NBA rumors: Pelicans staff, players aware not to expect Zion Williamson for foreseeable future

More on Zion Williamson Injury

The Pelicans were intrigued by the possibility of pairing AAU teammates Williamson and Morant together in 2019, sources said. They had the Nos. 1 and 4 picks entering that draft. They offered the Grizzlies multiple packages that included the No. 4 pick. All of their offers were rebuffed.
Williamson was supposed to return to practice in December, but he began experiencing soreness in his right foot. That month, he flew to Los Angeles to have an injection to promote healing. It is possible he will need a second surgery on his right foot, sources said, but nothing has been decided.
Adrian Wojnarowski: The rehab process has moved from New Orleans to Portland, Oregon, and the Pelicans and Zion Williamson agreed on this and work together to get him to Portland and Zion's trying to come back now from a foot fracture. You know, that's included a couple of setbacks in terms of the timeline. But I'm told that the intention, and the expectation remains that Zion Williamson will play this season for the Pelicans. But he's in Portland now. The team is still supervising his regimen there. But he's gotten away from town, and so he'll continue to work there.
While the Pelicans did not announce the location, sources told ESPN's Adrian Wojnarowski that Williamson is doing his rehab in Portland, Oregon.
Andrew Lopez: The Pelicans say Zion Williamson has been doing his rehab away from the team. He is still under supervision of the team. Sources say the Pelicans arranged for transportation out of New Orleans for Williamson. Further updates on Zion's status are expected in the next few weeks.
Shams Charania on Zion Williamson: From everything I've been told, the Pelicans do want him to play this season. I think Zion Williamson in his heart of hearts does want to play this year. So you have two parties that clearly want him back on the floor.
We all know how much Zion has been struggling through this injury. What have you two been telling him throughout this process? Jaxson Hayes: It’s crazy, because everyone’s been trying to fry him. I know he’s trying to ignore all that stuff and do what he has to do. When we’re sitting at the game, people are yelling stuff at him. I just tell him, “Bro, they’re just mad because they’re not in your shoes.” That’s all you can tell him. We all know how much he wants to play. He’s doing all he can to get back right. But there’s nothing we can do until he’s healthy. We just have to be there to support him.
The New Orleans Pelicans may need an Excedrin with how many headaches they have been getting from Zion Williamson lately. Pelicans beat writer Jake Madison made troubling revelations this week about Williamson’s work ethic. He said in a tweet that Williamson has skipped workouts in his rehab. Madison also said that the former No. 1 overall pick fell asleep during a recent team film session.
Andrew Lopez: Statement from the New Orleans Pelicans on Zion Williamson:
Andrew Lopez: Zion Williamson will be dialed back in his rehab process from surgery on his fractured right foot. Williamson's bone has not healed the way the team expected and he will take some time off before proceeding, sources tell ESPN. It's unclear when he will return to the court.
Christian Clark: Zion Williamson will be sidelined indefinitely, sources tell @NOLAnews. He is still experiencing soreness in his right foot. Forward has missed more games (87) than he's played in (85) since the Pels took him No. 1 overall.
Oleh Kosel: Zion Williamson is still receiving treatment and “the Pelicans haven’t progressed him yet,” per Willie Green. As for whether the soreness has dissipated in his right foot: “Somewhat, but there’s still some things he’s dealing with and he’s trying to work through.”
Shams Charania: Pelicans’ Zion Williamson experienced a slight delay in his rehab due to soreness in his injured right foot. Team is optimistic it is not serious but will dial back his ramp up in approximately a week.
As Williamson gets closer to making his season debut, he'll join a team that is off to one of the worst starts in franchise history. His return will bring some much-needed stability to the young core, but the Pelicans are looking to follow the 2020-21 Washington Wizards and become just the fourth team since the ABA/NBA merger to make the playoffs after starting 6-17. "We haven't had Z this season. [We're] really waiting for him. We need him," Valanciunas said. "He's gonna be the big piece for us offensively, defensively. The game is gonna change in a good way, big time."
Andrew Lopez: Willie Green says the team is still waiting the specialist to review Zion Williamson’s latest scans. It’s still wait-and-see. Mentioned Williamson has been doing 3-on-3 work. Still waiting clearance to move to full team drills.
