Zion Williamson Rumors: Pelicans 'Do Want' Star to Return from Injury This Season

Tim Daniels@@TimDanielsBRFeatured Columnist IVDecember 23, 2021

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - NOVEMBER 13: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans speaks with David Griffin executive vice president of basketball operations for the New Orleans Pelicans at Smoothie King Center on November 13, 2021 in New Orleans, Louisiana. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and or using this photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Sean Gardner/Getty Images)
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Zion Williamson and the New Orleans Pelicans are reportedly both still hoping the All-Star forward can play during the 2021-22 NBA season despite a lingering foot injury.

Shams Charania of Stadium and The Athletic reported the update Wednesday during an appearance on The Pat McAfee Show (Zion talk starts at 1:03:43 in the video).

"From everything I've been told, the Pelicans do want him to play this season," Charania said. "I think Zion Williamson in his heart of hearts does want to play this year. So you have two parties that clearly want him back on the floor."

In September, Pelicans executive vice president of basketball operations David Griffin announced Williamson underwent surgery during the offseason to repair a fractured fifth metatarsal bone in his right foot, but the organization remained hopeful he'd be ready for the start of the regular season.

"He had a fractured right foot that was repaired surgically," Griffin told reporters at the time. "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."

That optimism faded as the season drew closer, and now the 2019 first overall pick has missed the first 32 games of the campaign.

Last week, the Pelicans announced Williamson received an injection in his troublesome foot and would have his workout intensity reduced for at least a month.

"Zion Williamson received a biologic injection into the fracture site to stimulate bone healing in his right foot," the team said. "Williamson will be limited to low-impact, partial weight-bearing activities for an extended period. Further updates will be given following further imaging, which is anticipated to occur in four to six weeks."

That brings the timetable to mid-to-late January before the 21-year-old Duke product would begin ramping his activity back up for a possible return.

Given that time frame, it's hard to imagine Williamson playing in any games until after the All-Star Game on Feb. 20.

At that point, there will only be around six weeks remaining in the regular season and the Pelicans (11-21) will need to make a considerable surge over the next few months to still be playing for a playoff spot by that stage.

It's hard to imagine the franchise putting its cornerstone player back on the floor if it faded out of playoff contention and risking a more substantial setback that could put Williamson's availability for the start of the 2022-23 season at risk.

His recovery would need to proceed with no further issues to make returning a possibility, and then the team's place in the standings may also come into play.

The Pelicans have shown signs of life lately, winning three straight games and four of their last five, so it's possible the outlook is different by February.

Next up for New Orleans is a visit to the Amway Center on Thursday night to face off with the Orlando Magic.