NBA Rumor: Zion Williamson Injury

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Zion Williamson expected to play on minutes restriction when he returns

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.

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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.”

Zion Williamson to get scans on injured foot

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.
2 weeks ago via ESPN

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.

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.”

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.

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.”

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.

Zion Williamson back in January?

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.

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.

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.”
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