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 of Monday’s 129-122 loss to the Indiana Pacers, Nance stepped forward to try to grab the rebound after Pacers center Myles Turner blocked an attempted Zion Williamson’s dunk.

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

Williamson stole the ball from Pacers guard Bennedit Mathurin at the other end and the Pelicans’ fast break was nullified. But Nance couldn’t even get into the play. After a failed 3-point attempt, Nance fouled out of the game and immediately signaled to the Pelicans’ bench that he was heading to the back. Fear was a torn ligament. Fortunately for Nance, reality was just a hyperextension.

“I just went for a step, and it leaned in a direction that it shouldn’t go,” Nance said. “Fortunately, we are not worried about any ligament damage. We are not worried about the meniscus.

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

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

“But it’s not that,” Nance said. “Thanks god.”

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

This offseason, Nance said he began to feel like himself again and has recovered. He showed that last Friday when he tied a career high with seven dunks in a win against the Golden State Warriors.

On Monday, it looked like Nance might be back on the shelf again. He walked to the locker room under his own power followed by a Pelicans coach. New Orleans general manager Trajan Langdon followed soon after.

In the locker room, Nance said she breathed a sigh of relief when the Lachman Test, a test designed to assess ACL strength, was performed and felt the ACL was still intact.

Nance was icing his knee after the game and may not miss a moment for New Orleans, which returns to action 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, he was available to come back. We’ll do a treatment and see how he 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 per 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 interchangeable lineups while starting center Jonas Valanciunas sits.

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