New Orleans Pelicans guard Tyreke Evans underwent arthroscopic knee surgery this morning on his right knee. The team announced the surgery was a success but did not provide a time table for his return to action. This makes it two knee surgeries for Tyreke Evans on his right knee since the season ended; his first was conducted on May 21st. It is the third right knee surgery for Evans since arriving in New Orleans. Unlike the previous two, this one will almost certainly result in missed games.
In two seasons with the Pelicans Evans has matched his career high in games (72) and then set a new high last season appearing in 79 while leading the franchise back into the playoffs. The hope for many was that Evans would continue his upward trajectory this season in Alvin Gentry's new pace-and-space offensive system. Sadly those hopes will have to wait a few weeks.
Evans had his own message posted on twitter earlier this evening.
I will come back #Pelicans#takeflight— Tyreke Evans (@TyrekeEvans) October 21, 2015
The return time table for an arthroscopic knee surgery can vary wildly. If it was a simple clean up procedure it could be as little as 4-6 weeks. If it was more extensive a recovery time reaching towards three months would not be a surprise. This all began with a reported knee contusion and some knee soreness. If that sounds familiar it is because it is nearly the same diagnosis handed down to Eric Gordon in 2011.
But consider: Eric Gordon was supposed to return from a "knee bruise" shortly after the December 26th season opener against the Phoenix Suns. When Gordon held off on returning until January 4th, it was billed simply as a "precautionary measure." Gordon was day-to-day during the intermediate time period, but he hasn't played since the Philadelphia game on the 4th. The fact that there's "important" news to report at all points strongly towards a negative revelation, if only because a healthy Gordon, based on our information so far, would hardly be proclamation worthy.
Has the Pelicans training staff changed since 2011? Yes, and dramatically so. Duane Brooks was brought on as the new head athletic trainer just last October. Previously he was an assistant with the New Orleans Saints. The strength and conditioning coach, Jason Sumerlin, and physical therapist, Jared Lewis, were also new hires last October. While the Pelicans had some injury failures last year (Jrue Holiday the most egregious) they also got Eric Gordon back on the court after a separated shoulder without surgery. Evans, as noted above, set a career high in games played.
Where do the Pelicans go from here? I really don't know. I believe the best course of action for this season is to be patient and avoid rushing players back from injury or abandoning the plan for Jrue Holiday. The resolve on the Holiday Plan is going to be seriously tested, make no mistake. Even if the Pelicans have a relatively disasterous couple months to open the season they have proven, and have the schedule lined up, to make a run and find themselves back in the playoffs if healthy.
Long term? Anyone expecting the entire core six (Davis, Holiday, Evans, Gordon, Ryan Anderson, and Omer Asik) of this franchise to remain together is fooling themselves. Gordon and Anderson are both in contract years. Holiday and Evans will be next year. This core, naturally, will look drastically different by 2017. The CBA nearly demands it with so many players coming up on their "big" contract.
Instead the Pelicans should proceed cautiously with injuries and continue to evaluate which core players best fit beside Anthony Davis. Those who do not will be traded or permitted to leave via free agency. Those who do the Pelican front office will attempt to retain. It would not shock me if just three or four of those core six remain on the roster by this time 2017, when the Pelicans should be moving from the building phase to the contending phase.
In August I wrote that defining success for the Pelicans this year is going to be more than simply wins and losses. Improving the net rating of the team, improving on defense, and simply making Pelican games more enjoyable from an entertainment or aesthetic point of view are all real markers for me this year. Alvin Gentry might clear all those hurdles and a combination of injuries and the Western Conference will hold the Pelicans under the Vegas line, currently sitting at 48.
For now Pelican fans can just wait on the latest injury update. Are the players on schedule? Is someone else injured? Is the franchise cursed? Let's just hope the breaks start breaking for Crescent City basketball supporters soon.