The Pelican Blog

Greg Stiemsma to start at center for Jason Smith

By: Jim Eichenhofer,, @Jim_Eichenhofer

Greg Stiemsma will become the 10th different New Orleans Pelicans player to start a game this season, when he takes over for Jason Smith as the first-string center tonight vs. Golden State (7 p.m., Fox Sports New Orleans, Pelicans Radio Network). Smith was ruled out indefinitely earlier Saturday with a knee injury, which will require surgery, said Pelicans fourth-year coach Monty Williams.

Williams initially had Stiemsma in his starting lineup during preseason, but opted to shift Smith into the role during the final exhibition game and into the regular season. Smith made 27 starts during the regular season, but has been in and out of the mix recently due to injuries. Williams noted that Stiemsma is not necessarily the permanent starter at center. Alexis Ajinca started five times after Smith missed games in early January.

“It could change from game to game,” Williams said of the starting center job. “Alexis (Ajinca) was decent in that spot. Jeff Withey could play a role. Al-Farouq (Aminu) is going to play some more power forward when we go small.”

Williams, who has had to coach around key injuries in all four seasons he’s been in New Orleans, again stressed that his team is not looking for sympathy about its short-handed roster.

“It’s a part of coaching,” Williams said of injuries. “Sometimes it’s more extreme than others. We’ve had extreme (injuries) this year. (Smith) wanted to play so badly this year. It’s a contract year for him. A lot of things are at stake, and when you can’t play because your body fails you, that’s tough. But we’ve got to go about doing our jobs the way we always do. It’s not easy. (But there are) tougher things going on in life. We could complain all day long, but the bottom line is we still get to play basketball.”

Williams said it’s unclear when the Smith injury occurred, saying the Pelicans couldn’t identify a specific play or game.

“Personally, I think maybe it happened a while ago, but he just tried to play through it,” Williams said of Smith. “He felt some things (in the knee) that were different in the last few days. They checked it out and (doctors) saw some stuff. It’s hard to pinpoint, because we just don’t know.”

The Pelicans will have 10 or 11 players available tonight against the Warriors, depending on the status of Tyreke Evans (left ankle), a game-time decision.