Zion Williamson's Stepdad Expects Pelicans Star to Return from Foot Injury This Year

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured Columnist IVApril 5, 2022

NEW ORLEANS, LOUISIANA - MARCH 27: Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans stands on the court prior to the start of an NBA game against the Los Angeles Lakers at Smoothie King Center on March 27, 2022 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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The stepfather of New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson hasn't thrown in the towel on the 2021 All-Star playing this season.

Lee Anderson said Tuesday on The Jordy Culotta Show that he expects Williamson to step onto the court with the Pelicans pushing for a spot in the NBA's play-in tournament. However, Anderson conceded he was only speaking for himself:

The Jordy Culotta Show @CulottaShow

“Do I expect him to play…certainly I do.”<br><br>Lee Anderson on the probability is Zion returning for the <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/Pelicans?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#Pelicans</a> this season. <a href="https://t.co/KkyYAxPo5D">pic.twitter.com/KkyYAxPo5D</a>

"He's feeling great," Anderson said (via ESPN's Andrew Lopez). "Speaking for the Pelicans staff, and not saying any names, they mentioned to me that they are just one player away from being where we need to be at. That was enough for me to know that they are putting some stock in Zion getting healthy and being ready for the long haul."

With only four games remaining, the Pelicans are ninth in the Western Conference. They've gone 11-8 and have the NBA's fifth-best net rating (5.9) since the All-Star break, per NBA.com.

If New Orleans could suddenly add a player who averaged 27.0 points, 7.2 rebounds and three assists last season, then there's a good chance the team punches a ticket to the first round of the playoffs.

But it's unreasonable to expect Williamson to immediately be at that level when he steps onto the court. The 21-year-old hasn't played in a game since last May, first because of a finger injury and then due to offseason surgery for a broken foot.

Williamson was only somewhat recently cleared for one-on-one practice, and that came after The Athletic's Shams Charania reported on March 21 the 6'6" forward "is not expected to return to play this season."

As much as making the playoffs for the first time since 2018 would represent progress, the Pelicans can't jeopardize the health of their franchise cornerstone.

Until Williamson is shut down for good by New Orleans, the chance of a return remains. Time is not on his or the team's side, though.