New Orleans Pelicans provided an update on sidelined star Zion Williamson Wednesday afternoon, stating he will continue the rehabilitation process on his injured right foot away from the team in Portland, Oregon, while still being supervised by team medical staff. The Pelicans announced back in December the former No. 1 overall pick would be out 4-6 weeks after receiving an injection in his foot. Williamson had surgery to repair the fractured foot in the offseason, but since the bone has not healed properly, he has yet to play in a game this season. In early December, he was scheduled to return to practice, but continued soreness got in the way.
“As you can imagine, this has been a very difficult process for me,” Williamson said. “I know there’s work to be done in my recovery before I can safely return to the court, but I will continue to put in the time necessary so I can get back on the floor with my team and represent Pelicans fans and the city of New Orleans at the highest level. Basketball means everything to me, and I am thankful for the Pelicans organization and everyone who has surrounded me with love and support throughout this journey — my family, friends, teammates, coaches, staff, fans, and everybody who has stood behind me and uplifted me when I needed it most.”
Back in December, the Pelicans said Williamson will only be able to take part in “low impact, partial weight-bearing activities for an extended period.” That remains to be true, according to president of basketball operations David Griffin.
“Since we notified everyone on Dec. 16 of his latest imaging, it was decided then by our medical team to dial his rehab back to only partial weight-bearing activities. He continues along that path,” Griffin said. “We also agreed that in order to put Zion in the best position to succeed, he will rehab away from the team at this time so he can focus on the task at hand.”
In the short term, this shrinks New Orleans’ already slim odds of sneaking into the playoffs. Without its franchise player, New Orleans has gone 13-25 on the season, with the 25th-best offense, 24th-best defense and 26th-best net rating in the NBA. However, the Pelicans are only 2.5 games out of the last play-in spot in the Western Conference.
Viewed from another angle, the Pelicans are only five games ahead of the top spot in the draft lottery. And since the lottery odds are flat for the league’s three worst teams, New Orleans doesn’t need to be all the way at the bottom of the standings. Only the Houston Rockets, Detroit Pistons and Orlando Magic are in better position, tank-wise.
The optimistic perspective, then, is that the best thing the Pelicans can do for Williamson’s future is to be patient with his foot and draft another potential star next June. If you’re thinking big picture, though, note that Williamson has played in 85 of a possible 182 regular-season games since they drafted him, and they’ve had a different coach in each of his three seasons. New Orleans needs to get him healthy, keep him healthy and find some semblance of stability.