Without center Andre Drummond, the Pistons are 5-16. (Clarence Tabb, Jr./Detroit News)
Auburn Hills — If you thought Andre Drummond's return to real basketball would occur sooner rather than later, as in Friday in Miami, then you were sadly mistaken.
Pistons coach Lawrence Frank was initially optimistic before Monday's game against the Nets in terms of how Drummond would be evaluated, leading some to believe Drummond was on the way back.
But after Wednesday's practice he cleared the air, closing the door on such sentiments.
"There's no update, it's gonna be slow," Frank said. "He's not coming back anytime soon. He's made progress. You gotta think, the doctors restricted us from doing anything. Just from a conditioning standpoint, it's gonna take time."
Drummond's back injury-induced absence has been a big reason for the Pistons' struggles after the All-Star break. After Feb. 1, the last game before Drummond's injury, the Pistons were 18-30, and their differential was minus-1.7 points per game.
Since? A league-worst minus-10.8 points per game, with a 5-16 record after the Super Bowl Sunday loss to the L.A. Lakers, when Drummond initially hurt his back.
While it's impossible to quantify exactly what type of on-court influence Drummond has, it has been just as difficult for the 19-year-old rookie to watch as it has been for frustrated and angry Pistons fans.
They've been outrebounded in 16 of the 21 games since, as Drummond's defensive rebound percentage of 27.3 (seventh among qualifying players) ranks on par with Dwight Howard and Tim Duncan. The percentage represents an estimate of available defensive rebounds a player grabs while he's on the floor.
"It's tough to watch my team, knowing I can't be out there and help out. There's some things I have to take care of before I get back out there," Drummond said. "Arnie (Kander) tells me every day I'm closer and closer."
"Nobody likes to lose. Even when I was playing, it still (stinks) to lose, but not being able to play and watching us lose, it's hard to watch. It's frustrating because I know I could be out there to help."
Drummond, in the sixth week of a six-week diagnosis from team doctors, went through shooting drills with assistant coach Dee Brown, well after most players departed after practice.
When asked if he wants to play, he said, "Of course. I don't want to sit out, but if it comes to that, then that's what I'll have to do."
He doesn't deny he'll provide a spark for his team, one in the midst of a nine-game losing streak that looks very likely to spread to 10 in South Beach on Friday night when they play the Heat.
He then uttered simple words that many fans are desperate to hear: "When I come back I'll play hard every night."
Singler picks Duke
Pistons rookie Kyle Singler has no doubt about his Final Four picks, as he follows the game closely, with the NCAA Tournament starting today.
He picked Duke — his alma mater — Georgetown, Wisconsin and Miami.
Duke won the national title in Singler's junior season (2009-10), beating Butler, when he averaged 17.7 points and shot 40 percent from 3-point range.
He picked Wisconsin, a thorn in the side of Michigan and Michigan State, because "they're a tough team."
He went with Georgetown and Duke in the Final, and he'd never pick against the Blue Devils, although Greg Monroe will have something to say about that in the locker room bracket pool.
"It's a tough road," Singler said. "They've got to play Louisville, Creighton or Cincinnati. They're good enough to get there."