Williams says center’s injured knees led to team’s decision
New Orleans Pelicans coach Monty Williams said Monday that Greg Stiemsma was waived because he has injured knees and the team needed another able-bodied center for the final two games of the NBA regular season.
The Pelicans signed journeyman Melvin Ely, who was at Monday morning’s shoot-around in preparation for the game against the Oklahoma City Thunder at the Smoothie King Center. The Pelicans close the season against the Houston Rockets on Wednesday.
“(Stiemsma) wasn’t 100 percent,” Williams said 1½ hours before the game. “He wanted to try (to play), but it was more of an emergency for him to play.
“Having two (big men) is tough on (rookie center) Jeff (Withey) and Alexis (Ajinca), especially against the teams we have. We needed another body, not having (Anthony Davis) and a number of our bigs. … We had to get somebody out there who could play.”
Stiemsma, 28, missed six weeks, from Nov. 13 to Dec. 28, with a sprained left medial collateral knee ligament. Williams said Stiemsma, who was in his third season in the NBA, had issues with his knees all season. Stiemsma sat out five games at various times because of the coach’s decision.
“(He) had really tough times with his knees this year,” Williams said. “There would be days where he would be really good, then there would be days when he’d be like, ‘Coach, I’m hurting a little bit.’”
Stiemsma was sidelined for the team’s previous game Saturday at the Houston Rockets.
“Against Houston, he told (head trainer Jon Ishop), that he would play, but it was one of those situations ‘if coach really, really needs me,’” Williams said.
Stiemsma, who played one year with the Boston Celtics and one with the Minnesota Timberwolves, signed a one-year, $2.68 million contract with the Pelicans on July 10. He was brought in to bring a physical presence in the lane with his defense and rebounding. However, that never transpired. Asked a month ago if Stiemsma had given the team the physical play it expected, Williams said, “He has in stretches.”
The move signals the end of Stiemsma’s time here, but Williams said that’s something he and management will address later.
Stiemsma played in 55 games this season, starting 20, and averaged 2.9 points 4.1 rebounds and 1.0 block in 18.3 minutes per game. He had some of his best performances against his former teams, getting a season-high 12 points at Boston on Jan. 3 and tying a career high with 12 rebounds at Minnesota on Jan. 29. He had perhaps his most encouraging showing on Dec. 12 against the Charlotte Bobcats, getting five blocks.
Ely, 35, was an NBA Development League All-Star this past season.
He played eight seasons in the NBA, including 2007-09 with the New Orleans Hornets. His last season was 2011, 30 games with the Denver Nuggets.
For playing two games and spending three days with the Pelicans, he will receive approximately $26,000, according to the prorated minimum NBA salary. Ely, however, said he eyes a return to the league.
“Even though it’s only for a few days, you take the opportunity, and you do your best,” said Ely, who was the 18th overall pick by the Los Angeles Clippers in 2002 out of Fresno State. “For me, it’s all about the opportunity.”