Watching him in warmups ahead of the Pelicans’ game at TD Garden in Boston on Saturday, you’d never have an inkling that No. 1 pick and would-be rookie sensation Zion Williamson was coming off a knee surgery from back in October, one that was expected to keep him out eight weeks at the maximum but now has KO’d him for 12 weeks.
Williamson glided with ease in 3-on-3 workouts, showing explosiveness toward the hoop and little problem getting up for dunks.
But Williamson was strictly an observer on Saturday, just as he has been for the first 41 games of the season. Yes, as of Monday night, Williamson has been out half of his first NBA season.
That could be about to change. According to a report from Sirius XM’s Mitch Lawrence, a longtime hoops reporter, Williamson could finally be ready to break out of his civilian clothing and don a Pelicans jersey in an actual NBA game.
A Return Home Could Bring a Return to Action for Zion
The Pelicans are slated to return home to New Orleans after Monday’s game in Detroit, the third in a three-game road trip. They’ll play Utah at home on Thursday.
At long last, according to Lawrence, we could be seeing Williamson in action.
Williamson was the much-hyped prospect who was chosen with the No. 1 pick in last year’s draft after averaging 22.6 points and 8.9 rebounds in his one year at Duke. But he suffered a mysterious knee injury in the preseason, on October 13, which was later revealed to be a meniscus tear that would require a debridement—or, the removal of the torn piece.
Six-to-eight weeks was the original timetable. Williamson has blown past that, though.
The Pelicans have reason for caution. Williamson is expected to be the foundational piece for the franchise going forward, and without him in the lineup, the team has spent much of the first half in disarray. A 13-game losing streak that stretched into mid-December dropped the Pelicans to 6-22 before New Orleans rebounded by winning nine of its next 13.
Fans of the Pels and those hoping for a look at Williamson shouldn’t get too excited, however. Coach Alvin Gentry issued a reminder that Williamson will be on a minutes restriction when he comes back and that there will be much rust to kick off. Gentry has maintained the franchise-wide air of mystery around Williamson’s return.
“He does development workouts and things like that,″ Gentry said. “He is progressing. There will come a time when we’ll stick him out to play, but we don’t have any exact dates. We really don’t.″
A Strange, Delayed Recovery for Zion
It’s a bizarrely long rehab process. 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 has lent credence to fears that there is something more serious wrong with Williamson, that the Pelicans have been covering up a larger problem. The team has denied any such suggestions but the chatter lingers. An appearance by Williamson on the floor on Thursday would put that kind of talk to bed, at last.