NEW ORLEANS, LA (WVUE) - Just before tipoff with the San
Antonio Spurs, the New Orleans Pelicans stomached the disheartening news that
starting center Jason Smith will miss the rest of this season. The scope to
remove a piece of loose cartilage from Smith's right knee was successful, but
in order to make a full recovery, Smith will need time.
The franchise's veteran voice is
back with the team, hobbling around the arena on crutches, his knee still
swollen from surgery. Smith has no timetable for when he'll return
to the court.
"I just want to take it one step
at a time and get those progressions going," Smith said. "My short term goal is
to get off these crutches and get back to walking normally. I just have to get
some reassurance from the doctors about what's going on."
Smith's knee injury is likely the
result of long term wear and tear, but Smith says he felt something was wrong
during the Pelicans January 15 game against Houston.
"It wasn't a tear, but it felt
different," Smith said. "It felt like something was a bit out of place, but I
didn't think it was all that bad."
Although he doesn't know when,
Smith is already looking ahead to when he can get back into action and how he
can keep himself healthier. Smith has missed time this season with three
"I'm still going to play the same
way – it's just the way I know to play," Smith said. "I play with a lot of
energy and it's just me as a competitor. I'm best when I'm out there competing
as hard as I can. I need to compete a little smarter now."
Meanwhile, the two big reserves
the Pelicans have been leaning on in Smith's absence now look to see a
permanent increase in minutes this season. Alexis Ajinca has been head coach
Monty Williams' usual choice to start. Greg Stiemsma has been playing the
reserve role, but often matching or exceeding Ajinca's minutes.
"I like the length Ajinca gives
us to begin the game, and I think he has the confidence to start," Williams
said. "Greg gives us a lot of strength coming off the bench."
"I feel very comfortable in that
spot," AJinca said, despite having played with the team for just a little more
than a month. "I played that role with the French National Team, and I enjoyed
Williams says he wouldn't
hesitate to switch the rotation though, if the matchup dictated it.
Stiemsma is making a case for
himself, putting his increased minutes to work. Stiemsma set a new career high
for rebounds with 11 at Cleveland on Jan. 28. He then followed that
performance up with another new career high on the glass the next game:
recording 12 boards at Minneapolis on Jan. 29.
"I'm just focusing on being
aggressive and playing hard," Stiemsma said. "I'm focusing on the little
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