The New Orleans Pelicans started the season battered and bruised with veritable buffet of injuries. Let's review.
Quincy Pondexter remains out recovering from a knee surgery performed in May. Tyreke Evans, who also had knee surgery in May, had another in October expected to keep him out 6-8 weeks. Jrue Holiday remains on a minutes restriction as he eases into a full NBA workload after two seasons suffering from lingering issues of a stress fracture. Alexis Ajinca has played limited minutes as he returns from a hamstring strain which occured during the first preseason game. He was still recovering from Achilles pain which kept him out of the EuroBasket tournament in September. Luke Babbitt had a hamstring strain of his own but played a rather robust 30 minutes on Saturday night (his first action of the season) against the Golden State Warriors. Omer Asik, returning from a calf strain, played just 10 ineffective minutes Saturday in his own season debut. Kendrick Perkins, pushed into an emergency starting role, was injured himself on Saturday night. The team is calling it a pectoral injury with little additional information.
Of course the Pelicans started out awful. Look at the sheer magnitude of the preceding paragraph. Five players expected to play heavy rotation minutes are either out or limited. The schedule, including two games against the defending champions and one on the second night of a back-to-back to open the Portland Trail Blazers season, provided no respite.
NBA power rankers reacted accordingly, with the Pelicans plummeting.
Last Week: 9 - This Week: 26
It's not fair that the Pelicans had to play two of their first three games against the champs with a depleted roster. Good news: They don't have to deal with Stephen Curry again until March and we'll see if the defensive numbers improve against opponents that don't challenge you nearly as much as the Warriors do. Jrue Holiday's minutes limit has already been extended; He played almost 27 on Saturday.
Last Week: 11 - This Week: 17
Snap take on Anthony Davis' underwhelming start to the season: He's pressing to compensate for the Pelicans' many injuries. There's simply no way that the Brow-Alvin Gentry partnership won't flourish. The Pels are just extremely undermanned right now, which obviously isn't the best way to kick things off in the West. Hold your panic.
Last Week: 9 - This Week: 15
Injuries spoiled their first week, but don’t panic yet. Two dates with the Warriors did them no favors, and as their role players get healthy, the Pelicans have to stay the course. When Tyreke Evans recovers from knee surgery and they’ve had a little time to figure things out, we’ll have a better feel.
Last Week: 11 - This Week: 26
It might be time to give up the dream of ever seeing this team healthy. They're in the middle of a horrific schedule stretch to start the season and teams are throwing Mardi Gras on their defense every night. Anthony Davis is seeing triple teams regularly and no one else is healthy enough to take the pressure off. This isn't the worst-case scenario for a start, but it's up there.
News of Note
Oh, you thought there was good news? Omer Asik did not practice on Sunday or Monday according to head coach Alvin Gentry. His availability against the Orlando Magic on Tuesday is in question. If there is a good matchup for Asik to get into the flow it is probably against a lumbering big man who prefers to work in the post like Nikola Vucevic.
Alvin Gentry said they didn't want Omer Asik to go through a practice on Sunday after his first game back Saturday from a calf injury.— John Reid (@JohnReid64) November 1, 2015
Alvin Gentry says Pelicans will "look and evaluate and be cautious" with Omer Asik coming back from injury. May or may not play tomorrow.— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) November 2, 2015
Omer Ask did not practice today, Gentry said.— Brett Dawson (@BDawsonWrites) November 2, 2015
The Pelicans are surely glad to be welcoming the Magic, one of the worst offenses in the league through three games, into the Smoothie King Center on Tuesday. Barring a shocking turn of events it is unlikely that Elfrid Payton or Victor Oladipo, both shooting under 33% for their career behind the arc, will suddenly morph into Stephen Curry.
Expect the Pelicans conservative pick-and-roll coverage to be far more effective against the poor shooting back court from Orlando than the explosive combinations rolled out by Golden State (Curry and Klay Thompson) or Portland (Damian Lillard and C.J. McCollum). Instead the key on Tuesday will be to keep an active young team off the offensive glass as Vucevic, Tobias Harris, and Aaron Gordon are all willing to crash Orlando misses.