AUBURN HILLS, Mich. — You never want to lose and you certainly don’t try to lose but the Detroit Pistons are now in a situation where it might be better if they did.
The Pistons announced Friday that talented rookie big man, Andre Drummond, is out for the next four to six weeks with a stress fracture in his fifth lumbar vertebra.
Drummond, who suffered the injury against the Los Angeles Lakers this past Sunday, does not need surgery and is expected to make a full recovery. He will, however, miss the Rising Stars Challenge event at All-Star weekend in Houston.
The tough part about the injury is that Drummond’s growth will be hampered by missing so much time. Coach Lawrence Frank is not worried about that.
“He’ll be fine,” Frank said. “No one wants to get injured. Any sort of a negative situation, you turn it into a positive. So there’s different things that Andre’s going to be able to work to get stronger and take this time to gain some strength in some different areas to make sure that his back gets healed correctly for the long-term.
“We’re going to miss Andre. It’s not like we win this game and (we’re good). Andre’s a vital, vital part of both our present and future. But that’s the name of the game here. We move forward, we get him healthy and you go with who you got.”
The Pistons (19-32) seemed to handle the bad news with great aplomb, going out and snapping the San Antonio Spurs’ 11-game winning streak with a 119-109 victory at the Palace Friday night.
“It’s definitely unfortunate,” Greg Monroe said of Drummond’s injury. “It’s a huge loss for us, what he brought to the table for us. But as a group, everybody knows they have to step up now.”
Monroe certainly did step up, scoring a team-high 26 points and collecting a game-high 16 rebounds in 40 minutes.
“We were interchangeable and then I played with him so with him being out, I’m definitely expecting to play more,” Monroe said. “If he changes the rotation, I’m prepared for that, too.”
Unlike the other night against the Brooklyn Nets when his shot wasn’t falling, Charlie Villanueva was hot, scoring a season-best 21 points on 7-of-15 shooting (5-for-9 from three-point range) and grabbing a season high-tying eight rebounds.
“Some of them had to play a little bit more, particularly Greg and Max (Jason Maxiell), and they did a good job, just keeping their energy up throughout the game, playing more minutes than usual,” Brandon Knight said. “They just did a great job holding down the fort while Dre wasn’t there.”
At 39-12, the Spurs still have the best record in the league, even though they’ve been playing without Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili.
Barring an unprecedented collapse, the Spurs are going to be in the playoffs and will contend for another NBA title.
Although the Pistons — currently 10th in the Eastern Conference — remain in the running for a playoff berth, it seems unlikely that they’ll catch the Philadelphia 76ers (21-27), Milwaukee Bucks (25-23) and Boston Celtics (26-23) to move into the eighth spot.
With the loss of Drummond, who was gaining national attention with his play, the Pistons are going to suffer without him, Spurs victory notwithstanding.
After drafting fairly low for several years when they were making the Eastern Conference Finals six straight seasons and seventh, eighth and ninth the last few years, the Pistons might be better served by losing more so they can get more ping-pong balls in the draft lottery.
The Charlotte Bobcats (11-38) and Orlando Magic (14-36) will very likely have worse records than the Pistons but the Cleveland Cavaliers (16-34) and Washington Wizards (14-35) have benefited from getting Kyrie Irving and John Wall back, respectively, from injuries and could leapfrog the Pistons.
The Pistons need a superstar or two to win in today’s NBA and the higher the lottery pick, generally the better the chances of getting one. Drummond may grow into one but he needs more players around him besides Monroe and Knight.
Again, this is not to suggest that the Pistons should try to lose, but they might be able to turn this negative into a positive come the end of June if they do.