London gives Drummond international stage

Detroit Pistons rookie center Andre Drummond is getting a shot at the spotlight Thursday night.

All he had to do was leave the country.

Drummond and the Pistons are in London for Thursday’s game against the New York Knicks. Although he’s been more worried about sightseeing and getting ready to play, it’s also a chance for him to earn more attention.

At just 19 and having played only a year of college basketball, Drummond is being brought along slowly by coach Lawrence Frank. The UConn product, who hasn’t made a start, averages 7.1 points and 7.3 rebounds in about 20 minutes a game. Expand that to starter’s minutes and you have a teenager who’s averaging 13 points and 13 rebounds per game.

Those numbers would put him in the conversation for Rookie of the Year and even the All-Star Game. As it is, Drummond will probably have to settle for a spot in the Rookies vs. Sophomores game on All-Star weekend.

That might not be the perfect showcase for his defense — a rarity in that game — but he’ll get a chance to show off his dunks and maybe even block a couple shots.

The game in London will likely show off his quick development to an international audience. In the last month, despite his limited minutes, he’s reached double figures in rebounds on seven occasions and in points on five — the kind of stats fans will probably see when he goes up against the Knicks at the O2 Arena.

Drummond hasn’t worried about his numbers, though. He’s happy for the minutes he gets and is enjoying life as a kid in the NBA. This week, it involves a trip to Europe, and his major concerns were the six-hour flight and five-hour time difference.

“I don’t know if I would want to do this two times a year,” he said when the British media asked him about London getting a team of their own. “This is a lot of wear and tear on the body.”

As a stand-alone trip, Drummond seems OK with it, especially the sightseeing. He’s posted several pictures of London to his Instagram account, starting with the view from the team plane as it came in for a landing and continuing through Wednesday’s tour with Brandon Knight.

Being a true Piston, he’s posted two pictures of Big Ben — the bell whose chime has been heard almost as many times at The Palace as it has in England.

Drummond and his teammates saw a lot on the 75-minute drive from Heathrow Airport to their hotel near the arena, although one player decided to catch up on some much-needed sleep.

“I woke up when we were right outside Buckingham Palace, so I saw Buckingham Palace,” Greg Monroe told Pistons.com. “Otherwise, I was sleeping.”

As a result, Monroe was one of the few players who wasn’t sleepwalking through the practice that Frank held shortly after the team’s arrival Tuesday morning.

“All you’re looking to do is try to get your body on London time,” Frank said. “Innately, every guy wanted to sleep in, but then they’d be up the entire night and you’d never get your body right.

“You’re not going to get anything out of a contact practice — you’d probably put your guys at risk — but it’s, ‘Let’s get a good stretch, get some shots up, get a little sweat.’ Now, go get dinner and go to bed at a normal time.”

Both teams practiced at the O2 Arena — best known as the host of the basketball and gymnastics finals during last summer’s Olympic Games — on Wednesday, then got a chance for some last-minute tourist time before the game.

Jonas Jerebko, who will have Swedish friends and family at the game, tweeted pictures of London Bridge and Westminster Abbey. Austin Daye was marveling at the Thames River, and Kim English was testing out the Tube, London’s subway system.

Daye, who has some experience with European basketball because of his dad’s playing days in Italy, thinks the expected huge crowd will help the Pistons. Detroit is the official home team, even though the Knicks are better known in England because of Carmelo Anthony and Tyson Chandler’s Olympic appearances with Team USA.

“I think that will be good for us, especially here, playing in front of a lot people, which you don’t necessarily get to have because of the tough weather in Detroit,” Daye told the Free Press. “We don’t have sellouts like we used to. It will be fun to play in front of a big crowd.”

And for Drummond, it will be a chance to show the world what he can do.