NEW ORLEANS — Zion Williamson is expected to finally take the floor for the Pelicans next week when the team hosts the San Antonio Spurs on Jan. 22.
David Griffin, Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations, announced the young star's expected debut Wednesday after team practice. It'll be the first time Williamson plays a regular season NBA game after injuring his knee in the preseason.
With the young Pelicans star returning to full practice and videos surfacing of Zion dunking during pre-game warm ups, there has been plenty of buzz saying the potential franchise cornerstone would return soon.
Zion Williamson began going through full practices in early January, drawing contact in 5-on-5 drills for the first time since his October surgery. The so-far unseen rookie phenomenon has even been pulling off his signature dunks during warm ups before games, leading fans to believe that he could return as soon as Thursday’s home game against the Utah Jazz.
The No. 1 overall draft pick underwent arthroscopic knee surgery performed the day before the regular season began. Doctors repaired the cartilage that serves as a natural padding to his knee joint.
Williamson’s recovery has taken longer than originally projected, reportedly because Pelicans trainers are teaching him how to walk and run differently, hoping to prevent future injuries.
Williamson is relatively heavy for an NBA player, never mind one who moves well and often soars above the rim for the kind of dunks that have made him an internet sensation since high school. So the club has taken a cautious approach to his rehabilitation in hopes of minimizing the possibility of a setback.
Williamson played in four preseason games before his injury, averaging 23.3 points and 6.5 rebounds.
Gentry said that when Williamson finally plays, he expects the rookie's physical presence to help New Orleans draw more fouls and improve its production from the foul line.
Williamson will be on a minutes restriction when he returns. What that restriction will be is still unclear.