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Cheeks says ‘we can be pretty good’ with Drummond on the court

Fans clamored for more of Andre Drummond during a season the Pistons entered with organizational caution for expectations on their callow rookie. They can stop the hand-wringing, it would appear.

“I’m going to put him out on the floor, for sure,” Maurice Cheeks said as the Pistons opened training camp. “I’m not looking not to play him. I’m looking to play him. He’s going to be out on the floor. I don’t know any other way to say it. He’s going to be out on the floor and I think with him on the floor we can be pretty good.”

Drummond said Monday that he weighed in at 275 pounds when the team went through their pre-camp physicals, which puts him 20 pounds under his weight last winter even though his body fat index hovered between 5 and 6 percent at the time, he said. The conditioning issues that contributed to limited minutes over the early months last season are no longer a factor.

“I feel great,” Drummond said. “Conditioning is great. I ate well and just ran a lot.”

Drummond averaged 21 minutes a game last year, though his month-by-month totals ticked up steadily until he went down for 22 games with an early-February back injury before returning – as a starter – for the season’s final 10 games. He goes into the 2013-14 season as the team’s unquestioned starting center.

His league-wide reputation now far exceeds his averages of 7.9 points and 7.6 rebounds. Word spreads fast on the player grapevine. Great things are expected of Drummond, given good health. Josh Smith was asked which teammate he was most excited to play alongside. He didn’t hesitate.

“I’m excited to play with Andre Drummond,” he said. “Because he’s young, he’s athletic. Being able to have an added shot-blocker back there behind you, knowing the last line of defense is not always you, you get excited about things like that.”

Asked after Monday’s practice about the prospect of playing perimeter defense with the knowledge that an overplay that results in Smith getting beat would be safeguarded by Drummond’s presence, he smiled again.

“I’m going to love it,” he said. “My main goal is to play defense as though I don’t have any help, but I know that if push comes to shove, if an offensive player breaks me down I’ll have Big Fella down there to help me out.”

When Chauncey Billups was re-issued his No. 1 jersey in July after Drummond agreed to switch to No. 0, Billups said Drummond should establish his own legacy in a number not made famous by anyone else. “That kid is going to make a lot of money,” he said then.

After watching Drummond in Las Vegas at USA Basketball’s July minicamp – Billups serves on the association’s advisory board – and working out with him for a week at The Palace this summer, he’s even more enthused about his youngest teammate.

“I see a star in the making,” Billups said. “I watched him from afar for a while and then I got a chance to work out with him a couple of times this summer and now I see his work ethic. He’s going to be a very special player for a long time.”