New Orleans Pelicans power forward Ryan Anderson has been targeted to return during the team’s road trip that begins Wednesday in Los Angeles, coach Monty Williams and Anderson said Monday.
Anderson has been out with a sprained medial collateral ligament in his right knee since Feb. 21, when he landed on the foot of Miami Heat guard Mario Chalmers during the second quarter.
“We had to get the OK from the trainers and trainers,” Williams said. “He’s been working out a lot lately, so it looks like he’ll be ready to play here soon, but we’re not sure when.”
Anderson worked hard after practice against assistant coach Jamelle McMillan, mostly attempting his usual shots and moves. He turned, faced the basket and drove, shot one-legged Dirk Nowitzki lean-back jumpers and plenty of 3-point attempts, his forte.
“Today, we couldn’t play full court, so (Tuesday), I intend to do that,” said Anderson, the team’s key player off the bench. “Haven’t done that, yet. Obviously, it’s going to be real important for me.
“After practice, we’re going to get in some 3-on-3, 4-on-4. I need to go full court. That’s the next step.”
The Pelicans (39-34) are 2½ games behind Oklahoma City for the Western Conference’s eighth and final playoff spot with nine games to go. The Pelicans play at the Lakers on Wednesday, then at Sacramento on Friday and at Portland on Saturday .
Anderson, who has missed 17 games, had been running in the pool, but things turned for the better a week ago, he said. The knee felt stronger, and he began running on the court, then working on lateral movement. After Saturday’s practice, he and point guard Jrue Holiday played 2-on-2 against McMillan and player development director Carlos Daniel.
The status of Holiday, who has been out since Jan. 12 with a right lower-leg stress reaction, is day-to-day, Williams said. He said he doesn’t know when Holiday will return.
Anderson received his custom-fitted brace Wednesday, which coincided with increasing his workouts and hoping for an imminent return. He had been wearing a more cumbersome and protective brace, although the new one, he said, provides a lot of stability.
Understandably, he remains cautiously optimistic about his return. He won’t really know how the knee is, he said, until he gets into game action.
“It’s easy right now running up and down, doing sprints, playing half-court 1-on-1 or guarding in the post half court,” he said. “Playing basketball is not just up and down. You’re moving all around, you’re jumping, you’re twisting, moving laterally, not something I’ve done at that pace.
“But the knee feels stronger.”
If all goes well, his return would be a huge development for the Pelicans, who are holding out hope of earning the franchise’s first playoff berth since 2011, which is also the last time it had a winning record.
He is one of the league’s better 3-point shooters, although he is shooting 34.3 percent (111-of-324) this season after coming back from a neck injury that sidelined him from Jan. 3, 2014, for the rest of last season.
Anderson is averaging 14.6 points, fourth on the team, along with 5.1 rebounds. More important, his outside shooting opens up driving lanes for the team’s guards, and he is known for his hard competing and veteran leadership on the court.
“Ryan’s a really good player: shooting, rebounding, spacing the floor,” Williams said. “All that stuff helps a number of guys on our team.
“Any time you can get a guy who can drop 20 to 25 points on any given night, that should give everybody a boost. It also settles the rotation.”
Williams said he’s hopeful Holiday will be return before the season ends.
“He’s working out more, but he’s day-to-day,” Williams said.