The irony is that the Pelicans were building around stability.
Though New Orleans brought in new coach Alvin Gentry, it brought back the core of last season’s 45-win, eight-seeded Western Conference playoff team. That roster consistency was expected to be key to another playoff push.
“It obviously didn’t turn out that way,” Gentry said Wednesday.
News that Tyreke Evans will seek a second opinion on his sore right knee — and that he could miss the rest of the season, depending on what doctors tell him — was the latest blow for a team that has lost 155 player games to injury.
Evans missed his 27th game on Wednesday when the Pelicans hosted the Jazz, all related the to the right knee he had surgically repaired in May and again in October. Small forward Quincy Pondexter has missed all 52 games after offseason knee surgery. Wednesday marked guard Eric Gordon’s 11th straight game sidelined with a fractured right ring finger.
Jrue Holiday has missed five games to injury. Anthony Davis has missed six. Centers Alexis Ajince and Omer Asik have combined to miss 10 to injury and illness. Norris Cole missed the first 17 games.
“It’s been tough,” Gentry said. “I’m not going to lie about that. It’s been extremely tough, because what I think it’s done is limited what we can do as far as trying to put in a system, trying to change the style of play, establishing roles for players in certain situations and then just establishing rotations, really. It’s been a pretty difficult year so far.
“That being said, you got to try to deal with it. You can’t throw up your hands and say, ‘I give!’ We’re not quitters. The players are not quitters. So we have to come together as coaches and players and try to best figure out how we can put ourselves in a situation where we have an opportunity to win games.”
Evans’ latest setback is another significant blow for the Pelicans.
Though Evans has not yet determined a course of action, Gentry said there’s “a possibility that it could be something that keeps him out the rest of the season.”
Evans had surgery on the knee in May and again in October and sat the first 17 games of the season. He’s missed the past seven games, saying after a loss to Houston on Jan. 25 that he felt pain in his knee prior to the game. Evans had his knee drained prior to the game, which he’d done at least two previous times in January.
An MRI showed no structural damage, Pelicans coach Gentry said at the time. The Pelicans referred to Evans’ knee pain first as soreness, then as tendinitis.
The 26-year-old Evans is averaging 15.2 points, 6.6 assists and 5.2 rebounds per game this season. The Pelicans are 11-14 this season in games Evans plays.
“He’s one of our top scorers,” forward Anthony Davis said Wednesday. “He does so much on the floor for us defensively and offensively. He’s one of our leaders. For him to go down, it’s tough for us. But at the same time, we got to have guys step up and try to fill his shoes. It’s going to be tough, but everybody’s demanding here.”
The injury adds to what’s been a taxing first season for Gentry, and the Pelicans’ depleted roster has impacted the team right from the start. It continues as the team nears this weekend’s All-Star break.
and next week’s trade deadline.
“I still don’t think we’ve had a true evaluation of our team and what that team actually is,” Gentry said. “So that gets to be a little bit tough when you’re dealing in any kind of situations as far as trying to improve your team. What do you do or what do you need? All of those things are still questions that’s up in the air because we haven’t had a group together that we anticipated having. Not for one single day.”
It’s been three weeks since Gordon fractured the ring finger in his shooting hand, and he said Wednesday that he remains on track for a return sometime in his original four- to six-week timetable.
That would put Gordon back on the court sometime between next week and the first week of March.
Gordon is able to go through conditioning but can’t yet handle or shoot a basketball, and he’s hoping to get some time with the ball in his hands before he makes a return.
“It’s kind of up to the doctors,” Gordon said. “I get x-rays every week just to see how progressively it’s healing. It’s kind of on them. The main thing is to make sure the bone heals. I just want to get out there as fast as I can, fast as possible. When the doctors clear me, I’ll be really ready to go.”
When the Pelicans face the Thunder on Thursday in Oklahoma City, they could be down another player.
Guard Bryce Dejean-Jones’ second 10-day contract expired after Wednesday’s game. For the Pelicans to re-sign Dejean-Jones, they’ll have to commit to a guaranteed contract through the end of the season.
As of tipoff Wednesday night, the sides had not reached an agreement.