Jason Smith cleared for Day 1 of training camp (9/30/13)

by Jim Eichenhofer

Jason Smith cleared for Day 1 of training camp

By: Jim Eichenhofer, Pelicans.com, @Jim_Eichenhofer

Following a 2012-13 season in which injuries factored significantly into New Orleans’ 27-55 record, it was welcomed news Monday when Jason Smith announced he’s been cleared to participate in training camp. The center underwent right shoulder surgery to repair a torn labrum in March, a procedure that ended his campaign after 51 games.

Pelicans center Jason Smith“I’m ready to hit the ground running,” Smith said at Media Day. “The shoulder’s been doing well. I’ve been following the protocol and making sure I listen to the trainers and not do too much too early. Training camp tomorrow is going to be the first time for me going full-contact, full-bore. Hopefully everything goes well. I’m looking forward to it and excited about getting rolling.”

While his teammates scrimmaged against each other during voluntary workouts this month, Smith has been forced to watch from the sideline. The 7-footer has been anxiously awaiting the chance to play basketball again, but was held out as he completed the final stages of rehab from the injury.

“I’ve been trying to hold off as long as possible,” Smith said. “Just to stay healthy for preseason and training camp. That’s a big thing for us this year – staying healthy. With all of the injuries we’ve had in the past couple years, it’s a big emphasis that we need to take care of our bodies, listen to the training staff, eat right. So many different things go into it.”

The news was also positive Monday for Pelicans shooting guard Eric Gordon, who played in 42 games last season. Entering his third season in New Orleans, Gordon said “this is the first time I’ve felt very good in the two years I’ve been here. Since I’ve been here I’ve been injured here and there and had surgeries each year.”

Gordon underwent ankle surgery after the 2012-13 season and spent the summer rehabbing. After being held out of the second game of back-to-backs last season, the five-year NBA veteran said he expects no such restrictions on his availability. Tuesday’s initial Pelicans practice will be Gordon’s first opportunity to play 5-on-5 since his ankle surgery. He’s been in New Orleans for the past two weeks preparing for the season. “I’ve done just about everything – all the running and basketball workouts,” Gordon said. “Now it’s time for me to progress (during) this training camp.”

Although the Pelicans hoped to have a completely healthy roster entering training camp, that won’t be the case due to the left foot stress fracture injury Darius Miller sustained recently. The injury was announced on Sept. 9 and was expected to sideline Miller for 8-12 weeks.

The second-year forward is currently wearing a cast, but hopes to be able to remove it in 10-14 days. After that, his timetable to return to the court will likely crystallize. He will not be able to play in the Oct. 19 “college homecoming” preseason game at the University of Kentucky vs. Washington.

There was no specific play that caused the injury; Miller started to feel pain in the foot while working out and eventually asked the team’s medical staff to examine it. “I’m waiting to get the cast off so I can get it stronger, and get the range of motion back in my ankle,” Miller said. “I haven’t really talked about a set date (to return) or anything. They said they don’t want to rush it, and I don’t blame them.”

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