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Pelicans' Alexis Ajinca out with broken sternum

NEW ORLEANS -- Alexis Ajinca has been diagnosed with a fractured sternum and will miss at least Thursday night's game against the San Antonio Spurs, the Pelicans announced.

The 27-year-old center said he suffered the injury when he received an elbow to the chest from Dwight Howard in the fourth quarter of Wednesday's 100-95 loss to the Houston Rockets. An MRI this afternoon revealed the injury.

"I felt the pain right away," Ajinca said. "I get hit so many times to the chest. As a big man, you get hit all the time. I never really complain about anything. But that time, I felt the pain right away. Very painful. I couldn't stand straight up, so I knew something was wrong."

Ajinca, who had ice packs wrapped around his chest underneath his shirt, said he's awaiting the results of a "scan" and doesn't know how long he'll be out at this point.

"So far we can't really do that much, so we're just icing and painkillers," he said. "That's pretty much it."

The Pelicans have already lost Tyreke Evans (right knee surgery), Quincy Pondexter (left knee surgery) and Bryce Dejean-Jones (right wrist surgery) for the season, and Omer Asik is expected to miss two weeks after spraining his right ankle Sunday in Detroit.

New Orleans has used 28 different starting lineups this season because of injuries, most in the NBA. With Dante Cunningham (left knee sprain) expected to play, the Pelicans will have 10 players available against the Spurs.

"At this stage, we just -- whoever we have that's available and healthy to play, that's who we'll play," Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry said. "But Dante, I don't worry about him because I know he's gonna try to go, and if he goes he'll give us everything that he's got. I'm sure of that."

When asked if he's ever been involved in a situation where this many injuries have occurred, Gentry said, "Not in the 27 years I've been in the league and not in the 11 years in college as a coach. It's the first. I've never experienced this [many] injuries. So many where we finally get a guy healthy and another guy goes down. It's been a frustrating year."

Ajinca, in his third season with the Pelicans, signed a four-year, $20 million deal this offseason. He is averaging 4.4 points, 4 rebounds and 0.6 blocks in 47 appearances this season.

"It's annoying because I was hoping to get more minutes and enjoy more playing time," he said. "But it is how it is. I just got to take it day to day and see what it is. Hopefully I won't be out for long. So we'll see what's gonna happen."