The New Orleans Pelicans plan to restructure their player care and performance team after their injury-marred 2022-23 season, sources told The Times-Picayune.
Aaron Nelson, the Pelicans vice president of player performance and care, has been in charge of that department for the past four seasons.
Under Nelson, the Pelicans have finished seventh, 27th, 20th and seventh in games lost to injury, according to Man-Games Lost. The Pelicans’ two best players, Zion Williamson and Brandon Ingram, combined to miss 90 games last season.
Ingram injured his left foot after kicking the back of a Memphis Grizzlies player’s foot in November. He was diagnosed with a toe contusion, and he was sidelined for 29 consecutive games with the injury. The Times-Picayune reported in January that there was frustration about Ingram’s extended absence.
Williamson missed the final 45 games of the regular season after straining his right hamstring in a Jan. 2 game against the Philadelphia 76ers. Williamson was slated to return shortly before the All-Star break in February, but he suffered a setback, which kept him out for the remainder of the regular season.
Williamson has played in 114 games since the Pelicans chose him with the No. 1 pick in 2019. It has taken Williamson longer than expected to recover from three separate injuries. He tore the lateral meniscus in his right knee during his rookie season, which kept him out for 13 weeks. He missed his entire third season with a right foot fracture. And the hamstring injury he suffered this year knocked him out for more than half of the regular season.
“What I don’t want is the narrative about our team is, ‘Oh my God, they have to fix the medical situation,' ” executive vice president David Griffin said in April. “No, we have to fix a lot of stuff. We have to do a whole bunch of things better. That’s just a part of it.
“I really don’t like the conversation being, ‘Player availability, player availability.’ It’s also, ‘Let’s do the right things with the players who are available. Let’s get those guys doing the right things every day. And let’s build the right culture where we can be critical of each other in ways we need to be.’ I failed miserably in that. We have to do a better job in a lot of ways.”
Nelson spent 26 seasons with the Phoenix Suns before joining the Pelicans in 2019. He was named the NBA’s athletic trainer of the year in 2009.