Anthony Davis was scratched for the third consecutive game due to a strained left adductor in his midsection.
The All-NBA forward was initially listed as doubtful entering Wednesday, but was ruled out more than an hour before the Pelicans tipped off against the Denver Nuggets in the Smoothie King Center.
Davis went down in last Friday’s loss to the Utah Jazz, falling in dramatic fashion after absorbing light contact early in the fourth quarter. Trainers and teammates carried Davis off the floor, eventually placing him in a wheelchair to reach the locker room.
However, a pair of MRI examinations revealed no structural damage and put Davis on the day-to-day injury report. He missed Saturday’s victory in Portland and Monday’s home defeat to Golden State.
It’s unclear exactly how long Davis will be sidelined, but he was seen doing individual warmups the past few days, able to drive to the basket and rise for dunks. However, Davis said on Monday he’s still experiencing significant pain on certain cuts and pivots, and the Pelicans will be cautious with his return.
“In his case, he wants to play,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “If there was any chance he could play, he would play.”
While the Pelicans’ timeline with Davis is a bit cloudy, there’s some new basis for comparison about his potential return. Phoenix Suns’ guard Devin Booker also strained his left abductor and was carried off of the court on Tuesday night.
The Suns listed him out for two-to-three weeks while he recovers. In the meantime, Gentry wants to see Davis prove he’s capable of playing full speed before returning to the the court.
“We would just like to see a little more than what we have just to make sure of it,” Gentry said on Wednesday. “It doesn’t necessarily have to be a practice, but we have to see more than we have seen right now and put him through a little more strenuous workout.”
Less than two months after being cut by the Denver Nuggets, Pelicans’ guard Jameer Nelson welcomed his former teammates to his new home arena.
The 13-year veteran has played in 22 games since coming to New Orleans, providing an experienced presence off of the bench. It’s also allowed coach Gentry to be conservative with starter Rajon Rondo’s minutes as he recovers from a core muscle injury that sidelined Rondo for the first 13 games of the season.
Rondo hasn’t tallied more than 31 minutes since joining the Pelicans in free agency.
“Jameer is one of the reasons we can do that,” Gentry said. “I think he’s been just real solid in what we ask him to do. I don’t really look at the stat sheet to see if they have a good game, because as a coach you know what you’ve asked them to do and most nights they do everything they ask you to do and then some.”
It’s no surprise to Nuggets’ coach Mike Malone, who said he spent time with Nelson in New Orleans on Tuesday and considers him a friend, even though he released the guard in October.
“Jameer was an impactful player for us last year as we made a playoff push and he was our starter,” Malone said. “I’m not surprised he has come down here and flourished in the role he was given by Alvin. He comes off the bench and runs his team. He’s a leader on and off the court and he makes everyone around him better.”
While Davis’ absence was the most notable, Denver was also playing without much of its interior strength.
Forwards Nikola Jokic and Paul Millsap were both ruled out for Wednesday’s game, which changed the Nuggets’ strategy to a more backcourt-focused approach. Considering Jamal Murray (31 points) and Gary Harris (22) roasted the Pelicans in Denver’s 146-114 win on Nov. 17, the shift didn’t catch Gentry or his staff off guard.
“I think you have got to focus on those guys anyway,” Gentry said. “If you go back and look, those guys played the last game and Jamal Murray is the guy that hurt us the most. I just think their backcourt is really good and when you add Will Barton, they’ve got very good perimeter players that are very capable scorers.”