There were no sugarplums, but still, visions danced in Quincy Pondexter’s head Monday night.
It was the night before practice, and the Pelicans forward couldn’t wait to be stirring alongside his teammates Tuesday, practicing for the first time since arthroscopic surgery on his left knee in May.
“I was thinking about it all night,” Pondexter said Tuesday after his first practice of the season. “I was nervous like it was the first day of school, coming back. I was like, ‘Man, let me just get this first shot out of the way. Let me see what’s going to happen.’”
What happened was a long jumper from the top of the key. From Pondexter’s recollection, it was from “a couple of feet” behind the 3-point line.
“It hit nothing but net, and I was like, ‘All right, I’m good now. I’m good,’” Pondexter said. “I made sure I shot the first one I touched, though. That was the key.”
When the 6-foot-6 swingman gets his first touch in a game remains a mystery.
There have been “a million different dates” targeted for his return, Pondexter said. He won’t add the million-and-first yet. On Tuesday, he scrimmaged and was cleared to participate in any practice activity, though his minutes were limited. When he’ll make his season debut “hasn’t been decided at all,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said.
“I know I’ve gotten my hopes up and I’ve been let down,” Pondexter said. “We don’t know. But today was a big step, to actually practice.”
It may be some time before Pondexter, who averaged nine points and shot 43.3 percent from 3-point range last season after coming to the Pelicans in a January trade with Memphis, can make the next big step.
But when Pondexter does return to game play, he’ll provide the Pelicans with a 3-point shooter and floor spacer. He’ll also be another in-season addition who has to learn the offense and for whom acclimating to a new system “is going to be a learning process,” Gentry said.
To that end, Pondexter said he’s been watching closely since Gentry arrived, examining the spots on the floor where he’ll play and the roles he might fill in the Gentry’s system.
Pondexter said he’s played the role of “pseudo-assistant coach” so far.
“Just seeing where guys are in the offense, seeing different positions and just playing with it all in my mind and seeing it out there, I got to really take a step back and see what the game is really like with this offense and this team,” Pondexter said. “I think it’s going to make me better when I first come back.”
Pondexter said he has “a long way to go with this therapy,” but he’s seen too many timetables proven wrong over the course of his rehab to say one out loud. He said he was looking forward to how his knee would respond to a practice Tuesday and hoping for the best.
For now, Pondexter is happy to be progressing, and excited about the prospect of getting back on the court, whenever it happens.
“Hopefully in the near future I’ll be able to play,” Pondexter said. “The first day the doctors say I’m OK to play, I’m out there. I’m not holding anything back.”