Not Quite Yet

If you were looking for a compelling reason to pay attention to the final 11 games of the Pistons’ season, how about the anticipated return of Andre Drummond? It’s probably coming soon – but it won’t be Tuesday when the Pistons host Minnesota.

“He’s on course to get back and we’ll just read it,” Lawrence Frank said on Monday after Drummond went through his second full practice, in addition to participating in the last two game-day shootarounds, since suffering a stress fracture in his lower back in early February, 21 games ago. “It’s very encouraging, what you see, but as much as you try to simulate it, practice isn’t an NBA game. But he’s working hard and it’s great to see him back on the court.”

Drummond’s first practice came on Thursday before the Pistons played a weekend back-to-back set at Miami and Charlotte, where their losing streak was extended to 10 games on Friday before it was snapped on Saturday. The team didn’t practice on Sunday, but Drummond worked with Frank’s staff and got in another conditioning session.

Drummond wouldn’t have been cleared for full-contact practices without the medical staff being satisfied that the fifth lumbar vertabra had healed, so the Pistons are exercising another dose of caution while also enabling Drummond to improve his conditioning level. In the early weeks of his rehabilitation, he was limited to minor isometric exercises, putting him in catch-up mode from the perspective of his cardiovascular conditioning.

“I’m young, so the more I run, every day I get better,” he said. “Today was another step for me. I felt that I was a lot better and didn’t get as tired as I did the other few practices.”

The Pistons will have two days off after the Minnesota game before hosting Toronto on Friday night and then they’ll play a road back-to-back set at Chicago and Toronto on Sunday and Monday. If Drummond doesn’t play on Friday, then the Pistons might target the Toronto game for his return. The Pistons held Brandon Knight out of last Friday’s game at Miami, then played him on Saturday at Charlotte. Frank said when bringing a player back from injury into a back-to-back situation, it’s generally best to let him skip the first game.

“You want to get as much practice under his belt as you can and then make the determination,” Frank said. “We’ll try to keep on building things up. He’s making great progress. He’s working hard. If you’re going to be conservative from the beginning, it doesn’t make a great deal of sense all of a sudden to change course.”

When Drummond returns and gets his legs back, he’ll be looking to apply the knowledge he’s picked up in looking at the game from a different perspective.

“I’ve never sat out a game in my life, so I’m just trying to take it all in,” he said. “Just learning the game in a different light, now that I’m not playing. Different feel of the game, looking at how guys change momentum throughout the game.”

When Drummond returns, he might not have his lob dunk partner, Will Bynum. Bynum won’t play on Tuesday, Frank said, after an MRI on the right hand that’s been troubling Bynum for a few months revealed a strain. Bynum left Miami with his hand wrapped after Friday’s loss to the Heat, then didn’t play in the second half on Saturday.

One other note on the health front: Longtime Pistons trainer Mike Abdenour, the team announced, is on indefinite medical leave.