Andre Drummond didn’t even make it to halftime of his debut with the Lakers before a toenail came off and put the four-time rebounding leader back on the sideline as Los Angeles lost to Milwaukee.
LaMarcus Aldridge’s first game in a month, with Brooklyn, was quite a bit smoother – 11 points, nine rebounds, and six assists for the former San Antonio player in a breezy win over Charlotte.
After taking buyouts, both veterans joined their new teams, adding to a list of other groups incorporating newcomers after deals before the trading deadline late last month. Some transitions have been rockier than others. Chicago lost its first four games after acquiring two-time All-Star Nicola Vucevic from Orlando. Denver is 4-0 since getting Aaron Gordon from the Magic, who pivoted suddenly to a rebuild in an injury-plagued season.
“I wouldn’t judge that on the way he played,” Bulls guard Tomas Satoransky said Sunday, referring to Vucevic after Chicago ended a six-game losing streak with a 115-107 win over Aldridge and the Nets.
“It takes time to kind of adjust on players that came through, and we didn’t have practice really before the first game. We’re trying to learn from film sessions, in the shootaround, how to play with each other.”
Drummond hadn’t played since Feb. 12 with Cleveland when the Lakers, already missing stars LeBron James and Anthony Davis, faced the Bucks on Wednesday. The 27-year-old felt discomfort in his right foot in the first half, then finally took his shoe and sock off and didn’t see a nail on his big toe. Drummond hasn’t played since and wasn’t comfortable before Sunday’s 104-86 loss to the Clippers. The acclimation process will take even longer now for a player who spent weeks in limbo awaiting a buyout.
“It was going to take some time for ’Dre to get acclimated anyway,” Markieff Morris said. “We won’t see the best of him probably until another 10, 15 games anyway as a player. No matter how much you work out, you don’t actually play in an NBA game, you won’t be the same.”
The Nets are working Aldridge and Blake Griffin, another buyout addition from Detroit, into their rotation while dealing with the on-again, off-again presence of point guard James Harden, who forced a trade from Houston in January. Kevin Durant has played just the past two months because of a hamstring issue, leaving Kyrie Irving as the lone Brooklyn star with a consistent presence since January. The next time all five current and former All-Stars play together will be the first.
“We all want to be healthy for when we make that big run after May 16,” said Irving, noting the end of the regular season for the likely favorite to win the Eastern Conference. “So just use this time to kind of throw bodies out there that we’ve newly acquired. And just see how we fit.”
Gordon had his highest-scoring game for the Nuggets with 24 points in a 119-109 victory over his former team Sunday. Six of his 10 baskets came on assists from Nikola Jokic, who had 16 assists as Denver erased Orlando‘s 18-point halftime lead. “It seems like a great fit,” Gordon said. “For as long as Jokic has been in the league, he’s been diming. Just making cuts, playing the game, he’s finding me. Hopefully, I’m making it easy for him. Hopefully, I can return the favor.” Victor Oladipo was the biggest acquisition for Miami in a trade with Houston, while Nemanja Bjelica also was picked up at the trading deadline from Sacramento. Trevor Ariza came a week earlier in a lower-grade deal with Oklahoma City.
Oladipo didn’t play the first two games after joining the Heat and is just 5 of 21 from the field in the pair he has played. Miami, however, is 4-0 with the two-time All-Star on the roster.
“All these things, there will be a little bit of a process,” coach Eric Spoelstra said. “And let’s not forget he changed cities. There were a lot of different changes in protocols, and then, boom, just playing games, that’ll take some time. But you can just see how much he adds to what we do already defensively. He fits right in.”
The third piece of Orlando‘s fire sale, Evan Fournier, started slowly with Boston in a pair of losses before scoring 23 points in a victory over hapless Houston. The Celtics are in the race for one of the final East playoff spots after losing to Miami in the conference finals in the playoff bubble last year.
On Sunday, Rajon Rondo finally made his debut for the Clippers, 11 days after coming over in a trade that sent three-time Sixth Man of the Year Lou Williams to Atlanta.
Rondo missed four games with right abductor soreness before scoring two points with four turnovers and four fouls in 13 minutes. After the trade, Williams was out the first three Atlanta games but is coming off a pair of double-digit scoring performances in two victories for the Hawks.
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