Zion Williamson Rumors: Injured Pelicans Rookie May Not Debut Until Early 2020

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistDecember 9, 2019

New Orleans Pelicans forward Zion Williamson waits for the team's NBA basketball game against the Toronto Raptors in New Orleans, Friday, Nov. 8, 2019. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton)
Matthew Hinton/Associated Press

Zion Williamson's NBA debut will reportedly have to wait until 2020.

According to Marc Stein of the New York Times, there is "resignation" around the New Orleans Pelicans that Williamson will not be ready to return in December as previously expected. The latter half of the six- to eight-week timeframe originally given is next week, and Williamson remains limited to light duty.

Last week, Pelicans general manager David Griffin acknowledged the likelihood that Williamson misses more time than initially indicated:

"I think six weeks (from Oct. 21) was three days ago. He continues to progress. He's progressing very well. He feels very good about his process. And eight weeks is several days from now, and if we get outside of that, it will be because he hasn't met the metrics for return-to-play that are laid out for him and every player on our team. He will not be treated any differently in terms of the return-to-play metrics.

"Now we have been much more cautious with him in terms of how quickly we've ramped him up from stage-to-stage because he's 19 and he's still growing and he was 285 pounds when he had the surgery. That's a different [type of] player, that's a different [type of] person. It's a population of one. So we're obviously going to treat him differently as we ramp him through the stages. But there's been no other setback or mission afoot except to get him back on the court as quickly as possible."

Williamson underwent surgery on a torn meniscus in October, just days before he was scheduled to make his NBA debut. The Duke product set the preseason scoring record for a rookie and appeared destined to be one of the biggest stories of the 2019-20 season.

Williamson's absence and otherwise shaky performances by the remainder of the class has put a hush on most rookie hype, and the Pelicans have gotten off to a disappointing 6-17 start. The team struggles make being patient with Williamson even easier, allowing for all parties to play the long game.

Pelicans coach Alvin Gentry told reporters that Zion is "itching" to return to the floor, but the team is being "overly cautious" with the top overall pick. Given his unique frame and reliance on athleticism, the Pelicans have no reason to bring him back until he's fully cleared and 100 percent comfortable.