Will Guillory: Pelicans officially upgrade Zion Williamson, Derrick Favors and Jahlil Okafor to probable. JJ Redick has been downgraded to questionable.
The Pelicans' plan is to start Williamson against the Spurs on Wednesday (9:30 p.m. ET on ESPN) while monitoring his minutes. Last week, Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said the team won't have a "hard minutes restriction" on Williamson but will play him in short "bursts" in order to keep him fresh.
New Orleans Pelicans rookie Zion Williamson is officially listed as doubtful for Monday's contest against the Memphis Grizzlies. The team announced the change in the injury report on Sunday evening, but don't read too much into it. Williamson is still expected to make his NBA debut on Wednesday night against the San Antonio Spurs.
After seeing how Williamson healed his right knee for the past three months with the Pelicans’ training staff, executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin believes he has the answer. "He’s going to be better than he was before," Griffin told USA TODAY Sports. "He may not be initially. But once he finds his timing, he’s really going to benefit from this time with everything that has been done. It’s making him a better version of himself."
Back on the Staples Center sideline, Griffin watches Williamson. When Zion begins exploding toward the rim and throwing down two-handed slam dunks, fans flock to the Pelicans' half of the court. "He's doing s--- from a physics perspective that no one else does," Griffin says. "It's fascinating to me. We've learned more during this process than we've taught him."
Says Dr. Marcus Elliott, founder of P3: "Zion has the highest peak force of any athlete we've ever assessed -- and he was still in high school."
Veteran NBA trainers say today's young players often have stiff and inflexible hips that keep them from squatting and hinder their lateral movement -- and league sources say these issues also affect Williamson. But Griffin reports progress on Williamson's ability to get low to the ground and move laterally.
Then Griffin shares another story about Williamson -- how the Pelicans engaged in a teamwide heavy weightlifting routine for just one week during the offseason. Williamson gained eight pounds of muscle during that span, a degree of weight gain that shocked staffers. "He's not normal," Griffin says. "So finding stasis with Zion is the challenge, because he's 19 years old. He's still growing. It's not going to be about a number. It's going to be about metrics of flexibility and strength and control and all of the different things that we can measure that really are outside of weight."
Griffin joked that it was “preposterous” to suggest New Orleans is teaching the rookie how to walk again as some have suggested. But he stressed the importance of improving Williamson’s flexibility and strengthening the areas of his body that allow him to be such an explosive athlete. “It’s the whole kinetic chain. You’re addressing everything. You’re addressing ankle flexion and then you’re addressing knees, hips and back and everything else,” Griffin said. “I think what’s happened is his whole kinetic chain is in a much better position now because of this. It starts with the fact that he’s more flexible. Once you make someone more flexible, you have to give them the strength to control that flexibility. That’s been a dance, it really has been. He’s now able to do some things physically he wasn’t able to do before. … He’s in a good space.”
Television ratings are sagging to start the season, and the reasons are hard to pinpoint. It could be the confusing China situation, one the NBA fumbled in the preseason. It could be cyclical. It could be general fatigue from a nearly year-round season. But there’s no denying that Williamson is a big piece of the NBA’s present and future. “I think so. The league does need him,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told Yahoo Sports. “Because he's a great personality, a great feel for the game. And he's a different kind of player. Kind of like Luka [Doncic], basically. They bring an element to the game you don't see in other guys.”
A strong start to the preseason was halted by surgery on his right knee (meniscus) in October, and the Pelicans have been cautious with the timeline surrounding his potential return, preferring to look at the big picture. “He wants to play. In those situations, you have to protect a guy from himself,” Gentry told Yahoo Sports. “This has been his lifelong goal. We understand what it is, but I told him we have your best interests at hand. We're not gonna do anything [that’s a] risk, put you in harm’s way. We gotta be patient enough to understand that.”
A front-office executive involved with the NBA for three decades echoed those sentiments. “I’ve never seen so much attention put from the league onto a player so early,” he said. “Damn straight the NBA needs him.”
