Asik held back for Pelicans due to continued back pain

New Orleans Pelicans center Omer Asik.

Gerald Herbert/AP

The New Orleans Pelicans starting center Omer Asik can’t seem to shake the lower back pain that has now sidelined him for three games.

Friday in Denver, the Pelicans coaching staff thought they were getting their big man back. Asik practiced full Thursday with no negative repercussions and expected to return to the starting lineup Friday.

However during pregame warm-ups ahead of tip off with the Nuggets, Asik  started grimacing and clutching his back and hip. After trainers evaluated him, the Pelicans downgraded Asik’s status to out.

Asik’s absence changes New Orleans’ strategy defensively and certainly the game plan on the glass.

Anthony Davis now has to concentrate much more on all-around rebounding, not just on offensive boards. When Asik is in the game, Davis lets him handle the bulk of defensive rebounding and is therefore free to patrol the perimeter.

The Pelicans head into Friday’s game with a -7.2 deficit in rebounding.

Alexis Ajinca started in Asik’s place Friday.