The doctors Williamson has been working with had not cleared him to participate in contact drills until Tuesday. But the team has not handled this well from a public relations standpoint. It kept the injury and surgery quiet, sources said, out of respect to Williamson and his preference for privacy. Then instead of announcing a complete timetable, it did incremental updates that made it seem like he was having setbacks whether that was accurate or not. That strategy may have helped with the front office's relationship with the franchise player, but it hurt the team's credibility with its fan base. It has made it challenging to accept subsequent updates at face value.
The Pelicans had a strength and conditioning coach with Williamson in Los Angeles for summer workouts, sources said, so they were aware Williamson was hurt. Perhaps being vague about the timing of the injury -- Griffin has said both "early in the summer" and "before summer league" -- was to honor Williamson's request for privacy. But that did invite speculation of whether the team was in the loop, which is naturally a sensitive topic.
Williamson will undergo further medical imaging on November 24, which will determine his availability for full team workouts. Additional updates will be provided on his anticipated return to play timetable accordingly.
When asked about whether this decision was from Zion’s camp or the Pelicans, Charania clarified that it was a mutual decision between both parties. He also had some worrying details about Zion’s shape and injury. “It’s both doctors… on Zion Williamson’s side, on the Pelicans side. Because I’m told not only the bone isn’t fully healing yet, listen. He needs to be in game shape as well… he’s just not there yet.”
The 21-year-old big owes much to his size and athleticism but there’re two sides to that coin. While it helps him cope with the NBA physicality, it also increases the risk of injury. That said, the most recent video of Zion training before the Pelicans‘ game didn’t make anyone a believer, as he seems to have gained a hefty amount of weight following the surgery and didn’t seem to move lightly and freely. Reportedly, Zion has reached 300 pounds (136 kg).
There's an expectation that Williamson will resume play under a minutes restriction when he does take the floor, sources said, typical for stars returning from injury. But with Williamson, who bristled at the training wheels Pelicans officials placed on his reintegration from a torn meniscus injury as a rookie, it could be a higher-stakes game of poker.
When he joined the Pelicans' recent preseason trip to Minnesota, several league personnel on hand were struck by his heavier appearance than his listed playing weight last season of 284 pounds. "I know Zion at 280, and he was not 280," said one observer. "These are the injuries you have to be the most concerned about, a foot injury for a guy with noted weight issues," said one Western Conference executive.
There's a strong belief in league circles that the Pelicans were unaware of that procedure until Williamson reported to New Orleans ahead of media day, although one team source contacted by B/R maintained the Pelicans and Williamson were aligned on the injury's timeline.
Before Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin addressed reporters last Thursday, word was already circling around the league that Williamson was unlikely to make his 2021-22 debut before November, at the earliest. It was even known in rival front offices that Griffin planned to speak on the matter rather than issue a press release. This all comes after league figures raised a collective eyebrow when Griffin blamed Williamson's season-ending finger injury on poor officiating.
Things only got worse on Monday when first-year coach Willie Green confirmed that his young star, Zion Williamson, hasn’t started running or participating in team activities as he continues rehab from a broken right foot suffered during the offseason. “He’ll have some scans in a day or so. We’ll know more after that,” Green said. “He’s still doing his cardio work. He’s still doing his conditioning. He can do a little on the floor. Hopefully, we can progress soon after that.”
Andrew Lopez: Willie Green says there’s no update on Zion Williamson. Still waiting on results from scans. Meanwhile, Brandon Ingram was a full participant in practice today.
The New Orleans Pelicans’ regular-season opener is a little more than a week away, and star forward Zion Williamson is still a limited participant in practice. Monday, prior to the Pelicans’ preseason finale against the Utah Jazz, coach Willie Green said Williamson will “get some scans in a day or so.” The results of those medical tests will determine if Williamson can become more involved in practice.
“We’ll know more after that,” Green said. “But right now, he’s doing his cardio work, still doing his conditioning. He can do a little on the floor. Then hopefully we can progress soon after that.” Williamson is recovering from a right foot fracture. Williamson hurt his foot working out on his own prior to Summer League, executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said last month.
Zion Williamson (right foot fracture). Recovery: Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin surprised many when he announced at media day that Williamson had offseason surgery for a fractured foot. Williamson was injured participating in on-court offseason work prior to summer league. The injury occurred to Williamson's right foot -- the same leg where he suffered a knee injury that delayed his NBA debut by 13 weeks during his rookie season. Pelicans coach Willie Green said Williamson was able to do walk-throughs during the first week of training camp but is still "progressing." Return: The good news is Griffin said the team is hopeful that Williamson will be ready for opening night. Williamson himself said he expects to play in the first regular-season game as well.
