It looks like the New Orleans Pelicans will be forced to play short-handed once again. The team announced Tuesday that forward Ryan Anderson is sidelined indefinitely with a herniated disk.
Anderson suffered the injury on Friday in a scary collision with Celtics forward Gerald Wallace. As the two came down the court, Wallace accidentally struck Anderson in the back of the head, leading New Orleans' big man to collapse to the court and eventually be taken off via stretcher. Anderson has been hospitalized in Boston ever since, undergoing a series of tests before a diagnosis was confirmed.
This will mark the second extended absence this season for Anderson, who is putting up career numbers for the Pelicans. New Orleans started the season 3-6 with Anderson sidelined with a broken foot, but has looked like a drastically different team once it got the sharpshooter back, with the six-year veteran forming an intriguing inside-outside frontcourt duo with Anthony Davis.
In 22 games this season, Anderson is averaging a team-best 19.8 points and 6.5 rebounds while shooting an impressive 40.9 percent from three-point range and nailing three triples per game. Largely in part thanks to his contributions, the Pelicans rank No. 7 in the league in offensive rating (105.7), although they are likely to slip after Anderson's injury. They've gone 12-10 when Anderson has played and only 3-7 when he hasn't.
With Anderson out, it appears the Pelicans will turn to former first-round pick Alexis Ajinca in the starting lineup. After being drafted by the Bobcats in 2008, Ajinca quickly flamed out of the NBA, making brief stops in Dallas and Toronto before heading overseas. But the Pelicans signed the 7-footer in mid-December and have been pleasantly surprised with Ajinca in limited action. In eight games, the lanky big man is averaging 4.4 points and 4.1 rebounds in 14.1 minutes.
Earlier this season, the Pelicans were forced to play without Davis, who missed seven games with a broken left hand. Guards Eric Gordon and Tyreke Evans have also missed time. And the team lost center Greg Stiemsma to a knee injury in November that will likely keep him out until later this month. New Orleans (15-17) is 11th in the Western Conference, trailing the eight-place Mavericks by three games.