Zion Williamson’s Return From Foot Surgery Is As Uncertain as His Long-Term Future with The Pelicans

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Zion Williamson will miss the start of the regular season for the second time in three seasons as he recovers from offseason foot surgery.

If Zion misses extended time his absence will be a tremendous blow to the Pelicans’ playoff hopes.

Some believe it takes him one step closer to being out the door completely

Davis Grubb, host of “Crunch Time” on 103.7 FM in Louisiana, covers the Hornets and offered The Shadow League this description of the circumstances in New Orleans.

“Between the mismanagement of the roster, three coaches in three seasons, and the strange relationship between Zion, his family, and David Griffin; you have to wonder if the Pelicans can trust Zion to be on the court for 70-plus games a season, “Grubb told TSL. “And, you have to wonder if Zion really does want to be in New Orleans.”

Zion or Bust

Some preseason predictions have New Orleans winning close to 50 games. With Zion healthy, that was probably a stretch. With the franchise player sidelined and his return unknown, all bets are off.

According to the New York Post, “On Thursday, Pelicans vice president of basketball operations David Griffin said Williamson will be re-evaluated in two weeks and that there is no “fixed timeline” on when he will return. Williamson will have more medical scans done in two to two-and-a-half weeks when he is next evaluated.

The 21-year-old received scans on Wednesday, Oct. 13, and Griffin said the doctors (Richard Ferkel and Pelicans team physician Scott Montgomery) were “very encouraged” by the healing of the bone in Williams’ foot.

“It’s everyone’s goal that Zion returns to play as soon as safely possible,” Griffin said.

“Obviously, two to 2 ½ weeks from now means he will not be on the floor for the first week of games. When he is able to return safely, we will do that.”

Williamson has been cleared to start running and to do individual court work.

The Pelicans say the surgery went well, but don’t have a definite timetable for his return, which is odd. Makes you wonder if the front office is being open and honest with the media about Zion’s latest injury. 

“Truth be told, I never said opening night,” head coach David Griffin said in an ESPN report on Zion’s recovery. But that’s OK. I said for the regular season. But I do think it’s going to be something that because of the bone healing aspect of things, it’s hard. Every player is different. Nothing has gone wrong.”

Star Power 

During the 2020-21 season, Zion earned his first All-Star appearance, while posting a gaudy stat line of 27.1 points, 7.2 rebounds and 3.7 assists per game on 61 percent shooting from the floor. He shut down plenty of his haters with that production. 

These are great numbers in today’s game for a guy his size (6’7” and 285 poumds), who does the bulk of his work in the paint. An athletic specimen, Williamson uses brute power and strength, with excellent leaping ability to separate himself in the league. 

Can You Handle the Whole Weight? 

An early debate among analysts surrounded Zion’s weight and whether his body could sustain that weight. 

Some folks dismissed it as hyperbole. 

 

Others showed genuine concern for potential problems down the road.  

Those concerns are proving to be viable as Zion’s weight is already causing problems in his lower extremities. The knee surgery as a rookie and now the foot surgery following second season are a bit alarming from an injury standpoint.

Maybe the front office was right to try to coddle the future of the franchise for the first few seasons. Zion has continuously said he understands the concerns, but at the same time he’s been playing with this weight his entire life and has to find a balance. 

“I do think there is another gear that I can reach regarding my weight and conditioning,” Williamson told 247sports.com in March.  “But I think it’s …it’s finding it. Because I don’t want to get to a spot where I’m like, ‘Yeah I lost a lot of weight, but I don’t feel strong. I can’t do certain things I would have done before.’ I think it’s just finding it. I do think there is another gear I can reach regarding both weight and conditioning.”

Is The Franchise Star Happy?

This off season hasn’t improved realations between Williamson and the team. To New Orleans’ credit, they did hire former NBA player Willie Green as the team’s new head coach. 

He has to be a much better fit than Stan Van Gundy was in his one-year run down in the “BAYOU.” Zion arrived to huge fanfare and the marriage between him and the Pelicans has been lukewarm at best. Ever since he played out of shape in that first Summer League game, got hurt and then missed the start of the season rehabbing in his rookie season. 

Adding to Zion’s frustrations was the minutes limitations placed on him by the front office and coach David Griffin upon returning to the floor. Zion felt that he could’ve played much sooner than he did in his rookie campaign.

That didn’t change much in his second season with Stan Van Gundy on board. The team severely underachieved and missed the playoffs. SVG’s old-school style didn’t mesh well with one of the youngest rosters in the league led by three former top-five picks in Zion, Brandon Ingram and Lonzo Ball.

With a signature Jordan shoe in tow, a charismatic smile and game to back it, Zion is still one of the most popular players in the league. The small market Pelicans don’t want to lose another generational talent in less than a decade.

Williamson’s deal with the Pelicans expires after the 2022-23 season. He’ll be a restricted free agent then if he doesn’t sign an extension next season. The market will be robust for Williamson.

Anthony Davis forced his way out of New Orleans, went to LA and won a World Championship. Zion has the same goals and like Davis, his body has its limitations and an unpredictable expiration date.

With the league pushing Zion as the next face of the NBA, it would behoove the Pelicans to get on the same page as their star player, before he jumps ship to a bigger market when he becomes a free agent in a couple of seasons. 

If the Pelicans don’t solidify their relationship with Zion, they’ll be left to think what could’ve been…again.