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The New Orleans Pelicans have been playing shorthanded lately, and on Friday night they took on the Atlanta Hawks without Zion Williamson, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball. Those three are all dealing with relatively minor issues, though, and shouldn't be out of the lineup for an extended period.

Unfortunately, that's not the case for Josh Hart. The Pelicans' guard joined that trio on the injury report on Friday, and will be out indefinitely due to a thumb injury, the team announced. 

The New Orleans Pelicans announced today that guard Josh Hart suffered a torn UCL in his right thumb during last night's game against the Orlando Magic. Hart underwent an MRI today at Ochsner Health, which confirmed the injury diagnosis. Additional updates regarding Hart's treatment plan and timetable for return will be announced at a later date. 

The big question for Hart will be whether or not he needs surgery. If so, he'll face a much longer recovery time. Jeff Stotts, a certified athletic trainer who runs In Street Clothes, which track injuries in the NBA, indicates that the average amount of games missed after undergoing surgery for a torn UCL is 26. 

New Orleans only has 25 games left in the regular season, and the schedule is condensed this year due to COVID-19. That means surgery would likely sideline Hart the rest of the way, though we'll obviously have to wait for an official timeline to know for sure. The prognosis is not good, according to Pelicans coach Stan Van Gundy. He told reporters that Hart is "not going to be back in two weeks. It's a significant amount of time. He's going to miss the vast majority of what's left of the season."

Regardless of whether Hart needs surgery or not, he's going to be out for a while, and that's a big blow for the Pelicans. Hart isn't the first name anyone thinks of with this team, but he's a steady bench presence who can do a little bit of everything and helps fill in the gaps. He's also one of the better and more versatile defenders on a team that's already down near the bottom of the league on that side of the ball. 

Entering Friday night's slate of games, the Pelicans are 21-26, which has them 1.5 games back of the 10th and final play-in spot in the Western Conference. They were already facing an uphill battle to end their playoff drought, which stretches back to 2018, and that task just got even more difficult with Hart's injury.