Zion Williamson cleared for contact, will ramp up workouts, still no timeline for return

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Zion Williamson is getting closer to a return to the court. Someday.

The Pelicans announced that Williamson — who has been out all of training camp and the start of the season following foot surgery — “has been cleared to participate in contact drills, beginning with 1-on-1 workouts and progressively working towards full team workouts.”

Zion is getting closer, but a timeline for his return to the court is not included in that team statement. Zion will get rechecked next Wednesday, at which point he could be cleared for more intense workouts.

Not only does Williamson’s foot need to be able to handle the stress of workouts and, eventually, NBA games, but he also needs to play himself back into game shape. Reports of Zion’s weight being above 300 pounds are out there, but regardless of how much he tips the scales at, he will not be in game shape coming out of rehab. That takes time.

The problem is the Pelicans don’t have a lot of time — they have started the season 2-13 and are already 4.5 games back of the last play-in slot (7.5 back of Denver in the No. 6 seed to guarantee a playoff spot). Fivethirtyeight.com already has the Pelicans with just a 14% chance of making the playoffs.

Williamson missed time his one season at Duke with a sprained knee, then last season a torn meniscus limited him to just 24 games. He had this foot surgery in the offseason and said at media day he hoped to be available for the first game of the season. Clearly he missed that target.

He also promised that the Pelicans’ days of missing the playoffs were over. He’s very likely going to miss that target, too.

It all sets up an interesting offseason, when Zion is eligible for a contract extension.