Andre Drummond remains out, but did go through full practice

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UPDATE 3:01 pm: Just to make me look bad, Andre Drummond went through a full practice on Thursday, tweets Keith Langlois of Pistons.com. He described Drummond as “upbeat.”

There is officially still no timetable for his return. Everyone will want to wait a day and see how his back and body respond to the workout. But it sounds like his return is close.

10:37 am: When Andre Drummond went out with a back injury, the Pistons became far less interesting to watch. He averaged 7.4 points and 7.5 rebounds a game, but he was efficient — shooting 59.2 percent with a PER of 22.3.

Without him the Pistons are just not very good — they are 5-19 since he sat down, they have lost nine in a row, and since Drummond went down Detroit is bottom six in the league in both offensive and defensive efficiency (points per 100 possessions). In their last 20 games the Pistons are a -12.5 points per 100 possessions, second worst in the NBA in that time.

The one hope is that Drummond — who was looking like a dark horse candidate who could make a run at Damian Lillard’s Rookie of the Year trophy — would come back this season and make things a little more interesting, forming a good young front line next to Greg Monroe.

But Drummond is still out with no timetable and when speaking with the Detroit Free Press he doesn’t sound all that confident he will be back this season at all.

“Oh, of course,” he said, when asked about wanting to return this season. “I don’t want to sit out, but if it has to come to that, then that’s what it has to come to.

“We’re just going day by day really. (Trainer Arnie Kander) tells me every day I’m closer and closer, so I just go from what he tells me and continue to follow his instructions.”

Rightfully, the Pistons don’t want to pressure his return (although when I saw him do a pregame workout a couple weeks ago he seemed to move pretty well). And with the season lost more Ping-Pong balls in the lottery is not a bad thing. But when Drummond and Monroe are next to each other and healthy (with Brandon Knight in the back court), you can see some hope for the future. Which is why the last 19 games have been so hard to watch, that hope is in a suit on the sidelines.

Joel Embiid frustrated, wants more post touches, to play back-to-backs

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Joel Embiid remains a frustrated man.

He wants to be unleashed on the NBA, and he feels he’s being held back.

Part of that is not playing in back-to-backs — Embiid started Friday night against Boston but will sit out by plan Saturday night against the Raptors in Toronto. Embiid knows the plan to help protect a body that has played only 31 games in three seasons before this one and was not cleared for most of training camp, but that doesn’t mean he likes it, as he told Jessica Camerato of NBC Sports Philadelphia.

“I just want to feel like an NBA player,” Embiid said.  “I feel like I’m not an NBA player because I can’t play back-to-back.”

I get his frustration, but can you blame the Sixers for treating the guy like he’s made of glass at this point? Hopefully, later in the season, he can be cleared to play on both ends.

His second frustration came from the loss to the Cavaliers on Friday — he wants more post touches. In the video above he is clear, “I didn’t get the ball enough in the post.”

He’s right here. Embiid had three post-ups all game, one in each of the game’s first three quarters (stat via Synergy Sports). Embiid is efficient in the post — he has shot 9-of-12 on those plays overall this season and the Sixers score 1.33 points per possession when he does. Especially against a team going small — the Cavaliers start Kevin Love at center — Embiid should be fed down low.

Instead, look at his shot chart from Friday night.

Part of this is on him with all the threes, but they have to utilize him better. It’s part of the Sixers growing pains that will come this season.

Nets’ national anthem singer kneels to finish performance

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NEW YORK (AP)—  The national anthem singer at the Brooklyn Nets’ home opener took a knee at the end of her performance.

Justine Skye was nearing the completion of the song Friday night when she went to one knee for the finish. There were some cheers, but appeared to be more boos from the crowd at Barclays Center to see the Nets play the Orlando Magic.

NBA players have continued to stand during the playing of the anthems, as required by league rule.

Mavericks’ rookie guard Dennis Smith Jr. misses game with knee swelling

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DALLAS (AP) — Dallas Mavericks rookie point guard Dennis Smith Jr. missed Friday’s game against the Sacramento Kings with swelling in his left knee.

Smith, the ninth pick in the NBA draft out of North Carolina State, had 16 points and 10 assists in the Mavericks’ season-opening loss to the Atlanta Hawks.

Smith participated in the Mavericks’ shootaround on Friday morning and was a late scratch. It is not known if Smith will play Saturday for Dallas.

The Mavericks were also missing guard Devin Harris, who was granted leave of absence after his brother died on Thursday.

Watch Lonzo Ball’s 29 point, 11 rebound, 9 assist game Friday night

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This was more of what fans expected from Lonzo Ball.

After a rough first game against the Clippers — with Patrick Beverley in his face all night — Ball found plenty of room to operate against the soft defense of the Phoenix Suns. With room to operate Ball had 29 points, 11 rebounds, and nine assists — just one assist short of a triple-double. He helped the Lakers pull away to a lead in the third then hold on for a 132-130 win over the Suns.

Ball wasn’t terribly efficient, 12-of-27 shooting, but he was 4-of-9 from three, he played with great pace, he was decisive, and was finding guys with his passes. It was a step forward, even if it was against a sad defense (Eric Bledsoe can be a good defender, but he has seemed disinterested in recent years).

Ball and the Lakers are going to be up and down this season, the goal is for there to be more ups near the end of the season.