Alexis Ajinca undergoes knee surgery

Apr 7, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; New Orleans Pelicans center Alexis Ajinca (42) in the third quarter against the Denver Nuggets at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports
Isaiah J. Downing-USA TODAY Sports

The New Orleans Pelicans are down a center for the season’s remainder. Good thing head coach Alvin Gentry’s team is as stacked with traditional big men as any other in basketball. Backup center Alexis Ajinca underwent surgery to repair a torn right patellar tendon on Wednesday, the franchise has formally announced.

“The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that center Alexis Ajinca underwent successful surgery on his right patellar tendon yesterday in Chicago, IL,” the Pelicans’ statement reads. “The typical timetable to return to play for this type of injury is 4-6 months.”

Ajinca has been sideline ever since exhibition play. He missed the Pelicans’ final preseason game due to the birth of his child, but was a surprising scratch for the season-opener on October 19 with right knee pain. The 7-2 Frenchman had bilateral knee injections shortly thereafter, upon which New Orleans placed a four-to-six week timetable on his return to the court. Obviously, that optimism has proven premature.

This is major setback for Ajinca’s career. Already marginalized by the game’s increasing emphasis on speed and space, knee surgery will further sap him of some mobility that already makes him a liability. Fortunately, the 29-year-old has one year remaining on his contract after this season, worth approximately $5.3 million.

The Pelicans recently got fellow plodder Omer Asik back from injury, and Anthony Davis and DeMarcus Cousins comprise the most feared front court in basketball. The team also likes second-year big man Cheick Diallo, a former second-round pick out of Kansas who’s had trouble finding his way onto the floor this season.

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