SAN FRANCISCO — One-by-one, the New Orleans Pelicans filed off the bus Sunday morning and walked into the old gymnasium at the University of San Francisco.
First came the coaching staff, led by Monty Williams, then the players.
All eyes (and television cameras) were on the back of the line. Tyreke Evans emerged from the bus and walked into the gym with a slight limp. His left knee had a compression sleeve on it, but no brace. The Pelicans’ starting point guard was dressed for practice.
Officially, Evans is questionable with a left knee contusion for Monday’s second game of New Orleans’ playoff series with Golden State. He suffered the injury in a knee-on-knee collision with the Warriors’ Andre Iguodala during Saturday’s first game. An MRI was performed Saturday night, but Williams said he didn’t know the results Sunday morning.
“I don’t even know,” he said. “I didn’t find out intentionally so I don’t have to tell you guys. That way I’ll keep from lying.”
Evans was slightly more forthcoming, saying the MRI confirmed a deep bone bruise. He said there is a little bit of swelling.
“I feel better,” Evans said. “I haven’t really pushed off yet. Just a lot of treatment and go from there.”
Evans said the key would be whether he can push off on the knee. He added that it would be a game-time decision if he plays.
The loss was a huge one for the Pelicans. Evans moved to the point after Jrue Holiday suffered a stress fracture in his right leg Jan. 12. New Orleans was 18-19 at the time. The Pelicans went 27-18 down the stretch and clinched a playoff berth with a win over San Antonio on Wednesday, the final day of the regular season.
Evans, at 6-foot-6 and 220 pounds, brought a different dynamic to the team with his size and toughness. Evans also developed a strong on-court relationship with Anthony Davis. That seemed to be missing most of Saturday, when New Orleans fell behind by 25 points before rallying to make it close near the end of a 106-99 loss.
“Our points in the paint were down yesterday,” Williams said. “Tyreke’s a big part of that. Even when he’s not scoring, he does a lot of damage getting to the hole, and we didn’t have that. Our corporate equity was depleted a bit yesterday, not having him in the game.”
Evans went out late in the first quarter. He came back for one minute of playing time in the second quarter before returning to the bench.
“I was in the back trying to run, but I just couldn’t run full-speed,” he said. “If you can’t run full-speed against this team, you don’t want to be out there going half-(speed).”
If Evans isn’t available, Holiday and Norris Cole will replace him. Holiday was the starter at point guard until his injury, after which he missed most of the next three months. He played limited minutes in three late-season games and then played 21 minutes Saturday, scoring five points and handing out five assists.
Williams was asked whether Holiday’s minutes will remain limited. He responded, “Yeah, yeah.” When it was suggested the limit would be 20 to 25 minutes, he said, “We’ll see.”
Cole came over in a trade from Miami in February. He played 33 minutes and scored eight points with six assists in Game 1.
“Norris did a good job settling us down,” Williams said. “He wasn’t afraid of the moment. None of our guys were afraid, but Norris has been there before. ... I don’t think anything rattled him, and I think his calm way settled us down. He didn’t shoot well, but he got us into our offense better than we did previously.”