Zion Williamson Return Reveals an Ugly Truth About the Pelicans Star

The New Orleans Pelicans have gotten used to life without Zion Williamson. At first, it wasn’t pretty. But while the third-year star sits out, the Pelicans are finally starting to take flight.

At 27-36, New Orleans is slowly creeping back into the playoff race. And the news only gets better, as Zion’s latest injury update is the most positive to date. Though on the other side, the update reveals a deeply concerning side of Williamson the Pels will have to consider moving forward.

Zion Williamson is rejoining the Pelicans in New Orleans

Williamson has missed all 63 games this season after suffering a fractured fifth metatarsal in his right foot over the summer. As the recovery process started to slow down, the 21-year-old ramped up his rehab efforts … in Portland. That means for over two months, the face of the franchise has been nowhere near the franchise.

It wasn’t until Saturday that both Zion and his Pelicans received very positive news.

According to Shams Charania of The Athletic and Stadium, Williamson has been cleared to progress in his basketball activities. Additionally, the forward will return to New Orleans to continue his rehab.

The update comes three days after the Pelicans released a statement saying Zion showed “improved bone healing” in his foot. The team also announced a gradual ramp-up to full weight-bearing exercise and basketball activities. However, the 6-foot-6 star remains out for the indefinite future.

While Andrew Lopez of ESPN points out that Zion won’t travel with the Pels for road games, he’ll at least do his rehab in New Orleans. And now, the man former teammate JJ Redick referred to as “detached” will be around his teammates and coaches whenever they’re back home.

Zion’s decision to return to New Orleans is a little too suspicious

The number one talking point around Zion — even more than his injury — is his reported unhappiness in New Orleans. With the 2019 top pick eligible for the rookie max this summer, many wonder how long Williamson and the Pels will stay together.

We know Zion has gone on record to express disappointment about missing the postseason. We know he has issues with how the team handled injuries from his rookie season. And we know that former teammates and coaches find him detached as he spends the last 2+ months on the other side of the country.

Now, he’s back in New Orleans. The injury is healing. And he’s going to be with his teammates at home again. What changed?

Simply put, the Pelicans made Zion care again.

It was one thing for Williamson to be on an island as the Pels trudged their way through another disappointing season. But in the last month, New Orleans has flipped the script. With Brandon Ingram and new acquisition CJ McCollum, New Orleans is 4-0 after the All-Star break. Not only are two of those wins against the contending Phoenix Suns and Utah Jazz, but New Orleans has won by an average of 26.8 points.

Just over a month ago, the Pelicans were a dismal 18-32 and sitting all by themselves as the 12-seed. Suddenly, they’re in sole possession of the 10-seed, good for a spot in the play-in round.

We’re no conspiracy theorists, but it does seem odd that right when the Pelicans start to show real signs of life, Zion is ready to engage with his club again. The same club that can offer that lucrative rookie max in a few months.

Hmmm …

The Pelicans can’t trust Zion Williamson to stay committed

It’s ultimately a good thing Williamson is coming back to New Orleans. And if he is able to contribute on the court this season, the Pelicans will be better off for it.

However, what happens if their recent dominance comes to a screeching halt? What happens if the Pelicans fall out of the postseason race as the season makes its final turn? Will Zion stay in town or will he leave his team out to dry?

We don’t know the answer. But the fact it’s worth debating tells you all you need to know.

The fact of the matter is that Williamson and the Pelicans are in a complicated relationship. Sometimes, everything feels hopeful and easy. Though there’s always that chance things begin to take a turn for the worse. When that happens, you need a partner who you know will be committed to seeing things through and not flee at the first sign of trouble.

The Pelicans gave Williamson a reason to return to New Orleans. This four-game win streak has made him believe the future of the franchise is headed in the right direction. But they shouldn’t have needed to go on this stretch in order to prove themselves to Zion. At the end of the day, he’s the professional who’s under contract and who owes it to his team to be there in any way he can while he’s unavailable to play.

Zion is here now. But the Pelicans can’t — and shouldn’t — expect him to stick it out through thick and thin. That’s the ugly truth.

All statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference.

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