For the first time in nearly nine months, backup point guard Jose Alvarado will be back in the lineup for the New Orleans Pelicans.
Alvarado, who missed the final 20 games of last season with a stress reaction in his right tibia and has yet to play this season due to a right ankle sprain, said he expects to play in Monday’s game against the Sacramento Kings.
“I’m back,” Alvarado said. “I feel good. I will go through pregame. But I’m back. That’s the plan.”
Alvarado averaged 9.0 points, 3.0 assists in 21.5 minutes per game last season. The minutes he gave the Pelicans at backup point guard helped the team race out to a 23-12 start before injuries to key players caused them to sink in the Western Conference standings.
Alvarado ranked third on last year’s team in steals per game (1.1) and deflections per game (2.2). He was a nuisance to opposing guards for a Pelicans team that forced the ninth-most turnovers of any team and ranked sixth in the NBA in defense.
“Just the energy,” Alvarado said. “The little things I could do. It’s more about being me. There is going to be some tiredness there. But I could fight that. I just want to do full court stuff and do the best I can.”
Alvarado suffered a right ankle sprain during an offseason workout. The Pelicans said on Oct. 24 that he would be re-evaluated in two weeks. Initially, there was optimism that Alvarado could be back for New Orleans’ opening-night matchup in Memphis. However, recovery took longer than expected — in part because Alvarado suffered a setback on his right ankle.
“It was just making sure I could fit the criteria,” said Alvarado, who was wearing a brace on his right ankle Monday. “Sprinting. Cutting. Jumping. And I could maintain it at a high level. They did a great job with me, the medical staff. Keeping me in the right mindset even when it was hard.”
The Pelicans have a 6-7 record. They lost five straight games before beating the Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets at home last week. On Saturday, they held a 14-point fourth-quarter lead against the Minnesota Timberwolves but could not hang on.
Veteran guard CJ McCollum has missed the past six games with a collapsed right lung. Forward Trey Murphy is recovering from a torn left meniscus and has not played this season.
“Our team is really, really good,” Alvarado said. “We just have to find that rhythm to show the world how good we are.”
A fan favorite who has become known for his sneaky steals — a maneuver known as the “Grand Theft Alvarado” — Alvarado said he was excited to play at Smoothie King Center for the first time since Feb. 27.
“I missed them,” Alvarado said. “I missed the noise. I missed their voices. I just hope I get a steal for them. I can’t wait to be in that atmosphere.”