While he’s still a raw talent with plenty of room to grow, Zion is a box-office commodity. “He’s not a max player [yet], but he’s a max entertainer,” an Eastern Conference executive told Yahoo Sports. “As big as he is on the basketball side, with the season tickets they’ve sold, their marketing, their grassroots marketing, he’s bigger on the business side. He changes the perception of the franchise. Between drafting him and hiring David Griffin, they’ve changed their perception. They’re a national franchise now, businesses will be attracted to them.”
Scott Kushner: Griffin said he doesn’t expect to do a minutes restriction “hard number” for Zion. It’s more about “number of bursts” and those are judged “fairly subjectively”.
Mitch Lawrence: The Pelicans will know a lot more after practice this week, but it sure sounds like we’ll get the long-awaited NBA debut of Zion Williamson on Thursday vs. the Jazz. That’s the plan, anyway, per sources.
Malika Andrews: Zion Williamson, who is not playing against the Knicks tonight, is shooting around at Madison Square Garden with a sleeve on his right knee. He’s taking off of both his right and left legs.
Williamson had a major breakthrough in his return from October surgery for a torn meniscus, practicing fully for the first time on Thursday. Sides have been mum on an exact return date, but both he and the Pelicans remain hopeful of a January season debut, league sources tell The Athletic.
Gentry also added that the team does not have a date in mind for when Williamson will play in a game, but they are monitoring his progress in practice to see when the best time for that will be. "I know that's typical but we really do have to take it a day at a time to see what kind of progress he makes," Gentry said. "See what happens after he goes through practices and things like that. Like we said and will continue to say, he'll play when the time is right for him to do that. When that is, I'm not real sure of. But I know he's making progress, that's the thing that matters most."
Everywhere you turn in New Orleans, someone is asking when rookie Zion Williamson will make his NBA debut. Things are becoming a bit clearer because the No. 1 overall pick in last year's draft went through his first full practice since he had surgery on the meniscus in his right knee on Oct. 21. New Orleans Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry was in Wal-Mart when a lady on a motorized scooter stopped him to ask about Williamson's return. Williamson himself said little kids are coming up asking him about getting back on the floor because they see him on the court in their video games.
Will Guillory: Zion on when he'll be ready to go: "It'll probably be one of those moments, like when it came to my college decision, I'll (wake) up and I'll know."
Stadium: “I’m told both sides are hopeful of a January season debut for (Zion) Williamson.” As the calendar shifts to 2020, NBA Insider @ShamsCharania shares the latest on the Pelicans No. 1 pick.
During the Pelicans’ last road trip, Williamson was only doing shooting drills before games. He did more off-the-dribble work with assistant coaches before Saturday’s game and with that added freedom he decided to put on a show for the people who were in the building a few hours early. For the first time since his injury, Zion was seen throwing down a few of his signature rim-rattling dunks, showing that he’s inching even closer to his long-awaited NBA debut with New Orleans.
New Orleans fully anticipates Williamson to play this season, league sources said.
As for Williamson, the No. 1 overall pick is expected to begin contact drills and practices within the next week or two, according to sources. The Pelicans have not set a timetable for his return. This is a gradual progression due to the uniqueness of Williamson’s body and game, a 6-foot-6, 285-pound specimen the likes of which we have not seen in the NBA before.
If it were up to Zion Williamson, he already would have made his debut for the New Orleans Pelicans. That's what the No. 1 pick in the 2019 NBA draft told ESPN's Jorge Sedano before the Pelicans' 112-100 victory over the Denver Nuggets on Wednesday. Williamson told Sedano that he "trusts the organization" in its decision-making and said that his rehab process has been about more than just the recovery from surgery to repair the torn meniscus in his right knee.
The 19-year-old also said the Pelicans are trying to teach him how to walk and run differently -- working on the kinetic chain of his body. In the past week, Williamson has slowly started working his way back. He has done individual shooting drills and group drills but hasn't gone 5-on-5 or even 3-on-3 just yet, only 5-on-0 drills.
