Pelicans’ Nance Jr. ‘sore,’ but avoids major injury in loss

INDIANAPOLIS — The pain felt familiar to New Orleans Pelicans forward Larry Nance Jr.

With 1:45 left in the third quarter in Monday’s 129-122 loss to the Indiana Pacers, Nance took a step forward to try to get the rebound after Pacers center Myles Turner blocked a Zion Williamson dunk attempt.

As he did, Turner jumped and Nance’s left knee hyperextended. Nance immediately hobbled off to the 3-point line as action went the other way. He looked at Pelicans coach Willie Green and said, “Get me out.”

Williamson stole the ball from Pacers guard Bennedict Mathurin on the other end and the Pelicans’ fast break was off. But Nance couldn’t even get into the play. After a missed 3-point attempt, Nance fouled to get out of the game and immediately signaled to the Pelicans’ bench that he was headed to the back. The fear was a torn ligament. Fortunately for Nance, the reality was just a hyperextension.

“I just went to step, and it bent a direction it shouldn’t go,” Nance said. Thankfully, we’re not worried about any ligament damage. We’re not worried about meniscus.

“It’s just one of those things that you do, and as someone who has torn their ACL before, it’s scary. It hurts. I just wanted to make sure I got it checked out. It’s sore, but we’ve avoided anything big- time.”

Nance tore his right ACL at Wyoming during his junior season and spent nine months rehabbing before returning to the floor that November. Against the Pacers, he said his immediate thought went to the months and months of rehab he did then.

“But it’s not that,” Nance said. “Thank goodness.”

When Nance arrived for the Pelicans in February at last season’s trade deadline, he had surgery on his right knee shortly thereafter and played in only nine regular-season games with the team before the playoffs.

This offseason, Nance said he started to feel like himself again and feel like he had his bounce back. He showed that off last Friday when he tied a career high with seven dunks in a win against the Golden State Warriors.

On Monday, it seemed as if Nance could be on the shelf again. He walked to the locker room under his own power followed by a Pelicans trainer. New Orleans general manager Trajan Langdon followed shortly thereafter.

In the locker room, Nance said he let out a sigh of relief when the Lachman test, a test designed to test ACL strength, was performed and he felt the ACL was still intact.

Nance was icing the knee after the game and might not miss any time for New Orleans, which returns to action on Wednesday against the Chicago Bulls.

“We’re going to ice it, do some treatment,” Nance said. “And (tonight), we told Willie that if he needed me I was available to go back in. We’re gonna do some treatment and see how it responds tomorrow. But positive news.”

In 10 games for New Orleans this season, Nance is averaging 9.0 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.6 assists a game on 66.7% shooting from the field. Nance comes off the bench but is averaging 22.8 minutes per game as the Pelicans’ backup center who can close in more switchable lineups while starting center Jonas Valanciunas sits.

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