The New Orleans Pelicans and superstar rookie Zion Williamson are reportedly "hopeful" he'll make his NBA debut in January after completing his recovery from surgery on a torn lateral meniscus in his right knee.
Shams Charania of Stadium reported the update Tuesday:
The Pelicans have predictably been extremely cautious with the first overall pick in the 2019 NBA draft.
He suffered a minor knee injury during his first appearance in the 2019 Las Vegas Summer League and was immediately ruled out for the remainder of the offseason tournament.
Williamson has already surpassed the six-to-eight week timetable given after he underwent surgery on his meniscus on Oct. 21, and there's still no firm date for his first official game.
Given New Orleans' 11-23 record, the sixth-worst mark in the NBA, there's no reason for the team to rush back the former Duke standout. If there's any setback once he returns to full practices, which Charania noted will happen "shortly after the new year," the front office would likely shut him down for the season.
Although the safe approach is smart for the Pelicans' long-term outlook, it's a disappointment for basketball fans waiting for him to square off against the sport's elite.
Williamson looked ready for the challenge during the preseason. He averaged 23.3 points, 6.5 rebounds, 2.3 assists and 1.5 steals while shooting 71.4 percent across four exhibition games.
The Pelicans have five nationally televised games on their January schedule starting Friday against LeBron James, Anthony Davis and the Los Angeles Lakers. That's followed by meetings with the New York Knicks (Jan. 10), Los Angeles Clippers (Jan. 18), Memphis Grizzlies (Jan. 20) and Boston Celtics (Jan. 26).
Those games would generate far more attention for the NBA and its TV partners if Zion is on the floor.