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New Orleans Pelicans forward Solomon Hilldefends the goal against Denver Nuggets guard Emmanuel Mudiay during a game at the Smoothie King Center on Oct. 26, 2016.

Advocate file photo by MATTHEW HINTON
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Solomon Hill is gone, but not forgotten.

The Pelicans’ starting small forward hasn’t been in New Orleans since undergoing surgery to repair his torn left hamstring in August, but he is still keeping touch with his teammates as he recovers from the prolonged setback.

Jrue Holiday said he exchanges text messages with Hill “all of the time” and is routinely kept abreast of Hill's recuperation. Hill remains in Los Angeles to rehab the leg he injured during an innocuous offseason pickup game.

 “He’s just got to get healthy,” Holiday said. “A hamstring is a tricky thing. You don’t want to fall back and re-injure it, because it will linger. I think he’s doing the best that he can to get back and be able to come help our team. At this point, we have people in our training room and all that, so for him to be isolated and just work at it 100 percent, I think that’s great.”

The initial diagnosis expected Hill to miss between four and six months, meaning he’s unlikely to return until March. However, on Wednesday night, coach Alvin Gentry said Hill is “a little bit ahead of schedule.”

Still, no update has been given on his timeline to actually return to the floor.

“We talk to him a lot,” coach Alvin Gentry said. “He was going to come back here and rehab, but he was doing such a good job out there (in L.A.), and actually he’s a little ahead of schedule. But we talk and communicate with him to try to see how he’s doing and what’s going on.

“It’s one of those injuries that’s a time injury. There’s nothing you can do. You can’t work harder and come back quicker. It just really needs to heal.”

As part of their ongoing conversation, Holiday, who has missed prolonged stretches in each of the past three seasons, lent advice about mentally coping with a lengthy exit from competition, but isn’t focusing on the injury anymore.

Instead, they’re discussing the future.

“I already told him that before,” Holiday said. “Now it’s really about, when you come back you still have to guard KD (Kevin Durant), PG (Paul George) and Kawhi (Leonard). So, get the hammy right first.”

Being frank

Rookie Frank Jackson, meanwhile, has been able to take part in nearly all of the Pelicans’ team activities except for what occurs on the court.

The No. 31 overall draft pick has suffered a pair of right foot injuries, keeping him off of the floor since before the June draft. But he’s been able to travel with the team, watch practice, be in the video room and learn the system.

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It has also allowed Jackson to get to know his teammates and participate in some typical chores.

“Rookie duties,” Holiday said. “Go get Chik-Fil-A before the plane and pick up. Go to 7-11 and get some stuff. The usual.”

Injured west

The Pelicans may not be the picture of health, but for the first time in several years, New Orleans actually holds an injury advantage over several of its adversaries in the Western Conference.

Many of the Pelicans’ competition in the standings, as well as their upcoming opponents, have lost a key contributor in recent weeks.

Utah’s Rudy Gobert, Denver’s Paul Milsap, the Clippers’ Blake Griffin, Memphis’ Mike Conley and San Antonio’s Leonard are all expected to miss at least a month, allowing the Pelicans an opportunity to seize an advantage.

“We still have, like, four people, and it’s still basketball and it’s unfortunate. But I’m just glad I’m not the one dealing with it. It’s been a long time since I could say that and haven’t been hurt. To see everyone healthy and been on our team, that’s been awesome.”

This article originally ran on theadvocate.com.