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Andre Drummond, Lakers

3 things we learned from Andre Drummond’s bizarre Lakers debut

Andre Drummond made his debut with the Los Angeles Lakers (30-18) on Wednesday. Well, half of a debut.

Drummond is 6-foot-10, but he faced an even taller order in his first game at his new job: deal with the reigning MVP, as L.A. hosted Giannis Antetokounmpo and the Milwaukee Bucks (30-17) at Staples Center.

In general, there was some good, some bad, some strange.

The 27-year-old center — who was officially signed on Sunday after reaching a buyout with the Cleveland Cavaliers — hadn’t played since Feb. 12. As expected, he was slotted into the starting lineup, while incumbent Marc Gasol was relegated. Gasol played six minutes and declined to speak to the media — a pattern since Drummond came aboard. Montrezl Harrell was the first center off the bench and was promptly devoured by Lopez.

The matchup may be an NBA Finals preview, but this game wasn’t competitive. The shorthanded Lakers couldn’t hang with a fully loaded Bucks squad, and Milwaukee cruised, 112-97.

As for Drummond, he spent the first half testing his conditioning, shuffling between Antetokounmpo and Brook Lopez, and working through touches on offense — to mixed results.

Then, before his second half as a Laker could truly get going, he was forced out of the game with what was initially described as a toe contusion.

Ultimately, the night didn’t go exactly as planned for Drummond nor the Lakers. The center lost a toenail, and the team lost another basketball game. Here are three things we learned.

1) Brook Lopez somehow shredded Drummond’s toenail

Moments before the second half began, Drummond seemed to signal an issue with his foot on the sideline, causing Harrell to jump in for the first two and a half minutes of the period. Drummond briefly checked back in before heading to the locker room shortly after, prematurely ending his evening.

Toward the end of the third quarter, the Lakers announced a right toe contusion (bruise) and that X-rays had come back negative for fractures.

As ESPN’s Dave McMenamin noted, Drummond switched sneakers from Air Jordan XIs to LeBron 16s during the first half, which revealed a wrap on his right big toe.

Afterward, Drummond untangled the mystery in his Zoom with the media. As he recalled, Lopez — who was apparently wearing cleats to celebrate Opening Day — stepped on his toe in the first quarter, and when he took off his shoe at halftime amid increasing pain, he noticed that his big toe was missing its full nail. Even with tape, he was unable to walk or run.

“My whole toenail was gone!” he exclaimed. “I couldn’t even put shoes on.”

“I’ve lost a toenail before, but this one is very, very painful,” he said.

You can watch him recount the gruesome injury here:

Before the game, Lakers head coach Frank Vogel said that Drummond would play “starter’s minutes,” depending on how he felt as the game progressed. That surely would have meant more than 14 minutes, had Lopez not crushed his foot.

“It was really bothering him. [He] almost didn’t return after halftime,” Vogel said. “He’ll be reevaluated tomorrow, see how it feels overnight, and he’ll be day-to-day.”

Markieff Morris could relate: The Lakers big said he once lost a toenail and was able to play through it. But “that sh*t hurt for like a month and a half.”

I do not envy Drummond’s next few days.

2) Understandably, Drummond looked rusty

In his intro presser Monday, Drummond was confident that he kept himself in tip-top mental and physical condition over the layoff. That may be true, but “NBA game shape” is a different reality.

Against Giannis, it’s very different.

We’re not here to judge Drummond’s performance or fit after one half.

Before the injury, his reactions looked a second slow, and he was clearly lacking his typical two-way bounce — save for an impressive early block, which led to a soft floater for his first basket as a Laker.

His effort was admirable, but he was a bit lethargic chasing boards and chugging back on defense when the run of play flipped. He was appropriately hesitant on offense as he adjusts to a new system and surroundings.

Drummond tallied four points, one rebound, two assists, one block, three turnovers, and four fouls in his limited run. He clanked both of his free-throw attempts.

To be fair, a handful of those minutes came after, you know, he lost a giant toenail.

3) There were good things

It wasn’t all contusions and confusion. There were encouraging glimpses, too.

Drummond’s post moves weren’t leading to buckets for him, but he eagerly sought to kick out, which did produce 3-point looks. Dennis Schröder and Drummond connected — albeit shakily — on a pick-and-roll, and the Lakers’ offense flowed early. L.A. shot 8-of-12 from 3-point range in the first quarter (they finished 10-of-36).

“He draws a lot of attention in the paint,” Vogel said about Drummond’s impact early on. “During that stretch, we really shot the ball well from the perimeter. … We’re playing the right way offensively, generating high-quality looks. Andre rolling to the basket and being in the paint draws a lot of attention, and guys are knocking down shots.”

At one point, Drummond turned a shot contest into a defensive rebound, which ignited a semi-transition triple for Markieff Morris. He even took a charge — a staple of the Lakers’ top-ranked defense this season.

“If you saw the first couple minutes of the game I was out there, just the energy defensively that I brought, it kind of boosted everybody on both ends of the court,” Drummond assessed.

Even at half-speed, you don’t need a microscope to see his potential impact.

“You see the physical presence that he brings,” Vogel added. “The athleticism at the rim, stopping the basketball with his hands … He’s definitely gonna help us on that side of the ball, and you saw some of that tonight.”

After he exited the game for good, the Lakers went limp. L.A. failed to produce a 20-point scorer and were once again plagued by turnovers (22).

Antetokounmpo finished with 25 points and 10 boards, Jrue Holiday added 28, while Milwaukee shot 53.2% from the field.

Overall, it was a weird evening, but not necessarily an inauspicious one. As long as Drummond’s injury isn’t serious, the only direction to go is up — which is where Drummond’s head seems to be staying.

“My head is high, gonna take it day-by-day and come back better than ever,” a lighthearted Drummond insisted.

Hopefully, for the Lakers, that toenail grows back fast, because the schedule isn’t getting any easier.

Morris, for one, isn’t lamenting the team’s recent injury luck. After all, these aren’t season-ending ailments.

“It just makes for a better ending,” he said. “That’s how we look at it. Everybody be back out there. We’re not worried about the big toe. It just lines up for a great ending. A great ride off into the sunset. Championship win again.”