The New Orleans Pelicans announced Tuesday that forward Zion Williamson will miss at least three weeks after an MRI confirmed that he suffered a right hamstring strain. He will be reevaluated after that time frame.
The 22-year-old has thrived this season with 26.0 points on 60.8 percent shooting, 7.0 rebounds and 4.6 assists for a 23-14 Pelicans team sitting third in the Western Conference.
New Orleans looks like a legitimate Western Conference contender with Williamson leading the way, and that's despite numerous stars suffering injuries that have robbed them of time.
Brandon Ingram has been out since Nov. 25 with a sprained big toe on his left foot. Herbert Jones has missed time because of a sprained ankle, the league's health and safety protocols and a right knee hyperextension.
He returned to the court on Dec. 28 and averaged 31.3 points over his next four games. Unfortunately, he left his team's 120-111 loss to the Philadelphia 76ers on Jan. 2 with a hamstring strain.
ESPN's Andrew Lopez described what happened:
"After gathering a defensive rebound off a shot from 76ers center Joel Embiid, Williamson tried to quickly push the ball up court, but as soon as he crossed the half-court line, Williamson pulled up and dribbled to the left corner. He then handed the ball off to teammate Dyson Daniels while grabbing at his right leg.
"After a missed shot, Pelicans center Jonas Valanciunas fouled Philadelphia's Tyrese Maxey on a fast-break layup and Williamson checked out of the game with 24.1 seconds left in the third quarter. The Pelicans later announced he would not return midway through the fourth."
Williamson has been sidelined for long periods of time before. He suffered a torn meniscus during the 2019-20 preseason and was held to 24 games that year. He also missed the 2021-22 campaign with a Jones fracture in his right foot.
However, Williamson has been as advertised and then some after arriving in the NBA out of Duke as one of the more highly touted prospects in recent memory.
He notably averaged 27.0 points on 61.1 percent shooting, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists during his All-Star 2020-21 season.
The Pels will go forth without him for now, though, which should mean more time for Jaxson Hayes.
The 22-year-old big man replaced Williamson in the lineup during the 76ers game and figures to see an uptick in playing time with him out. He has averaged 4.8 points and 2.6 rebounds in 13.0 minutes per game.