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.
Will Guillory: Green w/ a Zion update: “He’s in the beginning of our practices — our walkthroughs, our warmups. Then, he goes and does his cardio, his 1-on-0 stuff. He’s progressing.”
Andrew Lopez: David Griffin says Zion Williamson said surgeons reviewed scans and he is cleared for the next step. “No fixed timeline”for return to game action. Next scans will be 2-2.5 weeks. Zion will not be on the floor for the first week of games.
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 InStreetClothes.com 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.
Shams Charania: Pelicans' Zion Williamson had surgery for a fractured right foot this offseason and should return for the start of the regular season, David Griffin says.
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: Griff says Zion was working out prior to summer league and suffered the injury then. Says head strength and conditioning coach Stan Williams has been with Zion throughout the summer and his recovery was "in lockstep" with the team.
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.
Tom Moore: #Sixers coach Doc Rivers on the #Pelicans' Zion Williamson out tonight with fractured ring finger: 'It changed our preparation, for sure. I thought he had his way with us (last time). ... As far as our approach to the game, nothing changes.'
Will Guillory: David Griffin says part of the reason Zion Williamson is injured is bc of the way he's been officiated by the NBA officials this season. Says the way he's been officiated encouraged teams to play more physically against him in the paint.
Scott Kushner: Griff says there is more violence encouraged against Zion than any player since Shaq. Blames the additional contact on the 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.”
Tim Reynolds: Zion Williamson will go through his pregame warmup tonight for New Orleans against Utah in the first game of the NBA restart at Walt Disney World, before a decision is made on whether he plays.
New Orleans Pelicans young star Zion Williamson suffered from leg cramping this week and missed parts of practice before leaving the team Thursday, sources told The Athletic.
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.
"As you guys know, the flexibility aspect with Zion was really critical, so they’ve been able to continue to focus on that," Griffin said. "They weren’t able to do any court work during that period of time, but they were able to get the work in needed on the table, and so that was important. We’re grateful that the league allowed for that."
Jamie Hudson: Pelicans Injury Report: Zion Williamson (left ankle sprain) is probable and Brandon Ingram (right ankle sprain) is questionable for Tuesday's game vs. Blazers.
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.”
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."