Tyreke Evans will know when it’s time.
The Pelicans guard, who had arthroscopic knee surgery on Oct. 20, has yet to play a game this season — he missed his 13th straight on Friday as New Orleans hosted the San Antonio Spurs — but he’s getting closer.
“I’ve been fighting through injuries my whole career,” Evans said at Friday’s shootaround. “I know my body pretty well. Once I know I can be me and go at the speed I want, dribble and stop on a dime, I think I’m ready.”
And he’s closing in on those goals. Evans said he thinks he could be ready to play next week “for sure.”
Evans went through what he said was a “good workout” on Thursday — running the floor, handling the ball on pick-and-rolls, coming off screens — and came through it with good range of motion and no significant swelling in his right knee.
“We’re getting close, but we’re gonna err on the side of being a little overcautious there before we just stick a guy back out there,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. “But I think he’s feeling good and he’s been pain free, and those are all good signs.”
Gentry said he thinks Evans is “on point” in saying he could play next week.
There still are hurdles to clear. Evans said his knee “felt like it was giving out a little bit” earlier this week when he did lunges, a sign he still needs to strengthen it. And Evans said he needs to have more live-basketball situations in practice to see how his knee responds to the lateral movement required to play defense.
The swelling has been minimal, and Evans said keeping it that way is the “main focus right now.”
“I’m doing a good job of just icing it down like crazy, getting treatment,” Evans said. “Should be back in no time.”
That would be a boon to the Pelicans. Gentry called Evans “an integral part of our team” for his mental approach and toughness, but also for the way he impacts “winning basketball.”
Last season, Evans averaged 16.6 points, 6.6 assists and 5.3 rebounds per game, which Gentry referred to as “like Grant Hill numbers.”
When Evans is able to return, Gentry said, he’ll be eased back into action, but his restrictions won’t be significant.
“I think his minutes will be a little limited, but he’s not gonna be a 10-minute guy or anything like that,” Gentry said. “We’ve spoken about that, and as to what it is going to be exactly, we’re not sure, but it’s not gonna be 10, 15 minutes. I pretty much know that.”
Ultimately, Jrue Holiday will be playing more minutes for the Pelicans.
Just don’t ask him when.
“You got to talk to the trainers,” Holiday said. “That’s not on me.”
If it were up to Holiday — whose minutes are rationed and who’s prohibited from playing on back-to-back days as he recovers from a stress reaction in his right leg — he’d be playing more. But the Pelicans have taken a cautious approach all season with the point guard, who’s played 74 combined games the past two seasons.
The minute limit — Holiday has played 25 or fewer minutes in all but one game this season — and the back-to-back restriction have hindered Holiday’s ability to get into a rhythm, and he doesn’t expect that to change.
“(I’m) as comfortable as I’m going to be,” Holiday said. “It doesn’t get any easier until the minutes increase. Then it’s a little different.”