Dell Demps announced a few days ago that Quincy Pondexter had gone through his first full workout on Wednesday. That certainly qualifies as good news for a Pelicans squad that desperately missed his contributions during the entire 2015-16 campaign, but just how hopeful should we be about his role this upcoming season?
According to hoopsstats, New Orleans was one of the poorest performing teams at small forward, ranking last in points scored (12.8) and 25th in points given up (21.0). The three position in the lineup was a source of constant consternation for fans, often enough that Pondexter’s name came up in a number of what-if scenarios as Alonzo Gee, Luke Babbitt and Dante Cunningham all failed at times to adequately fulfill the desired role.
In the previous year, Pondexter came over via a trade with the Memphis Grizzlies and averaged 9.0 points, 3.1 rebounds and 1.6 threes (on an en fuego 43.3 FG%) in 45 games for the home team. Many pointed to his performance as one of the main reasons the Pelicans were able to post a record of 27-19 to close out 2014-15 and earn a trip to the postseason.
Consequently, the news this week that Pondexter appears on track to join the rotation has fans excited about the potential impact of his addition to the roster. Before we automatically pencil him in for a significant role, though, I feel the need to urge caution and pray the Pelicans practice lots and lots of vigilance.
Simply put, Quincy Pondexter is deserving of the dreaded injury prone label, one large enough that his history likely puts him in a class more worrisome than a player like Jrue Holiday . He has suffered three significant and different injuries to his lower half region. In 2013 he suffered a sprained MCL, the following year a stress fracture in his right foot, and most recently the cartilage in his left knee has given him all sorts of problems. This knee required a second surgery last January after it had failed to heal correctly following an arthroscopic procedure months earlier.
"It didn't respond as well as we would have hoped," Pondexter said. "It was nothing that we did that, ‘Oh, I tweaked something, hurt something.' It didn't heal like we wanted it to. It was a tricky thing with the kind of injury that I had. Going through that and this new one, this new technique that we used instantly kind of fixed the situation, but you have so much more things to deal with, like scar tissue and fixing other parts of your body.
Over the last four seasons, Pondexter has missed 179 games or 54.6% of the schedule. This, despite averaging over 20 minutes a game just twice in a 5-year span and barely eclipsing a total of 5,000 career regular season minutes — a sum nearly 1/10th of what Kobe Bryant amassed.
Not that long ago, a similar injury history compiled by the age of 26 alluded to a very short career. Thankfully advancements in sports analytics provide hope for players of this ilk as tracking companies like Catapult have found success in reducing the injury factor.
The Pelicans reportedly used wearable technology in determining Holiday’s workload last season and his deliberate minutes restriction plan appears to have been a raging success. For the first time in years, Holiday did not suffer any setbacks in the tibia region of his right leg, and if it hadn’t been for a random Kristaps Porzingis elbow, he would have been one of the few original rotation players to finish out the season.
The hope here is the team’s decision makers follow suit with Pondexter. He is a respected locker room voice, and when healthy, a two-way difference maker on the court. However — and it’s a glaring but — he’s proven to be quite brittle. Before he is handed a sizable role, it would behoove the organization to bring him along slowly.
Several years ago, Pondexter’s unwavering dedication to the team led to a postponement of an MRI. It’s ridiculous to ponder whether that decision caused further harm to a troublesome knee, but it would be wise to avoid another circumstance that relies so heavily on a player’s feedback. If the Pelicans want to find themselves in the thick of a playoff race in April, keeping their main cogs healthy and upright for the vast majority of the season is a must.