Seven Pelicans are out for the remainder of this season, but as the games dwindle down, it’s increasingly likely that number will jump to nine.
Forward Ryan Anderson, who has missed the past seven games with a sports hernia, and guard Norris Cole, who has sat the past 13 with a sore lower back, haven’t been ruled out for the final seven games, but with seven games left — beginning with Sunday’s noon tipoff in Brooklyn — it’s looking less like they’ll be back.
“I think obviously as the games go on it’s more and more unlikely that we’ll see them,” coach Alvin Gentry said after Saturday’s practice. “We’re in a situation now where we’re in single-digit games. So we’re going to go play a trip right here, and if they’re not going to play on this trip, (it’s) probably more than likely that they wouldn’t play (again this season).”
The Pelicans play Tuesday in Philadelphia and Wednesday in Boston. On Monday, Anderson will see a specialist in Philadelphia and have a follow-up MRI to see how — or if — his groin has healed since it started to hurt two weeks ago.
“We’ll see if it’s good to gear up or if we should keep holding back or whatever,” Anderson said.
Anderson might require surgery — he’s done research, he said, that indicates 23 of the past 25 NBA players with sports hernias did — or might be able to heal with rest. Still, he’s not entirely ruling out the possibility that he could play again this season.
“That’s not a decision I can make right now,” said Anderson, who will be an unrestricted free agent at the end of the season. “And to be honest, it’s been really tough for me. I don’t like sitting out of games. I am very eager to see this doctor and to hear what he says.”
Anderson didn’t play through pain with the injury, he said. His groin didn’t start to bother him until after a 117-112 loss to Portland on March 18, the last game he played. At the time, Anderson thought he had a groin pull. The next day, it felt worse, and he realized something more serious was at play.
Since then, Anderson has focused mostly on treatment — stretching, massage, core-strength work — and has done little on-court basketball work. On Monday he’ll have a better sense of whether he’ll continue along that path or shut down his season for surgery.
“I’m not, like, really jumping for joy to go get surgery again if that’s the case,” said Anderson, who had surgery on a herniated disc in his back in 2014. “But whatever you got to do, you got to do.”
Though the possibility of better draft position provides incentive to lose, the Pelicans aren’t tanking down the stretch.
Not strictly speaking, anyway.
New Orleans is playing without its top five scorers, including leading scorer and franchise player Anthony Davis. It’s giving major minutes to three players – guard Tim Frazier and forwards Jordan Hamilton and James Ennis – who came to the team on 10-day contracts.
That’s going to lead to some losses, but Gentry said the Pelicans won’t lay down to lose and increase their odds of moving up in the NBA Draft lottery.
“We’re trying to establish something from the standpoint of playing hard and competing, and if we do that and it ends up being a win, I think that’s great,” Gentry said. “If we do that and it doesn’t work out, it’s not something that’s so detrimental. But I do think the guys, their personality and everything is that they’re going to play to win and they’re going to compete like crazy. And I wouldn’t want them to do anything other than that.”