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Pelicans' Zion Williamson Completes 1st Full Practice Since Knee Injury

Joseph Zucker@@JosephZuckerFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2020

PORTLAND, OR - DECEMBER 23: A close up shot of Zion Williamson #1 of the New Orleans Pelicans before the game against the Portland Trail Blazers on December 23, 2019 at the Moda Center in Portland, Oregon. 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. Mandatory Copyright Notice: Copyright 2019 NBAE (Photo by Sam Forencich/NBAE via Getty Images)
Sam Forencich/Getty Images

New Orleans Pelicans star Zion Williamson went through his first full practice with the team, head coach Alvin Gentry confirmed Thursday.

Gentry also ruled out Williamson making his debut when the Pelicans play the Los Angeles Lakers on Friday or Sacramento Kings on Saturday.

Andrew Lopez @_Andrew_Lopez

Gentry says the team is still taking it slowly with Zion’s return. Any minutes restrictions or anything like that will be determined by the training staff.

Williamson discussed his return and said he doesn't yet have a timetable for when he'll be available to suit up.

New Orleans Pelicans @PelicansNBA

Zion on getting back to practice, his potential return date #WBD https://t.co/5z9vOC4FLQ

This at least represents progress for the No. 1 overall draft pick as he continues his recovery from knee surgery in October. ESPN's Andrew Lopez reported at the time New Orleans was hopeful Williamson could return by Christmas.

As Christmas passed without any significant developments, some thought the Pelicans should consider shutting Williamson down for the entire 2019-20 season.

New Orleans will obviously take every precaution before clearing the 19-year-old for game action. His return to practice indicates he may not be too far away.

Stadium's Shams Charania reported Thursday that "both sides are hopeful of a January season debut."

Stadium @Stadium

“I’m told both sides are hopeful of a January season debut for (Zion) Williamson.” 👀 As the calendar shifts to 2020, NBA Insider @ShamsCharania shares some info on the #Pelicans No. 1 pick. #WontBowDown https://t.co/RAwwHPmI4k

The Pelicans are 14th in the Western Conference at 11-23, and the New York Times' Marc Stein reported Dec. 17 they might be open to moving Jrue Holiday for the right price:

Marc Stein @TheSteinLine

Yet what that also means is Jrue Holiday is indeed available via trade, league sources say. It would surely cost a significant amount to pry him away from the Pels, but this is a notable change in status given how unavailable Holiday was to interested teams last season

Regardless of when he finally plays, it's too late for Williamson to alter New Orleans' trajectory this year. He can still provide the fanbase with some optimism and excitement about the future.

Williamson would also benefit from getting some experience now as the Pelicans shift their focus largely toward 2020-21 and beyond.

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