A source within the organization told ESPN that before Williamson makes his on-court return, the team would like him to undergo at least two or three practices doing full work. A source told Sedano the team is targeting just after the new year for those practices.
Kerry Eggers: Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry on rookie Zion Williamson’s knee: “He’s doing some stuff with us in practice, but we’re taking it slow. He’s working his butt off to get back on the court. We’ll put him out there when he’s ready to play. It’s not going to be any big rush.”
Andrew Lopez: Zion Williamson is not yet a full participant in shootaround. He was out there today and was passing the ball around. Kenrich Williams said the guys responded well to seeing No. 1 back on the sidelines.
Greg Logan: Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry says #ZionWilliamson is on court but not cleared for contact. Just stand-alone shooting. Definitely won’t rush return.
Marc Stein: For the Pelicans, there was resignation in some corners around them over the weekend that prized rookie Zion Williamson may have to wait until the calendar flips to 2020 to make his official NBA debut
Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin went on the Pelicans in-game broadcast recently to talk about the return of Williamson and the team. There he said Williamson is progressing and added the obvious — that there will be some load management of Williamson upon his return. As there should be. “Yes, he very likely will not be asked to take the pounding of back-to-backs initially,” Griffin said on the team’s television broadcast. “There will be a sort of ramp-up for him to getting back to where you would call him full strength, but he’s certainly going to be playing, and we’re trying to win basketball games. And quite frankly, we’ve done a horrible job of that.”
Scott Kushner: Griffin said Zion “very likely” will not play back to backs when he first comes back. He said there will be a “ramp up process”.
Will Guillory: David Griffin on Zion: "He continues to progress, he's progressing really well. ... We have been much more cautious with how we've ramped him up from stage to stage bc he's 19."
Scott Kushner: David Griffin said “it’s fascinating that people there there’s any different agenda” regarding Zion. He said he continues to progress and feels very good.
Scott Kushner: Alvin Gentry said he was not made aware of any health setback for Zion Williamson. Said his focus has been on trying to get this team back to winning.
Sources confirmed that he has begun some light, on-court work with the team in recent days, but he still has a decent amount of work ahead of him before getting close to his pro debut. So, the gloomy drumbeat just kept on playing and those who were hoping Zion would be swooping in to save the day in the coming weeks, well, it’s time to temper those expectations.
Christian Clark: Today is 6 weeks since Zion Williamson's surgery. He has not started on-court work. Alvin Gentry: "Obviously, he’s itching to get back on the court and be able to do basketball things. In these situations, you sometimes have to protect players from themselves."
Will Guillory: Alvin Gentry says Zion Williamson still hasn't been on-court activities but he hopes to get the rookie phenom going soon. Says the team will continue to be cautious with him until he's right.
There's still no exact date set for Zion Williamson's return to the court, but New Orleans Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said the No. 1 overall pick is "getting better literally every day."
"He's progressing exactly as we had hoped he would," Griffin told the radio station. With the Pelicans on a three-game road trip, Williamson stayed back in New Orleans to continue his rehab process. "We're really optimistic, and most importantly, Zion is really excited and that's where we want him to be," Griffin said.
The original timeline for Williamson's surgery, which happened on Oct. 20, was six to eight weeks. Griffin said that while Williamson is on schedule, it's more likely he comes back at the latter end of that timeline. "Right now, I think we're on target for eight weeks," Griffin said. "Probably not to the day, but in and around that."
The Render: According to Reggie Miller, Zion Williamson will be back by mid-December. "A little birdie whispered in my ear that his rehab is on schedule and he will definitely be back by mid-December."
Will Guillory: Zion kills any thoughts of him sitting out much longer than the projected 6-8 weeks: "I'm not even gonna miss half of the season."
