Heading West

Drummond out for Denver, but Pistons might get their young star back soon

Andre Drummond
Andre Drummond is out for Wednesday's game against the Denver Nuggets.
Allen Einstein (NBAE/Getty)
The Pistons can’t afford an extended absence from Andre Drummond. Maybe they won’t have to endure one.

Drummond, sidelined after five minutes of Saturday’s overtime loss to Indiana when his head collided with Roy Hibbert’s leg and “sent a shock through my entire body” as Drummond recounted it, won’t play when the Pistons open a four-game road trip Wednesday at Denver.

But they’re not ruling him out for Friday’s game at Phoenix. Drummond didn’t practice on Monday but he was at the practice facility without the neck brace he wore back to The Palace from the hospital after undergoing tests Saturday night.

John Loyer had just gotten the news about Drummond and hadn’t thought through the ripple effect it might have on the starting lineup. Rodney Stuckey replaced Drummond in the lineup to start the second half against Indiana and that’s the likeliest course, though Loyer could always decide to keep Stuckey in his role coming off the bench and go back to Kentavious Caldwell-Pope as the starter, too.

“I imagine we’ll start Greg (Monroe) at center and go from there,” Loyer said. “It’s something we’ll look at the next couple of days.”

There’s no other center available to Loyer, though, with Josh Harrellson still rehabilitating a knee injury that dates to Feb. 1. Charlie Villanueva filled the role behind Monroe on Saturday and held his own, so he’s first in line. Rookie Tony Mitchell might find his way into the lineup, as well.

“They’re all under consideration,” Loyer said. “That’s why they’re on the team.”

The Pistons lug a 10-game road losing streak with them to Denver, their last win away from The Palace coming on Jan. 17 at Washington. After going 8-6 in their first 14 road games, the Pistons are 2-14 since.

“Earlier in the year we were pretty good on the road. We haven’t been as of late,” Loyer said. “There are teams we’ve beat – we played very well in the Phoenix, Denver games (wins at The Palace). We didn’t play well against Utah and the Clippers game was a pretty good game. We need to go on the road and get a win.”

Denver is just coming off an Eastern road trip that yielded good results – wins over Orlando and Miami – until the Nuggets lost at Atlanta on Saturday, a result that didn’t do the Pistons any favors as it left the Hawks six games ahead of the Pistons in the loss column for the East’s final playoff berth. The Nuggets have shuffled their starting lineup since their early February loss at The Palace, bringing in 7-footer Timofey Mozgov in a big lineup that includes Kenneth Faried and Wilson Chandler across the front and J.J. Hickson coming off the bench.

Winning at Denver is next to essential for the Pistons, who can’t afford to squander many more chances to get wins and need to start the road trip off with a momentum generator.

“If you win the first one, it makes things a lot easier,” Loyer said. “Both Denver and Phoenix are very high-scoring teams, so you’ve got to do a good job in transition. You want to get a win as quick as you can and that starts with Denver on Wednesday. You don’t want to wait for the last couple, especially with the Clippers (on an 11-game winning streak) playing so well and we didn’t play very well against Utah. You want to go get a win as quick as possible.”

The road sometimes has a way of drawing the best out of desperate teams, almost forcing on them a necessary foxhole mentality.

“Sometimes you’re away from all the distractions you could have by being home, but it’s just going out and playing. Most of these places we’re going to have very good atmospheres,” Loyer said. “It shouldn’t be hard to get up for an NBA game, especially against a quality opponent. These teams we’re playing can all score points in a hurry. We’ve got to do a good job defensively.”