Ever since he burst onto the national scene in high school, basketball fans have been waiting to see Zion Williamson play in the NBA. While the forward dominated at Duke and looked great during the preseason, he still hasn’t made his proper New Orleans Pelicans debut. Zion’s knee injury has seemingly taken an eternity to heal, but the big man is finally on the mend.
Despite spending months on the sidelines, Williamson is back in practice and dunking as if nothing ever happened. But when will we see the young star finally suit up for the Pelicans?
Zion Williamson’s road to recovery
By now, virtually every basketball fan knows all about Zion Williamson and his knee. The forward suffered a right knee strain when he tore through his sneaker; while he returned to action, the issues wouldn’t go away. Despite limited action in the Las Vegas Summer League, Williamson looked sharp in the NBA preseason. When it came time for the Pelicans’ final exhibition game, though, the phenom didn’t travel with the team due to knee soreness.
While no one though much of the injury, it turned out to be quite severe. Several days later, the Pelicans announced that Zion had gone under the knife to repair a torn meniscus. He was expected to return in six to eight weeks, but that time frame came and went without any apparent progress.
Despite suggestions that Zion should sit out the entire season, the Pelicans have stuck to their plan. The young forward has been getting closer and closer to action, first putting up shots on his own, then taking part in team practices. A recent video, however, has NBA fans everywhere on the edge of their seats.
The Pelicans tease a possible return
Understandably, the New Orleans Pelicans have been treating Zion Williamson with kid gloves. The team, however, seemed notable optimistic on Monday.
Prior to the Pelican’s game against the Utah Jazz, the team shared a video of Zion working out on the court. The forward received a pass above the three-point line, dribbled past some token defenders, and finished at the rim with a dunk. The tweet simply read, “Soon,” with an eyes emoji.
While it’s important to keep things in perspective, it seems like an incredibly good sign for the Pelicans to post such a video. Not only is the team comfortable with the forward dribbling, jumping, and landing on his right knee, but they were confident enough to publicize it. While setbacks can obviously still happen, it’s hard to believe the Pelicans PR and social media departments would want to tease Zion’s return if they didn’t think it would actually be “soon.”
When could we see Zion Williamson’s Pelicans debut?
While Zion Williamson is returning to full health, one factor will play a major role in his return: the schedule.
In an interview with USA Today, Pelicans vice president David Griffin explained that the team wanted Zion to “practice several more times” before being cleared to play. While that makes sense—given the forward’s potential impact, you have to be 110% sure he healthy—teams can only practice where the schedule allows.
Thankfully for the Pelicans, they should have some downtime to get Zion back into full practice. As Brad Botkin of CBS Sports points out, the club three or four times in the next two weeks; while it’s impossible to know what’s going on behind the scenes, it’s not beyond the realm of possibility that Zion could suit up for the Pelicans’ nationally televised game on January 20, or their homestand beginning two days later.
Once Zion Williamson does take the court, though, we can look forward to plenty more dunks.