve surrendered 100 or more points in 16 games without Drummond after giving up that many only 14 times in his last 44 games. The Pistons have 10 games left, four at home.

Will Bynum, dealing with a painful right hand strain, will miss the Toronto game. Charlie Villanueva missed Thursday’s practice with a stomach virus.