Zion Williamson’s Knee Injury: When Will Pelicans Rookie Return to Play?

Zion WIlliamson, Pelicans

Getty Zion WIlliamson, Pelicans

No. 1 pick Zion Williamson of the Pelicans had surgery to remove a piece of the meniscus in his knee on October 21, meaning we are now past the nine-week mark in his recovery. He has still not undergone a full practice and will need to go through a few before he can play in a game, meaning he is certain not to be back within the next week.

That puts him well outside of the original timetable for a return when the surgery happened, which was six-to-eight weeks. As multiple orthopedic surgeons explained to Heavy.com, the removal of a piece of torn meniscus is a relatively simple procedure that requires only healing in the skin, not on the inside of the knee. That’s raised questions about what, exactly, is wrong with Williamson.

One nugget that came from an ESPN report about Williamson’s rehab is that the Pelicans are, “trying to tweak small matters in how he walks and runs.”

That’s not uncommon for young players making the transition to professional sports of any kind—changing the kinetics in a player’s body by improving his posture and gait can lead to a reduction in long-term injuries. But it’s set off a wide range of both worries and wisecracks about how the Pelicans are handling Williamson’s return.

Most prominent, naturally, was Charles Barkley of TNT. “So, uh, listen,” Barkley said as he stood up to take steps. “Zion, this is how you walk. You put one foot in front of the other.”

Zion Williamson Could Return to Pelicans Practice Next Week

But the Pelicans are taking their time in bringing their prized rookie back to the floor, no matter the fun that is poked at the team or at Williamson. That won’t happen during this weekend, when the Pelicans get the Pacers and Rockets at home in a Saturday-Sunday back-to-back.

New Orleans has four days off after that, and it’s possible that Williamson could begin practicing at some point next week. They won’t play again until next Friday, when they travel to California for a Lakers-Kings back-to-back.

Most likely, it will be in that first full week of January that Williamson begins practicing in earnest and ramping up for his return. The Pelicans have home games against the Jazz (January 6) and Bulls (January 8) that week.

If he can’t be back in the lineup that quickly, a three-game road trip to New York (January 10), Boston (January 11) and Detroit (January 13) would have to be the latest Williamson could realistically remain out without having some additional setback. The Pistons game would mark 12 weeks since Williamson had surgery.

“He is making progress,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters. “He is in rehab. He is doing everything that he’s supposed to do and he’s moving forward toward playing.”

Of course, Williamson was supposed to be back by now, so any forecast on his return should be taken with caution. A surgery with a notably easy recovery will cost him nearly half his first NBA season—at least.

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