As the Pelicans play the final four games of the 2013-14 season, they will do so without All-Star power forward Anthony Davis.
Davis, who missed Wednesday night’s loss to Phoenix because of his ailing back, was examined by team doctors, the Pelicans said, and will need one to two weeks of rest and rehabilitation. The season ends this coming Wednesday.
Also, starting shooting guard Eric Gordon will have arthroscopic surgery on his left knee, the team said. He had missed the previous nine games with what the Pelicans said was tendinitis. But coach Monty Williams said Tuesday he did not expect Gordon back the rest of the way.
Davis, the No. 1 pick in the 2012 NBA draft out of Kentucky, leads the team in scoring (20.8 points per game), rebounding (10.0) and a league-leading 2.82 blocked shots. He played 67 games, averaging 35.1 minutes.
“As desperately as I want to win, I don’t want to put anybody in jeopardy,” Williams said.
Davis has had back spasms since April 2 but did not miss a game with that ailment until Wednesday. Still, this is the second consecutive season that he will miss the final few games. Last season, he was sidelined for the final three with a sprained left MCL and bone bruise.
Gordon — who averaged 15.4 points, third on the team — played in 64 games, his most since playing 78 during his rookie year of 2008-09 with the Los Angeles Clippers. Before this recent stretch, he had missed just four games, none related to a knee injury, after he missed 97 games the past two seasons with injury, surgery, rehab or a playing restriction involving his right knee.
The Pelicans could have used both against Phoenix, which outscored New Orleans 7-1 in the last 2 minutes, 36 seconds to win 94-88. And they certainly could use them for the next four games, two each against Oklahoma City and Houston, away and home.
The Pelicans play the Thunder on Friday, followed by the Rockets on Saturday. Oklahoma City, the current No. 2 seed in the Western Conference, is coming off a big win Wednesday at the Clippers, the No. 3 seed.
The Pelicans have lost six in a row and have not beaten Oklahoma City (0-1) or Houston (0-2) this season. But Williams said he has been pleased with and even surprised by how competitive some of the younger Pelicans have played, even during the losing streak with the team ravaged by injuries.
“We’re going to need it (Friday night) because we’re going into a crazy environment in OKC,” Williams said. “That’s going to be a different deal for some of our guys.”
With three key players out since January and with Davis and Gordon ailing of late, the development of rookie center Jeff Withey, second-year small forward Darius Miller and guard Austin Rivers has been a silver lining, Williams said. He also noted the play of Luke Babbitt, a forward who came to the Pelicans in January.
The Pelicans being out of the playoff race, the season coming to a close and the roster thinning out have allowed General Manager Dell Demps, Williams and his staff to look ahead.
“Obviously you hate losing games, but we have a priority right now to make sure we see what some of our guys can do so we can make good evaluations on them for the summertime,” Williams said. “I think all of our young guys and guys who haven’t gotten a lot of playing time have done a decent job. With the exception of the game at Denver (a 137-107 loss April 2), we’ve played competitively. We just haven’t been able to close (a game) or take the (other team’s) run.”