Tyreke Evans on Thursday missed his fifth straight game with knee soreness. It’s unclear how many more it might cost the Pelicans point guard.
Evans, who sat the first 17 games of the season after arthroscopic surgery in his right knee, sat out against the Lakers at the Smoothie King center with sorness in that same knee. He hasn’t played since Jan. 25 against Houston, a game he left after 16 minutes with knee pain.
But Evans is getting “better,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said before the game, and though he’s evaluated day-by-day, there was no plan as of Thursday to shut him down for an extended stretch.
“I don’t think so, but we’ll see,” Gentry said. “We evaluate it every day and see where it is, but we’re just trying to be cautious about it, and if it just so happens that maybe it’s better for us to not play him until after the All-Star break or something, we’ll consider that also. But there hasn’t been any decision made as far as that’s concerned.”
Evans is third on the Pelicans in scoring at 15.2 points per game and leads the team at 6.6 assists per game. He’s averaging 5.2 rebounds and shooting 43.3 percent in 25 games this season, playing 30.6 minutes per game.
His current issue is “soreness, that’s all,” Gentry said.
“To me, it doesn’t make sense to stick a guy out there when he still has soreness there,” Gentry said. “We’ve got a lot of games left, and I think you’ve got to look long-term and not stick him out there for a few games and then all of the sudden he misses 10, 12 games or something like that.”
He’s got skills
The NBA officially on Thursday announced the participants in its All-Star Saturday Night Events, and as Anthony Davis had said last week, the Pelicans forward will take part in the Taco Bell Skills Challenge.
The event, which traditionally has been limited to backcourt players, this season will include four forwards — Davis, Golden State’s Draymond Green, Sacramento’s DeMarcus Cousins and Minnesota’s Karl-Anthony Towns — in addition to guards Isaiah Thomas of Boston, CJ McCullom of Portland, Jordan Clarkson of the Lakers and Patrick Beverley of Houston, the defending champion.
The contest features a race with ballhandling and passing, a layup/dunk and 3-point shot, with two players competing against each other to finish first on identical courses.
“He’ll be fine,” Gentry said of Davis. “He’s a very good athlete. He can do a lot of things. I think it’s a good thing for him to be involved in.”
The inclusion of big men, Gentry said, is a sign of the times in the NBA.
“The big guys in our league, that’s where it’s going,” Gentry said. “Karl-Anthony Towns is a kid that can post up, big body, step out, make 3s. (Jahlil) Okafor is almost in that (categeory). Obviously (Kristaps) Porzingis is in that category. I think you’re seeing the big guys coming into this league, the skill level of being a complete basketball player is much more there than it’s been in the past. You’re not just a back-to-the-basket player.”
At most, Kobe Bryant has one more game to play in New Orleans. The Lakers will return on April 8, in the final week of the regular season, and given the retiring Bryant’s health, there are no guarantees.
So with his opportunities to coach against Bryant waning, Gentry is appreciating the ones he has left.
“His legacy is very much well-established,” Gentry said. “Everyone would want to coach someone like that at some stage in your coaching career if you had the opportunity.”
That doesn’t mean Gentry has always enjoyed Bryant’s career. He routinely tells the story — and did again Thursday — of Bryant rising up over Grant Hill against the Gentry-coached Phoenix Suns for a game-clinching fadeway jumper in Game 6 of the 2010 Western Conference Finals
“I say, ‘Good defense,’ and (Bryant) moves the jump shot to another angle and makes it,” Gentry said. “He turns around and gives me a nice little slap on the — we’ll just call it the hip — and says ‘Not good enough.’ ”
Gentry knows he’s hardly the only coach to have been tormented in Bryant’s 20-year career.
“Obviously the league’s going to miss him,” Gentry said. “Not the coaches. The league will miss him.”