Yes, Zion Williamson is going to play for the Pelicans this season.
That’s what I heard from sources during the G-League showcase in Las Vegas — New Orleans still wants to get Williamson and emerging star Brandon Ingram on the court together for chemistry — and it’s what Shams Charania is reporting at The Athletic.
However, the Pelicans are going to do this on their timeline, which means it could be a little while longer before Williamson is back on the court.
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.
The Pelicans have wanted Williamson to continue to get lean and trim prior to his return, and for his part Williamson has focused on refining his eating habits, according to sources…
New Orleans fully anticipates Williamson to play this season, league sources said.
When? That’s the question, but it’s safe to say we are weeks away, at least. Williamson has not played 3-on-3 let alone 5-on-5 yet. The Pelicans have always said they were going to be “overly cautious” — to use coach Alvin Gentry’s words — with Williamson, he is the future cornerstone of the franchise and they are not going to push his return.
The Pelicans’ focus during Zion’s recovery from a torn meniscus surgery back in October was to make sure this was not a recurring thing. That’s why the focus on retraining him to walk and run properly — something that is fairly common throughout professional sports — and on his diet and getting his body fit (and a little lighter). An explosive athlete like Williamson puts a lot of strain on joints and ligaments, the Pelicans want to reduce the chances that leads to future injury. Which is exactly what they should do.
With the Pelicans well out of the playoff picture in the West, there is no pressure to get Williamson back for a postseason push. That record has turned New Orleans into sellers at the trade deadline, with Jrue Holiday (the trade rumor name I heard the most in Las Vegas), Derrick Favors, and maybe J.J. Redick (less likely, the Pelicans don’t seem interested in moving him) as potential targets.
But eventually, we will see Williamson play with those guys this season.