A pregame scan of the New Orleans Pelicans’ injury report features one static line.
Quincy Pondexter (knee) – out.
The small forward missed two complete seasons because of a variety of surgeries and prolonged recoveries on his left knee, unable to even reach the active roster since the 2015 playoffs. It’s why Pondexter’s future may be in jeopardy, even with a year remaining on his contract.
During a season-ending news conference Thursday, Pelicans general manager Dell Demps went as far as saying getting Pondexter back for the 2017-18 season would be the equivalent of adding a free agent.
“Not to go into all of the detail, but he’s had some bad luck,” Demps said. “It’s not normal, the things that have happened to him.”
Pondexter’s first surgery took place in May 2015 and revealed a deeper injury than the Pelicans initially expected. Later that summer, Pondexter told The Advocate he intentionally ducked MRIs during the final weeks of the Pelicans’ chase toward the playoffs, because he feared the team’s medical staff would shut him down, choosing to play through pain instead.
But the initial surgery didn’t fix the issues, and Pondexter underwent additional procedures in January of 2016 and 2017 in an attempt to repair the cartilage in his left knee, but thus far, nothing has fixed the issue. Demps also revealed Pondexter’s latest surgery caused a “non-sports” infection, adding to the variety of problems already faced.
“Quincy has had some bad luck,” Demps said. “He’s missed two seasons. The last time he played, it was in the playoffs. He’s had multiple surgeries. But he’s back with the team, and he began doing some light shooting. We are hoping to get him, back but at the same time, he hasn’t played in two seasons, so can he recover?
“If he can recover, he’s the definition of a two-way player who can guard multiple positions and is a good leader and locker room guy.”
But it’s unknown whether he’ll ever be that player again. Demps admitted it is unusual to see such a protracted injury, but pinned it to luck rather than a mistake by the team’s medical staff. He also credited Pondexter’s upbeat attitude through the hardship, despite the troubling circumstances.
“This year, when he was with the team, his presence was felt just talking to guys, and we’d like to have him back,” Demps said. “I would actually consider that like a free-agent signing because we haven’t had him for the past two years.”
Oh, no, Omer
The other lingering name on the Pelicans’ injury report this season was center Omer Asik, who suffered a bacterial infection during the All-Star break and never returned.
The infection caused Asik to lose a “significant” amount of weight, according to coach Alvin Gentry, which kept Asik sidelined for the final 25 games of the season. However, most of Asik’s season was already spent from the bench, playing just 13 combined minutes in the Pelicans’ 25 previous games, despite being healthy.
Asik played in a career-low 31 games, and posted a career low 2.7 points per game, despite signing a five-year, $58 million contract with the Pelicans in 2015.
Demps declined to state if the team has thought about cutting Asik’s contract loose either via the stretch provision (which would diminish his initial impact against the salary cap, but would extend the timeline) or trade, but did say he’d like to see improved play.
“Omer had an infection that he suffered and he lost a lot of weight,” Demps said. “I think the first thing is we want to get him healthy and back on the court. But we also want to improve his play. We want to get him back into shape and playing at a level he played a couple of years ago.”
In his first three NBA offseasons, Anthony Davis had a clear mission.
The first two were spent building muscle into his long frame, adding more than 30 pounds since his rookie year. Then, he focused on his shooting, adding range and an abundance of high-post moves to his repertoire, converting better than 45 percent of his shots from 3 to 16 feet.
It’s how he’s grown from All-Star reserve, to All-Star starter to All-Star MVP.
After rehabbing his surgically-repaired right knee last summer, which forced him to miss the Olympics, Davis now has another four months to add to his game. But Gentry said he wasn’t expecting anything specific to emerge.
“I think he’s pretty good,” Gentry said. “You can always get better, and I think he’s one of those guys that is always going to work at it, but I was just looking at some things this morning, and he had 49 double-doubles, eight 40-point games, three games with 20 rebounds or more, 19 30-point, 15-rebound games and played in 75 games.
“So, I’ll take that.”