Pelicans will be without Tyreke Evans for 1-2 weeks
By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer
For a second straight year, an early-season Anthony Davis injury combined with the absence of a key perimeter player has left New Orleans shorthanded. The Pelicans hope this time that a deeper and more talented roster will keep them from losing ground in a brutally competitive Western Conference.
The Pelicans (9-10) announced Monday that Tyreke Evans will be out 1-2 weeks with a sprained left ankle, the same injury that caused Evans to miss six preseason games. Evans joins Davis and reserve center Greg Stiemsma on the New Orleans injury list, leaving the Pelicans with just 12 available players.
A year ago, New Orleans began 2012-13 at an encouraging 3-2, but after an extended stretch of missed games by Davis and Eric Gordon, the then-Hornets lost 21 of their next 24 games. By the time Gordon debuted on Dec. 29, any hopes of contending for the playoffs were already extinguished.
To avoid a similar scenario from unfolding, New Orleans will need larger contributions from several of the dozen Pelicans who are healthy. The team received some rare positive health news recently when Darius Miller played in the past two games vs. Dallas and Oklahoma City, Miller’s first action of 2013-14 after he’d been sidelined by a foot injury. It remains to be seen what specific changes will be made to fourth-year head coach Monty Williams’ rotation based on Evans’ injury, but on Monday, Williams sounded as though second-year guard Austin Rivers may receive some of those vacated minutes.
“(Rivers) has the ability to come in and do some of the things that Tyreke has done,” said Williams, whose wing depth has limited Rivers to a total of just 10 December minutes. “That’s why you’ve got to keep your mind right, because he’s going to get a chance to do that. Guys have to step up. We’re not going to sit here and roll over because we have a few guys out. I’ve never been that way. Our bench has to play a lot better. Guys who have an opportunity to play have to step up. We’ve got to get better, that’s the bottom line.”
Combined with Anderson’s elevation to the first unit – he replaced Davis at power forward – the absence of Evans means a Pelicans bench has lost its two most productive players. The group now consists of several reserves who may fill the largest roles of their career. Four of the seven substitutes are in their first or second NBA seasons.
“Guys are up for the challenge,” said reserve point guard Brian Roberts, who also could see increased minutes. “It’s not on one person, but that whole second unit has to come in ready to work. Tyreke was playing pretty well in the last few weeks or so. His aggressiveness is hard to mimic within the other players, but I think guys can come in and bring their games and help the team.”
Entering Wednesday’s home game vs. Detroit, New Orleans has six players averaging double figures in points, but injuries have reduced that group to four: Gordon (15.9 ppg), Ryan Anderson (21.7), Jrue Holiday (15.2) and Jason Smith (10.1). As a result, it may be imperative for some of the team’s primary scorers to accept an even larger offensive load.
“Overall, we’ve just got to pick up the slack on offense,” Gordon said of compensating for Davis and Evans being out. “I definitely want to be more aggressive. I want to have the ball in my hands and I want to do more. Everyone’s going to have to pick up the slack and do whatever we need to win. We need to make adjustments to all of the guys who are injured. But we can’t have too many excuses. We’re still talented enough to beat teams. As long as we execute and play hard, we’ll definitely have a chance, but I think this team is still capable of winning.”