NEW ORLEANS (AP) Pelicans coach Monty Williams says All-Star forward Anthony Davis has a mild groin strain and could play again as soon as Friday night against the Los Angeles Clippers.
Davis, who was hurt in the third quarter of Wednesday night's 93-85 loss to Denver, had an MRI Thursday morning. The scan revealed a ''grade 1'' adductor strain, an injury that causes soreness from being over-stretched but which does not necessarily limit muscle function.
''He's walking around, doing some stuff - nothing to break a sweat - but he's walking around normally, so we'll see how he feels'' on Friday, Williams said. ''If he feels up to it, we're going to play him his normal minutes.''
Davis, who has not spoken with media since his injury, has been playing about 36 minutes per game this season. He is third in the NBA in points per game (24.3), eighth in rebounds per game (10.4) and first in blocks per game (2.9).
Against Denver, he crashed to the floor late in the third quarter after a midair collision with Kenneth Faried under the basket. He remained down several minutes and then limped to the locker room with the help of team medical staff.
He returned for about 8 minutes in the fourth quarter, but Williams pulled him out for most of the final minute.
''The only way he was going to get back on the floor is if the doctors said he wasn't going to aggravate it more,'' Williams said. ''But as I saw him getting up and down the floor, after a few minutes of playing, I didn't see the normal burst that we know A.D. brings every night.''
Williams said he will want to see that usual ''burst'' in pre-game warm-ups before putting Davis back in the lineup.
''There's no need of putting him on the floor if he drags his leg,'' Williams said. ''I don't think that helps him at all and certainly prolongs the healing process.''
The Pelicans on Thursday were only 2 1/2 games out of the final playoff spot in the Western Conference with nearly half of the regular season left. They are also in the midst of what could be a pivotal stretch in which they play six of their next seven games at home, where they are 15-6.
If Davis is held out against the Clippers, that would give him a minimum of four full days of rest before New Orleans' following game on Monday night against Eastern Conference leader Atlanta.
Generally, Williams errs on the side of giving hobbled players more rest.
''I've been around for a little bit and I know when a guy really wants to play, but I also know there's a chance that if he plays and hurts himself it can hurt us going forward,'' Williams said. ''You always try to protect your guys. ... It's a tough decision. And those are the decisions I have to make to do what's best for him and our team.''