NEW ORLEANS (AP) New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry says 7-foot center Omer Asik is returning from a right ankle sprain and is starting Saturday night's game against the Utah Jazz.
Asik has missed five full games since his injury against Detroit on Feb. 21. His return comes two days after the Pelicans learned that 7-2 center Alexis Ajinca will be sidelined indefinitely with a fractured sternum.
The 29-year-old Asik has dealt with nagging lower leg injuries this season, missing 12 games. He has averaged 3.8 points and 6.2 rebounds.
He returns as the Pelicans cling to the remote hope of climbing into playoff contention during their final 22 regular season games.
New Orleans entered Saturday's action 6 1/2 games behind Houston for the eighth and final playoff seed in the Western Conference.