Glen "Big Baby" Davis says Zion Williamson needs to lose weight ASAP ... 'cause he tells TMZ Sports being the same size as the Pelicans star cost him his NBA career! "That’s one of the reasons why I stopped playing was because of my weight," Glen says. New Orleans Pelicans forward Brandon Ingram was not listed on the injury report Sunday evening and will be cleared to play Monday night against the Brooklyn Nets. Ingram left Saturday's game against the Oklahoma City Thunder with a head injury and did not play in the second half.
Davis says he was just too damn heavy during his playing days at around 289 pounds ... and blames the weight for 2015 ankle and foot issues that ultimately ended his NBA career.
Good news for Pelicans and NBA fans alike: Star rookie Zion Williamson (torn meniscus) has been in tremendous spirits and has attacked his rehab, according to sources.
Enter Salley ... who says Zion can turn the ship around if he turns his diet around. "My message to Zion? Go vegan, bro. Drink a bunch of water and find out the best way to heal your body, meaning ... not just ultrasounds, not just a hot tub, don't take pills." The 4-time NBA champ says Zion was destined to become teammates with Jahlil Okafor, who recently made the switch to "mostly" veganism and lost 20 pounds ... and Salley wants Williamson to listen to the vet. "Jahlil Okafor will put you on the whole path on losing that weight, getting your knee back in position and playing."
Are you confident he'll return before the end of 2019? David Griffin: Yeah, I would say so. I think he's going to be pushing us to let him come back a lot sooner than we want to, but I think if everything lines up the way we want it to we're very comfortable he'll do that.
Unfortunately for Griffin and the Pelicans, No. 1 overall pick Zion Williamson was not in attendance following surgery to repair a torn meniscus in his right knee on Monday. Williamson is expected to miss six to eight weeks. “I would have loved for Zion to be there,” Griffin told The Undefeated. “But the way the surgery took place, you just weren’t able to move him. You don’t want to travel right afterwards. And you certainly didn’t want to wait to get the process done. There is no sense having him come up here and answer a whole bunch of questions when we knew what was going to happen. “We just wanted to take care of him as soon as possible. But absolutely, we would have liked him to see this.”
Sources with knowledge of the situation have told The Athletic that Williamson and the Pelicans cannot pinpoint one specific moment when the injury occurred.
Coach Alvin Gentry told reporters last week that Williamson may have suffered the injury on Oct. 13 against the Spurs. But Williamson had not felt pain or swelling in the lead up to the injury revelation and there was no specific moment of physical trauma suffered that either he or the organization can point to regarding the injury, according to sources.
The Pelicans do not believe Williamson’s frame contributed to his torn meniscus, nor do they believe it will be an issue moving forward, sources have told The Athletic. He was drafted with everyone involved knowing how special he is at his size and frame.
Finding Greg Oden's name trending on Twitter on October 21 isn't what the NBA had in mind just one day before Zion Williamson's expected regular-season debut against the defending champions. But that's where the NBA finds itself after the New Orleans Pelicans revealed the No. 1 overall pick underwent surgery to remove debris from a torn meniscus. "The term 'debridement' suggests Williamson was able to undergo a meniscectomy in which the damaged tissue was removed," Jeff Stotts of InStreetClothes.com told me.
"The estimated timeline is exactly that, an estimate," Stotts said. "It seems likely Zion's recovery will be fluid, meaning he will be assessed as he progresses through rehab and treatment. The Pelicans medical staff will likely take a conservative approach and won't rush a return."
Will Guillory: David Griffin emphasizes he doesn't see Zion Williamson's weight as an issue with his rehab process: "The kid is a freak of nature." The team wants to take cautious approach, but Griff said Zion will be pushing to come back earlier than 6-8 week timeline.
The Pelicans do not believe Williamson’s frame contributed to his torn meniscus, nor do they believe it will be an issue moving forward, sources have told The Athletic. He was drafted with everyone involved knowing how special he is at his size and frame. Now, Williamson’s rehabilitation could mean less weight-lifting and more strategic planning, but the Pelicans plan to figure out the best method while letting Zion be Zion, and that does not include managing his weight.
