The New Orleans Pelicans announced Friday that All-Star forward Zion Williamson has been cleared for full team activities for the first time since offseason foot surgery.
"Williamson played 4-on-4 full court today and will continue his progression toward returning to play," the team said in a statement. "An estimated date to return to game action has not been determined."
Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin revealed in September that Williamson suffered a fractured right foot at some point during the offseason. The team was hopeful he'd be ready for the start of the 2021-22 NBA season.
"His timeline should get him back on the court in time for the regular season. That would be our hope and our view. And we're very optimistic about what that looks like," Griffin told reporters.
That timetable didn't come to fruition, as Williamson has missed the first 20 games of the campaign, and New Orleans has struggled mightily without him, posting a 4-16 record. Leading scorer Brandon Ingram has also missed seven games.
Along with the foot injury, there were growing concerns about the amount of weight the 21-year-old Duke product put on during his recovery.
Bleacher Report's Jake Fischer reported in October that Williamson "reached north of 300 pounds this offseason." The 6'6'' forward's listed playing weight is 284 pounds.
"These are the injuries you have to be the most concerned about, a foot injury for a guy with noted weight issues," a Western Conference executive told Fischer.
The Pelicans were expected to take a step forward this season with the core of Williamson, Ingram and Nickeil Alexander-Walker joined by the additions of Jonas Valanciunas and Devonte' Graham.
Instead, the injury woes have left New Orleans with the NBA's second-worst record and just a 13 percent chance of earning a playoff berth, per FiveThirtyEight.
Meanwhile, another factor in play is Williamson's contract. He'll be eligible for a five-year, $181 million extension after this season, the third of his four-year rookie deal, per Spotrac.
So there are a lot of different variables in play as the Pelicans try to avoid this turning into a lost season while also keeping the long-term outlook in mind.
As Williamson moves to the next stage of his recovery, New Orleans returns to action Friday night as it visits Vivint Arena to take on the Utah Jazz (12-6).