Recovery following surgery can occur in six-to-eight weeks though an 8-to-10-week window is likely a safer estimate. According to the injury database, the average time lost for in-season fifth metatarsal fractures is about 42 games (roughly 10 to 11 weeks). However, the number is considerably smaller for fifth metatarsal fractures sustained in the offseason. These cases missed an average of 15 games with several players active on Opening Night. However, it’s worth mentioning that these individuals were operating under the constraints of a normal offseason, something Williamson will not receive.
However, there may be multiple reasons for optimism surrounding Zion. To start, a 2016 study revealed NBA players to suffer Jones fractures did not display a decrease in performance when they returned to play. Furthermore, Aaron Nelson and the Pelicans medical staff have had a positive impact on player health since joining New Orleans, including last season when they finished in the top 10 for fewest games lost to injury or illness. Nelson also has prior success managing fifth metatarsal fractures.
Oleh Kosel: Zion Williamson says he wasn't able to be around the rest of his teammates much this summer because he was "steadily rehabbing." However, he acknowledges that he and the rest of the players on the roster are brothers so there's no issues whatsoever.
Will Guillory: For the record: Zion is not wearing a walking boot. He says he expects to be ready for the regular season opener.
Eliot Clough: Griff says the team will approach the preseason like training camp, and "I anticipate we'll be ramping up throughout the preseason." Zion's injury is his right foot and his fifth metacarpal.
Andrew Lopez: Just now on NBA Countdown: @Adrian Wojnarowski said he believes the expectation is Zion Williamson is done for the regular season. It's possible he could return if the Pelicans make the play-in or beyond. But this isn't a quick return type injury.
Andrew Lopez: Stan Van Gundy said no one - not medical staff or Zion - has mentioned any sort of restrictions that Zion could have in camp. Says he expects first day of camp for all players will look different because guys haven’t had chances to play as much pickup as usual.
So Zion is important and not just for the sake of the New Orleans Pelicans. The big question hanging over the league is whether he’s capable of shouldering it all. Dr. Brian Sutterer, of sports injury YouTube fame, has been watching intently and has his concerns. “He’s in a race against his own body,” Dr. Sutterer said over the phone. “If you go watch his Duke highlights compared to now, the difference is profound. In my opinion, his athleticism and conditioning have regressed substantially. He’s less explosive, less conditioned, slower on defense, has already had a portion of his meniscus removed from his knee after an injury, and he’s still under close monitoring from the medical staff.”
The Pelicans announced Thursday that Williamson left the Disney campus on Thursday to tend to an urgent family medical matter. Williamson was spotted being attended to by medical personnel at a recent practice, but he is “fine” and the cramping was “not an issue,” a source said. The cramping is not the reason Williamson left Thursday, the source added, but was something he dealt with.
They not only focused on building strength back up in Williamson’s right knee. They also worked with him to become more flexible so his body could better withstand the incredible force his 6-foot-6, 285-pound frame generates every time he jumps. Even the way Williamson lands was a point of emphasis. Williamson ended up missing the first three months of the season, a total of 45 games. The Pelicans took steps to reduce the risk that he will ever again have to miss such an extended stretch of time. And the rehabilitation never stopped — even during the coronavirus pandemic.
Griffin said the Pelicans received special clearance from the NBA so Williamson could continue receiving treatment at the team’s practice facility in Metairie while it was closed down. Reserve forward Kenrich Williams, who missed more than two months with a back injury, also rehabbed at the Oschner Sports Performance Center when its doors were otherwise shuttered.
There has been much speculation in the news media that Williamson’s weight might have left him prone to knee injuries. But research indicates that weight alone does not present the most threatening risk factor for knee injuries, Dr. Elliott said.
When biomechanical flaws are present, weight can amplify the chance of knee injury, Dr. Elliott said. He declined to discuss his findings regarding Williamson, but, speaking in general terms, said, “If your biomechanics are clean, you don’t increase your risk of having a knee injury by being 280 pounds.”
Nobody’s saying how long he’ll play, but Zion Williamson shouldn’t be expected to play beyond the 20-minute range against the San Antonio Spurs on Wednesday night. “I think everybody’s gotta understand, he doesn’t have minutes restrictions, but we’re gonna have all eyes on him as far as the energy bursts and how long he can play consecutively,” Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told Yahoo Sports. “Obviously, it’ll be short minutes for a while. Short, consecutive minutes.”
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."
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