Omer Asik will "definitely" play for the New Orleans Pelicans this season, coach Alvin Gentry said. Asik's injury recovery is progressing, but the Pelicans do not appear to be rushing the 7-footer.
Yet, Asik's injury status was upgraded from "out" to "questionable" for Wednesday's 7 p.m. game against the San Antonio Spurs at the Smoothie King Center, the team announced hours before tipoff. The center is available to play, but isn't expected to be used Wednesday unless there is an "unbelievable emergency in some way," Gentry said.
Asik, who hasn't played since a 4-minute outing on Feb. 10 of last season against the Minnesota Timberwolves, returned in a reduced role to the Pelicans practice Tuesday. He was sidelined for the final 27 games of the 2016-17 season because of a gastrointestinal infection, an injury the Pelicans used Crohn's disease-like treatment to rehab.
"I mean, the guy lost almost 30 pounds," Gentry said before Wednesday's tip. "Just to get the weight back on and then to be able to get on the court at all has been a real, real battle for him. He's done everything he possibly could to try to get back out there."
Gentry said Asik is sure to return to the court alongside the Pelicans All-Star frontcourt of Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins at some point this season, but an official timetable is not set.
The 7-foot center from Turkey has not played more than 10 minutes in a game since he logged 15:32 on Dec. 20, 2016, against the Philadelphia 76ers.
"It's just that we've waited this long," Gentry said Tuesday. "It's not the situation where you want to rush anything. What would be the difference in him playing a week from now? Or two weeks from now, as opposed to try to stick him out there now? I think he wants to be back out there."
Asik has shot 52.9 percent from the floor during an eight-year NBA career. In 19 starts and 31 total games last season, Asik averaged 2.7 points and 5.3 rebounds per game in 15.6 minutes.