More injury woes: Pels’ Smith out indefinitely

Advocate staff photo by VERONICA DOMINACHPelicans center Jason Smith blocks the shot of Houston small forward Chandler Parsons on Wednesday.
Advocate staff photo by VERONICA DOMINACHPelicans center Jason Smith blocks the shot of Houston small forward Chandler Parsons on Wednesday.

New Orleans Pelicans starting center Jason Smith has cartilage damage in his right knee and will be out indefinitely, the team said Saturday.

Smith’s is the third serious injury to hit the Pelicans this month, with forward Ryan Anderson having two herniated disks in his neck and point guard Jrue Holiday sidelined with a stress fracture in his right tibia.

Meanwhile, guard/forward Tyreke Evans, who has missed the past three games with a sprained left ankle and bone bruise, returned for Saturday’s game against Golden State.

Smith, who is on a one-year contract, will have surgery, but coach Monty Williams said he doesn’t know when.

“Some (injuries) are more extreme than others, and we’ve had extreme this year,” Williams said. “The bottom line was that it is tougher on Jason than it is on us.

“He wanted to play so badly this year. It’s a contract year for him, a lot is at stake, and you can’t play because your body fails you. That’s tough.”

In the absence of Smith, Greg Stiemsma and Alexis Ajinca will alternate as starters, depending on the opponent, Williams said.

Known for his toughness, outside shooting and shot-blocking ability, Smith has started 27 of the Pelicans’ 31 games and has averaged 9.7 points, 5.8 rebounds and 0.9 blocks in 26.8 minutes per game. The team’s most-tenured member, he is in his fourth season with New Orleans and sixth in the NBA.

He was at Saturday’s shoot-around with a white compression-type stocking on his right leg.

An MRI revealed the injury. Smith had missed three games with a bruised right knee from Dec. 21-27. He came back for one game, only to miss the next four with a left shoulder injury.

“I think it happened awhile ago, and he tried to play through it, felt some things that were different in the last few days,” Williams said. “They checked it out and saw some stuff.”

Evans said he still has trouble pushing off on his ankle when leaping for a layup, but he decided to play.

“My first step with it is OK,” he said. “I just have to kind of watch it. But we have a lot of guys out, and my teammates need me. My biggest concern is re-aggravating it and having to miss more time.”

Meanwhile, Internet media outlets reported the Pelicans have acquired Tyshawn Taylor, a second-year point guard from Kansas, from the Brooklyn Nets. New Orleans reportedly is sending a second-round pick to the Nets, who are including cash in the deal.

With the trade not official, Williams said he couldn’t comment.

Taylor was selected in the second round, as the 41st pick overall, in the 2012 draft by the Portland Trail Blazers but was traded to New Jersey for cash.

He played in 38 games last season averging 2.2 points and 0.6 assists in 5.8 minutes per game. This season, he has played in 23 games, averaging 3.9 points and 1.6 assists in 11.7 minutes per game.

At Kansas, he was the Big 12 Freshman of the Year and was a teammate of Pelicans rookie center Jeff Withey on the Jayhawks 2012 team which lost to Kentucky and Anthony Davis in the NCAA championship game.

The move comes with Pierre Jackson second in scoring at 29.9 points per game in the NBA Development League. Jackson was a second-round pick by the Philadelphia 76ers who was sent to New Orleans in the trade that brought Holiday to New Orleans.

His agent, Colin Bryant, met with Pelicans general manager Dell Demps this week in the hope Jackson would be called up to replace Holiday. Bryant was given permission to explore trade opportunities.