Now, Williamson’s rehabilitation could mean less weight-lifting and more strategic planning, but the Pelicans plan to figure out the best method while letting Zion be Zion, and that does not include managing his weight.
Zion Williamson climbed onto the training table inside the New Orleans Pelicans’ practice facility last Wednesday and finally admitted something. That’s when the prized rookie informed the staff that he felt some tightness in his right knee, sources have told The Athletic. This admission came three days after a dominant 22-point, 10-rebound game against the San Antonio Spurs — which had been followed by a day off on Monday and a full participatory day of practice on Tuesday.
Once Williamson informed the Pelicans of how his knee felt, the team took the proactive measure of having him sit out the live practice on Wednesday and undergo an MRI. It was expected to be a precautionary MRI, but results showed a torn meniscus, and on Monday, Williamson underwent arthroscopic surgery and was ruled out six to eight weeks. Sources with knowledge of the situation have told The Athletic that Williamson and the Pelicans cannot pinpoint one specific moment when the injury occurred.
Chris Haynes: New Orleans rookie Zion Williamson will undergo further evaluations on right knee today and possibly tomorrow, but the organization is relieved the forward has avoided any major longterm issues, league sources tell Yahoo Sports.
Adrian Wojnarowski: A severe injury has been ruled out for Zion Williamson’s right knee, but he is expected to miss period of weeks to start regular season, league sources tell ESPN. Pels are clearly treating injury with an abundance of caution but there’s no shortage of confidence on full recovery.
Michael Gallagher: FWIW on ESPN, Woj said it’s “not your normal preseason rest” on Zion and there is knee soreness.
Zion Williamson's NBA Summer League experience ended after one half of basketball. And his former coach thinks he never should've played Summer League to begin with. "No, I thought really he never should've played just because he's been on this circuit of awards, the ESPYs, everything," Coach K told me at the Peach Jam in North Augusta, S.C., where he's recruiting this week. "I don't think he's in the playing shape or the mental shape to play."
"Yeah, he's OK," said Coach K, who remains in touch with both Williamson and Barrett, whom he says will end up being just fine with the Knicks despite his early Summer League struggles. "Zion will move forward from this issue without incident," said Pelicans executive VP David Griffin. "However, in an abundance of caution, we have made the determination that he will not appear in game action for the remainder of the NBA Summer League. He will continue to take part in training and conditioning with our performance team."
Malika Andrews: Zion Williamson is done for the evening, the Pelicans PR says. He took a knee to knee hit (left knee) and won’t return. They do not expect it to be a lingering injury.
Many suggested Williamson, projected to be selected first in the 2019 NBA Draft, should have ended his collegiate career and focused on preparing for life as a professional. But as he prepares to make his return against Syracuse in the quarter-finals of the ACC Tournament on Thursday, Williamson says that was not an option for him. "For the people that think I should stop playing in college and just focus on the NBA: thanks, but no thanks," he told NCAA.com.
Duke Basketball: NEWS: Zion will miss tonight’s game at UNC as he continues to recover from a Grade 1 right knee sprain.
Marc J. Spears: Duke says forward Zion Williamson is out today versus Miami as he continues to recover from a Grade 1 right knee sprain.
Tatum scored 31 points and Boston took its turn pounding Miami early, jumping out to a 26-4 lead and cruising to a 102-82 victory that evened the Eastern Conference finals at two games apiece. “Obviously, we knew how important this game was,” Tatum said. “Everybody just had to come up with a different sense of urgency.”
ESPN Stats: Points Scored in Game 4: All Heat starters — 18 Victor Oladipo — 23 This is the very first playoff game that an entire starting lineup was outscored by a player from its bench (since starters were first tracked in 1970-71).
Zach Kram: Re NBA blowouts: 18% of games this postseason have been decided by 25+ points. The record is 23% in 2016. But we remember the 2016 playoffs as amazing because of GSW-OKC and CLE-GSW. A few remarkable moments and series can make up for other blowouts across the board.