New Orleans Pelicans v Denver Nuggets

Pelicans’ lose center Jason Smith for season after knee surgery

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Jason Smith has not been the ideal complement to Anthony Davis along the front line in New Orleans this season — when the two were on the court together this season the Pelicans were -1 point per 100 possessions (and both the team’s offensive and defensive ratings were pretty close to the season averages overall for New Orleans).

However, he may have been the best option coach Monty Williams had — when Davis is paired with Alexis Ajinca the Pelicans are -11.5, when paired with Greg Stiemsma the Pelicans’ offense goes into the tank. (There is promise with Jeff Withey and Davis, they are +9.1 per 100, but the two have only played 71 minutes together all season.)

Notice we said had in that last paragraph — Smith is lost for the season in New Orleans following knee surgery, the team announced Monday. The surgery was to “remove a loose piece of articular cartilage in the non-weight bearing area of his right knee” and he should be back next season.

Smith had not played since Jan. 15 because of the knee. He averaged 9.7 points and 5.8 rebounds a game.

With the loss of Smith and Ryan Anderson for the season the Pelicans have been without two key cogs in their frontcourt — Davis and Anderson were showing real potential as a frontcourt pairing (+6 per 100 possessions).

At 20-26 the Pelicans are six games out of the playoffs in the West and not likely at all to make up the ground. Which maybe means it’s time to really see what Withey can do and let him learn some on the job. Aside that look for some Ajinca and Stiemsma, who have both played a lot of minutes up front in recent games.

The Pelicans have a nice team on paper but injuries just never really let it get a flow this season.

Byron Scott doesn’t care about exhausting Lakers in preseason

Byron Scott
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The Warriors use wearable technology to track players and have rested them when the data revealed fatigue. Gregg Popovich is holding relatively healthy Spurs out of practice. Heck, Popovich doesn’t even send himself to every preseason games.

Meanwhile, with the Lakers…

Lakers coach Byron Scott, via Baxter Holmes of ESPN:

“I don’t necessarily care about tired legs in preseason,” Scott said. “I think everything that we’ve done thus far will pay off at the end of the day. You’ve got some guys that might have tired legs and [are] a little worn out, but all the running as far as getting into that physical condition that we need to get into, I think in December and January, it will pay off.

“So I’m not necessarily worried about guys having tired legs in preseason. They’ll just have to kind of fight through that fatigue part of it. And I think mentally it gets them a little stronger anyway.”

Mike Bresnahan of the Los Angeles Times:

The Lakers coach has a reputation for demanding a lot of running in the preseason. It’s important in his mind because the Lakers will be better conditioned than other teams down the road.

Players, predictably, aren’t as enthused about it.

Bresnahan quotes just two players, Brandon Bass and D'Angelo Russell, and neither expressed much resistance to Scott’s methods. But I trust Bresnahan to read the team’s pulse.

I also think Scott is right: Fighting through fatigue builds mental toughness. But it also makes players tired, and it’s not the only way to instill toughness. The Warriors are tough. The  Spurs are tough. They didn’t have to run their players into the ground to get that way.

Scott loves to project himself as old-school and anti-analytic. Thankfully for the Lakers, his actual methods aren’t as bad as he conveys. For example, he said the Lakers would take an absurdly low 10-15 3-pointers per game last season. In reality, they hoisted nearly 19 per game, 25th in the league. That might not have been enough for that roster, but at least it wasn’t leaps and bounds below the norm.

So, I’m not convinced Scott is pushing the Lakers as hard as he wants everyone to believe. But he’s  clearly giving them a bigger workload than many teams.

If the Lakers are playing relevant games late in the season, this could come back to bite them. On the bright side, they probably won’t have to worry about that problem.

Tony Parker wants to play six more seasons with Spurs

Tony Parker
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Tony Parker revealed a plan nearly two years ago to play until he’s 38.

Coming off his worst season since his rookie year, the Spurs point guard is sticking to that goal.

Parker, via Marc J. Spears of Yahoo Sports:

“The Spurs know I want to play until I’m 38,” Parker told Yahoo Sports in a recent phone interview. “That will be 20 seasons for me. That’s my goal. This year is No. 15. And if I’m lucky enough and I’m healthy, hopefully I can play 20 seasons and then I’ll be ready to retire.”

That seems pretty ambitious, no matter how you handle the conflicting math. (Parker is 33. If he plays 20 seasons, he’ll spend most of his final season at age 39 and turn 40 during the playoffs.)

Parker is already showing signs of slippage. Many of his key numbers were down last season, including ESPN’s real-plus minus, where he quietly slipped from 12th to 67th among point guards.

But Gregg Popovich is very liberal with resting his players, and Parker won’t have to carry too much of the load. Tim Duncan and Manu Ginobili will probably retire before Parker, but the Spurs will still have Kawhi Leonard and LaMarcus Aldridge.

I wouldn’t count on it, but it’s possible Parker lasts that long.