The Pelicans will have to wait a little bit longer for Zion Williamson’s NBA debut.
Williamson missed New Orleans’ final preseason game against the Knicks, but his injury turned out to be a little bit more than “right knee soreness.” The No. 1 overall pick is expected to miss several weeks after undergoing an arthroscopic procedure a day before the Pelicans’ season opener against the Raptors.
It’s a disappointing development after Williamson averaged 23.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals in four preseason contests, but New Orleans won’t be taking any chances with Zion’s knee. The 19-year-old is the future of the franchise, so the Pels are right to be patient and give him time to fully recover.
What’s next for the former Duke star? Here’s everything we know about Williamson’s injury and the latest news on when he may return to the court.
How long will Zion Williamson be out?
Following arthroscopic surgery to repair a torn lateral meniscus, Williamson is estimated to be out six to eight weeks, per a team statement. Using the NBA’s Opening Night (Oct. 22) as a starting point, Williamson should be sidelined until at least Dec. 3. A full eight weeks would push the date back to Dec. 17.
If Williamson is cleared to play by the earliest possible estimate, he would miss 20 games and be available for the Pelicans’ matchup with the Mavericks on Dec. 3. However, New Orleans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said on Nov. 22 that Williamson is unlikely to rejoin the team that quickly.
“Right now, I think we’re on target for eight weeks,” Griffin said during a radio interview with ESPN New Orleans. “Probably not to the day but in and around that.”
|Potential return date||Pelicans’ opponent|
|Dec. 3||vs. Mavericks|
|Dec. 5||vs. Suns|
|Dec. 7||at Mavericks|
|Dec. 9||vs. Pistons|
|Dec. 11||at Bucks|
|Dec. 13||at 76ers|
|Dec. 15||vs. Magic|
|Dec. 17||vs. Nets|
Zion Williamson injury timeline
The Pelicans couldn’t determine the exact moment when Williamson hurt his knee, according to The Athletic’s Shams Charania, but coach Alvin Gentry suggested the injury may have occurred during a preseason game on Oct. 13 against the Spurs. Williamson informed the Pelicans on Oct. 16 he was feeling tightness in his knee — there was no pain or swelling — and a precautionary MRI on Oct. 17 revealed a torn meniscus.
Given his rare combination of size (6-6, 284 pounds) and athleticism, questions immediately emerged about Williamson’s ability to stay healthy and keep his weight down throughout rest of his career. He also suffered a right knee injury while at Duke, only turning up the noise about one of the most exciting athletes in basketball history.
Griffin addressed those concerns on Oct. 22, saying that Williamson is “in elite condition and stays in elite condition” and believing he got injured because he is in bad shape is “asinine.”
“He can be 274 pounds with 8.5 percent body fat and he can be 280 pounds with 9 percent body fat,” Griffin said (via ESPN’s Andrew Lopez). “As we have gone through the process for our medical team, learning how to keep him lean and give him the core strength and stability and control he needs to handle all that torque he generates, typically that means you are going to do things to strengthen those areas.
“In this case, he gains muscle mass so fast and gains weight so fast, no one has ever dealt with anybody like him. He’s 19, and it’s going to be a learning experience for all of us.”
Griffin added that New Orleans is “extremely optimistic” Williamson will be playing like his old self when he is fully recovered.
Zion Williamson injury updates
— Official update from the Pelicans: