Zion Williamson Watched the Pelicans Respect His Preference for Privacy After Breaking His Foot and Undergoing Surgery, but It May Have Hurt the Team’s Credibility With the Fan Base

During New Orleans Pelicans media day on September 27, executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin told reporters that Zion Williamson underwent surgery for a fractured right foot in the offseason. It was devastating news for a fan base that has gone through nothing but heartbreak over the last decade or so.

From losing Chris Paul and Anthony Davis to watching Williamson undergo two major surgeries since he was taken with the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA Draft, New Orleans basketball fans haven’t had much to cheer about.

It’s unknown when Williamson will make his 2021-22 season debut. The Pelicans haven’t handled this situation well from a public relations standpoint. However, the Duke product may actually appreciate that.

Pelicans reportedly kept Zion Williamson’s surgery quiet upon his preference for privacy

According to Brian Windhorst and Andrew Lopez of ESPN, the Pelicans kept Williamson’s foot injury and subsequent surgery quiet out of respect to him and his preference for privacy. That strategy may have helped with the front office’s relationship with Williamson, but the fans may not have liked that the injury was made public on media day and not earlier.

“The doctors Williamson has been working with had not cleared him to participate in contact drills until Tuesday. But the team has not handled this well from a public relations standpoint. It kept the injury and surgery quiet, sources said, out of respect to Williamson and his preference for privacy,” Windhorst and Lopez wrote. “Then instead of announcing a complete timetable, it did incremental updates that made it seem like he was having setbacks whether that was accurate or not.”

The Pelicans have the second-worst record in the Western Conference without Williamson. They are well on their way to missing the playoffs for the fourth consecutive season, so it doesn’t make sense for them to rush Williamson back.

Pelicans shouldn’t play Zion Williamson until he’s cleared and has zero pain

The Pelicans cleared Williamson to participate in contact drills on November 16. The lefty will start with 1-on-1 workouts and progress from there. He shouldn’t play until he’s cleared by doctors and has zero pain in his foot. After all, the Pelicans aren’t going anywhere this season.

When he’s been on the court, Williamson has been a dominant force. In 85 starts, the North Carolina native is averaging 25.7 points and 7.0 rebounds while shooting 60.4% from the field. He has a player efficiency rating of 26.3 and displayed phenomenal touch around the basket for a power forward. Williamson has all the physical tools to be a generational player.

However, the man nicknamed Zanos is injury-prone. He played in only 24 games during his rookie season because of a torn right meniscus and is now out with a broken foot. There’s also been speculation that Williamson got over 300 pounds in the offseason. The talented scorer and rebounder certainly needs to take care of his body if he wants to be a perennial All-Star.

After this season ends, Williamson will be eligible to sign a rookie-scale extension with the Pelicans. The CBA rules are set up to financially motivate players coming off their rookie contracts to stay with the team that drafted them.

However, as we saw a few years ago with Kristaps Porzingis, injuries and tension can change things.

What if Zanos requests a trade or chooses to sign a one-year qualifying offer?

Porzingis tore his ACL during his third season (2017-18) and missed the entire 2018-19 campaign. In the summer of 2018, the New York Knicks and KP could have agreed to a rookie-scale extension. However, it didn’t happen since there were rumors that Porzingis was unhappy in the Big Apple.

In January 2019, Porzingis was traded to the Dallas Mavericks in a blockbuster deal. He then signed a five-year, $158.3 million contract with the Mavericks in restricted free agency five months later.

If Williamson doesn’t want to stay in New Orleans long-term, he can choose not to sign a rookie-scale extension and then enter restricted free agency in the summer of 2023. Of course, the Pelicans can still keep Williamson since they can match any offer sheet should the All-Star sign one with another team, but they might get some messages from behind the scenes that Zion isn’t motivated to stay in the Big Easy, which could affect their desire to give him max dollars.

The Williamson situation in New Orleans is undoubtedly one rival teams are monitoring. It will be fascinating to see when the dunking machine plays again and which team he’s on after his rookie contract expires.

RELATED: Zion Williamson Remains Sidelined but a Career-Saving Miracle Could Be on the Way for the New Orleans Pelicans Star