NEW ORLEANS – The Pelicans will be without Jason Smith indefinitely after the cartilage damage was found in his right knee, the team announced Saturday.
It’s another blow to a young team expected to contend for a playoff spot in the Western Conference.
Smith becomes the third player with an indefinite time frame in returning to the court; point guard Jrue Holiday (stress fracture, right tibia) and forward Ryan Anderson (herniated disc).
“It’s a part of coaching, sometimes more extreme than others,” Pelicans coach Monty Williams said when asked if he had ever seen anything like this recent string of injuries. “We’ve had extreme this year.”
Greg Stiemsma is expected to start for Smith, with Alexis Ajinca and Jeff Withey seeing time at the center position as well.
The Pelicans (15-23) also have been playing without guard Tyreke Evans, though he will return tonight against Golden State after missing three games due to a left ankle sprain.
This season has been the fourth that Williams has had to deal with injuries, dating back to his rookie season as head coach when David West went down with a torn anterior cruciate ligament just prior to the playoffs.
He’s hoping to at some point guide a healthy team, though he admits going through what he has has helped him grow up as coach.
“You learn so many different ways as a coach, how to prepare,” Williams said. “There’s always a positive that you can find and that’s what we’ve been teaching our guys, you can find something good.”
In 31 games, Smith is averaging 9.7 points and 5.8 rebounds while playing nearly 27 minutes in each game.