Pelicans’ center Alexis Ajinca is expected to miss four to six weeks due to a right hamstring strain, according to team officials.
It’s the second injury Ajinca has dealt with since signing a 4-year, $20 million contract this offseason, which brought him back to the Pelicans after entering the open market as an unrestricted free agent.
While preparing for EuroBasket competition, Ajinca strained his achillies tendon, eliminating him from the tournament for cautionary reasons. And although he participated in last week’s four-day training camp at The Greenbrier in West Virginia, Ajinca admitted he was playing through pain on the leg.
“I'll have to work through it a little bit, it's still painful,” Ajinca said during last Monday’s media day. “I'm going to try and practice. I thought I was going to be 100 percent, but I'm not 100 percent yet. It was something I thought was not a major injury, I've just got to play through it.”
In Saturday’s 110-105 preseason win over the Indiana Pacers, Ajinca played eight minutes, pulled down four rebounds and made one of his two shots. But, it could be the last time the Pelicans see him on the floor for more than a month.
Ajinca averaged just 6.5 points and 4.6 rebounds last year, but emerged in a handful of games last season, even cracking the 20-point barrier to spur New Orleans in wins over Toronto and Miami, when starting center Omer Asik was out due to injury.
Now, third-string center Kendrick Perkins, who was signed by the Pelicans to a minimum contract this offseason, will be thrust into a more meaningful role at the onset of the season to make up for the lost depth.
Asik, however, who was also held out of EuroBasket due to back spasms, is playing without medical restrictions, according to Pelicans’ management and logged nearly 11 minutes in Saturday’s game.
Ajinca’s absence means the Pelicans will start the season without at least two of its rotation players, since starting small forward Quincy Pondexter is still recovering from a cartilage repair in his left knee and is not expected to return until sometime in November.