A year ago, Omer Asik’s back forced him to back out of playing international ball for his native Turkey.
This summer, the Pelicans center would like to make his way back to the Turkish national team.
“We have Olympic qualification games with Turkey,” Asik said Friday before New Orleans took on the New York Knicks at the Smoothie King Center. “If I feel healthy enough, then I would like to play and get better in shape for the next season.”
The healthy part has been in question much of the season.
Asik has missed 13 games this season with a right calf strain, a right ankle sprain and a stomach illness. Both the calf and ankle injuries lingered after he returned to the lineup, Asik said.
The 7-foot center, who entered Monday’s game averaging 3.8 points and 6.2 rebounds, said he felt 100 percent healthy for a stretch in December. In February, he rolled his right ankle.
That injury has continued to bother Asik “a little bit,” he said, though it “feels better right now.”
Perhaps in part because of his injuries, Asik’s minutes have been inconsistent this season. He’s averaging 17.4 per game and had played at least 20 in five of his past six games entering Monday night. Before that, he had a stretch of four games when he played single-digit minutes twice and sat an entire game against Golden State, a coach’s decision.
“For me, I’ve always tried to play hard as many minutes as I get,” Asik said. “I’m just trying to give my best on the court. For me, winning is the most important thing, and whenever I’m on the court, I’m trying to give my best.”
And he’ll try to do that for Turkey this summer, if his body allows it.
“I definitely feel much healthier,” Asik said. “I feel better. I feel comfort in my body. I’m just trying to get better every day and play better.”
Best to sit
Carmelo Anthony has been where Anthony Davis is.
Last season, the Knicks forward sat the last 29 games of the season after knee surgery and watched as his team sputtered down the stretch. New York finished 17-65.
Davis, Anthony’s former Olympic teammate, missed his fifth straight game Monday and will be out for the remainder of the season after a procedure on his knee. The Pelicans are out of playoff contention and, like New York a year ago, looking ahead to the NBA draft lottery.
“To have a season like that and be injured and have to deal with that, it’s a lot of mixed emotions that goes along with that,” Anthony said. “But (Davis’) health and his body’s more important than trying to be out there and trying to win basketball games when it’s about pride at that point. I’d rather have him go ahead and get the surgery — I’m pretty sure he already did get the surgery — and take care of his body and be ready for next season.”
After the Pelicans’ loss to Toronto on Saturday, Dante Cunningham made a beeline to a TV.
Cunningham found a restaurant with a TV to catch the closing minutes of Villanova’s 64-59 NCAA tournament win against Kansas, putting the Wildcats in the Final Four for the first time since 2009, Cunningham’s senior year at the school.
“It was like I was almost there,” Cunningham said. “It was very exciting, and that’s kind of what you want, but it was definitely a nail-biter.”
Cunningham’s phone was “blowing up” Saturday night, he said, with texts from former teammates and friends.
The Pelicans leave for an East Coast road trip Saturday, when Villanova meets Oklahoma in a national semifinal, but Cunningham hasn’t ruled out trying to find his way to Houston.
“If there’s a way, I’m definitely putting the word out right now,” Cunningham said. “If there’s a way that we can figure it out, I’d definitely love to be there.”