One of the most dynamic young players in the NBA will likely miss the rest of the regular season. New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson is out indefinitely with a fractured finger.
The injury comes as the Pelicans enter the home stretch of the NBA season. The underperforming team, fighting for a spot in the NBA Play-In Tournament, are currently on the outside looking in. The whole situation frustrated one Pelicans exec so much he blasted the NBA about how they treat Williamson.
Zion Williamson joins Brandon Ingram on the injured list
According to ESPN, Williamson had a CT scan on May 6 for his left ring finger, which revealed a fracture. This injury is a major problem for the second-year star since he is left-handed. The Pelicans did not release details about exactly when the injury occurred, but Williamson did leave the game holding his hand against the Golden State Warriors earlier in the week.
The injury will take Williamson out “indefinitely,” according to the team. He will join fellow Pelican star Brandon Ingram on the bench in street clothes. Ingram is currently day-to-day with an ankle injury which he also injured in the Warriors game.
With these injuries, the Pelicans lose their top two scorers and best all-around offensive players. Williamson is averaging 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds, and 3.7 assists per game, while Ingram averages 23.8, 4.9, and 4.9. Losing over 50 points a game is a brutal blow to a Pelicans team fighting for a postseason berth.
The New Orleans Pelicans are likely going to miss the playoffs
Adding insult to the Pelicans’ injuries is the fact that the Williamson and Ingram injuries likely kill any chance the Pelicans have of making the postseason. The injuries happened with just six games left on the Pelicans 2020-21 schedule.
The team is currently three games in the loss column behind the San Antonio Spurs, who hold the last Play-In Tournament spot. in the Western Conference. Earlier in the week, the Pelicans closed the gap to two games following the Spurs’ loss to the Utah Jazz.
Without Williamson and Ingram though, the Pelicans dropped a game to the Philadelphia 76ers on Friday night. This loss allowed the Spurs to regain their three-game cushion with six to play. The loss illustrated the team’s issues without Williamson and Ingram. Seven Pelicans scored in double digits, but the team couldn’t close down the stretch without their two best players. The team eventually fell to the Sixers by two.
Pelicans exec David Griffin blasted the league for how the officiate Williamson
The Williamson injury comes at the end of a frustrating season for the Pelicans. The franchise hoped to take the next step with their young core that includes Lonzo Ball, Jaxson Hayes, and rookie Kira Lewis Jr. in addition to Williamson and Ingram. But, if they do miss the postseason this year, it will be a significant disappointment.
This frustration boiled over following Williamson’s injury for Pelicans Executive Vice President of Basketball Operations David Griffin. Speaking with reporters, Griffin said that the Pelicans front office had done everything in their power to alert the league to the way teams are fouling Williamson and how he gets officiated.
Angry that the pleas have gone unanswered, Griffin teed off on the league. The exec told reporters:
He’s injured now because of the open season that there’s been on Zion Williamson in the paint. He has been absolutely mauled in the paint on a regular basis to the point that other players have said to him, ‘I’m going to keep doing this to you because they don’t call it. So, there is more violence encouraged in the paint than any player I’ve seen since Shaq. It was egregious and horrific then, and the same is true now.
He continued, taking responsibility for not explaining to the league with “a proper sense of urgency” how serious these fouls on Williamson are. Griffin wrapped up his statement by stressing that the injury was avoidable if the league could have done a better job protecting one of its most exciting young stars.
While Griffin may have a point that Williamson, with his unique and imposing size, isn’t protected enough by officials, lashing out at the league isn’t going to solve the New Orleans’ larger problems. This injury might be the final nail in the coffin of the Pelicans season, but the reason they will miss the postseason has more to do with the first 67 games than the last five.
All stats courtesy of Basketball-Reference