CHARLOTTE, N.C. — A quick glance at the Charlotte Hornets’ injury report shows the names of Al Jefferson and Lance Stephenson.
A look at the current New Orleans’ report reads a knock-on-wood-inducing “none.”
However, if you turn the clock back almost exactly one year, the fortunes of the Hornets and the Pelicans were reversed.
First, New Orleans lost Ryan Anderson, who suffered two herniated discs in his neck following a collision with Boston Celtics forward Gerald Wallace on Jan. 3. And a week later, Jrue Holiday had to be shelved with a stress fracture in his right tibia.
At the time of his injury, Anderson, 26, was averaging career highs in points per game (19.8) and minutes per game (36.1), while Holiday — who played with the injured tibia for an undetermined amount of time — was averaging 14.3 points, 7.9 assists and 4.2 rebounds per contest.
Not surprisingly, the losses took their toll on the Pelicans, who limped to a 19-32 finish, ending the season 34-48.
“Any team that has all of its best players on (the court) is going to be a better team, and we’re no different,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said Wednesday, reflecting on how big it’s been to have Anderson and Holiday back healthy since beginning of this season.
“Those guys are still getting into the shape that they need to be in to play 35-40 minutes a night for Jrue, and (for) Ryan, around 27-30 minutes. But it’s just really good to have them back.”
Having someone to rehab with was important to Anderson, who wasn’t cleared to begin physical therapy until mid-July.
“(Jrue and I) talked to each other a bunch,” he said. “It’s a tough thing to be injured like that, and to not be alone through that process helped. We leaned on each other to a certain extent.
“It’s all about not being alone through those things. As hard as it was for the team to have a bunch of injured guys, it was something that was good for (him and I) to strengthen each other and encourage each other to get back.”
And the hard work has begun to pay off.
Since returning, Holiday, 24, has been used heavily by Williams. The 6-foot-4, 205-pounder has upped his scoring average slightly to 15.3 points per game and logged a team-high 82.5 miles on the court this season, or just about 2.4 miles a game.
Anderson, on the other hand, said that he has come back to the game with a new appreciation after being forced to stay off the court for seven months. He’s averaged 15.8 points and five rebounds a game over the last 10 games (not including Wednesday).
“It just takes those guys time,” Williams said. “You can’t just sit out five, six, seven months and expect to come back and be yourself, so I just think that the time that they’ve had to play these first three months has helped them. I expect those guys to be even better this second half of the season.”
“We know with the talent that we have with this group, that the sky is the limit,” he said. “I think that we’re figuring things out. This is still basically a new team so we’re figuring out how we can play best with each other and we’re learning that. We’re starting to play more and more consistent and I think we’re starting to jell.”